Thousands of Christians from across the West Indies gathered at a gymnasium in Bridgetown, Barbados, yesterday (Sunday) for a special service to honour, thank, pay tribute, and say farewell to Archbishop John Holder, ahead of his retirement at the end of this month. Tributes were also paid to his wife, Betty Lucas-Holder, and their son Stuart, for the support they had given him as priest, bishop and archbishop.
After working as a teacher and civil servant, Archbishop John was called to ordained ministry. He became a deacon in 1974 and a priest in 1976. He was consecrated as the 13th Bishop of his native Barbados in 2000, and became Archbishop of the West Indies in 2009.
On Friday night (9 February), the bishops of the province gathered for a dinner at the Lloyd Erskine Sandiford Centre to celebrate Archbishop John’s ministry. The Bishop of Jamaica & The Cayman Islands, Dr Howard Gregory, moved a toast on behalf of the bishops, saying that in his eight years as Primate, Archbishop John had “contributed to the shaping of the episcopal and clerical leadership of the province in a way that would shape the life of the Church in this province for generations to come.” He also made special reference to the Archbishop’s biblical scholarship, which is recognised both in the Caribbean and the wider Anglican Communion where his writings have been printed in various publications.
The Chief Justice of Barbados, the President of the Senate, and Members of Parliament were amongst the civil dignitaries in attendance at Sunday morning’s service at the Sir Garfield Sobers Gymnasium.
After the Eucharist concluded, a number of speakers paid tribute to Archbishop John. Amongst them, Bishop Laish Boyd, of the Diocese of the Bahamas and Turks & Caicos Islands, who described Archbishop John as “an example”. He said: “His words are listened to and listened out for. His insights are sought out and respected. He is unafraid to speak out, and to speak up when necessary. He is esteemed in Barbados, in the Caribbean and across the Anglican Communion.”
File photo of Archbishop John Holder meeting Archbishop of Canterbury Justin Welby. At his farewell service yesterday, Archbishop John said that the Anglican Communion enabled him to give and receive advice beyond the shores of his province.
Photo: Diocese of Barbados
In his closing remarks, Archbishop John made reference to the Anglican Communion, and the advice he was able to give and receive from his fellow-primates. I was humbled by this experience of being aware that I could make a difference to the spiritual development of someone in Sudan, or in Jerusalem, or in South Africa or in Fiji,” he said. “I treasure the wisdom and the experience which I had access to [guide] my ministry as bishop and Archbishop. There are many times when sound advice was offered and accepted.”
Archbishop John, who celebrates his 70th birthday on Friday, steps down later this month as Bishop of Barbados and Primate of the Church of the Province of the West Indies.
Watch the farewell service (duration: 3h 45m):