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Service planned to support the Caribbean

By Stuart Mann

Edwin Harrigan plans to take his parents to church this Christmas. It promises to be a happy occasion, but the events that brought them to Canada are anything but joyful.

Mr. Harrigan’s parents, who are in their 80s, had parts of their house’s roof ripped off during Hurricane Irma, which tore through the island of Tortola in the British Virgin Islands in early September.

The full impact of the storm didn’t hit them until they stepped outside the next day and saw the debris. “It was disheartening for them to look around and see the devastation,” says Mr. Harrigan, a member of St. Mary and St. Martha, Toronto.

Due to the couple’s age and a shortage of supplies on the island, the family decided to send the parents to Mr. Harrigan’s home in Brampton, where they are staying for the foreseeable future. “Their pictures, mementos and other personal items were destroyed but they’re thankful to be alive,” he says.

A poster for the service of solidarity. Click to enlarge.

Mr. Harrigan, a native of Anguilla, is one of thousands of people in the Diocese of Toronto who have family and friends in the Caribbean whose lives were upended by a series of hurricanes that swept through the region this fall.

In response, a service of solidarity and support for the people of the Caribbean is being held on Saturday, Dec. 2 at 3 p.m. at St. Andrew, Scarborough, 2333 Victoria Park Ave. The guest preacher will be Bishop Peter Fenty, the area bishop of York-Simcoe and a native of Barbados.

“It’s a visible sign that we care,” says the Rev. Jacqueline Daley, one of the organizers. “For some of us, we have very close connections to the Caribbean. This is to gather together and support each other and say we’re in this together.”

The service is being organized by a group of clergy and laity in partnership with the Canadian Friends to West Indian Christians, a group in the diocese that has supported the work of the Church in the Province of the West Indies for many years.

“The service is important because when our brothers and sisters in the Caribbean region hurt, we hurt because we are from there,” says Elsa Jones, chair of the Canadian Friends to West Indian Christians. “We are in a position to help, and I think it is important that we as Christians do what Christ calls us to do.” 

Ms. Daley hopes the service will be a first step toward ongoing support for relief efforts for the region. “We hope to have an offering at the service but also to find ways that people can commit to long-term support,” she says.

The Primate’s World Relief and Development Fund has donated $40,000 so far to help with efforts in Cuba and Haiti. Donations can be made at PWRDF has also contacted Anglican Alliance, a development and relief agency, about helping islands in the Diocese of North Eastern Caribbean and Aruba.

In a report issued on Sept. 21, Bishop Errol Brooks of the Diocese of North Eastern Caribbean and Aruba wrote about the impact of the storms on the islands of Barbuda, St. Marten/St. Martin, St. Barthelemy, Saba, St. Eustatius and Anguilla, which were also struck by Hurricane Irma, a Category 5 storm. “The damage to housing, communications, electricity, water and vegetation can only be described as catastrophic,” he wrote.

He said clean-up and repair efforts will be a “Herculean task” but told his flock not to lose hope. “In spite of it all, we keep faith in a God who loves and cares for us. Like he has helped us to rebound in previous situations, he will do the same again and we will survive.”

All are invited to the service on Dec. 2 at St. Andrew’s. “We are God’s family and God’s people and all are welcome,” says Ms. Daley.