St. Matthew’s members speak their piece
St. Matthew’s Anglican Church on Shirley Street started off humbly and out of necessity to service the eastern community, and now it is one of the most loved churches in the Anglican Diocese. Throughout the years members of the church have watched their spiritual home grow and become what it is today and are willing speak about the importance of the church to them, the changes they’ve seen and their vision for its future.
I’m a fourth generation family to call this church home. I have had the honor of being one of the 11 young women to be made altar servers for the first time in this church when it was under Archdeacon James Palacious. I am the only one left from the original batch. My greatest concern about the future of the church is the fact that the youth ministry is not very strong and the church can eventually die out if nothing is done. Besides that, we do have dwindling numbers where some members of the church have left or not been coming out. This is not good especially since most of us can still remember the days when we were overflowing with people.
Laurena Finlayson, 40
I love the sense of family and togetherness you get from being here. Any given Sunday you are bound to see a familiar face and that is comforting. I love that we have a rich history and there is no other church quite like us. As members of this great church we all love to brag about our church being the oldest and the best. It’s always a source of pride to be from St. Matthew’s. However, I am hoping that in years to come to make this church even better, more emphasis should be placed on the youth ministries and attracting the young people here again. I believe there is just this great divide between the generations and we aren’t doing enough to make it better. I hope in the next 10 or even five years a strong young ministry is developed.
Abby Smith, 26
Lifelong member of St. Matthew’s Church
My membership with St. Matthew’s started in 1953 when I was a young man. I had just come from Long Island on a sailboat that took about two weeks to get to New Providence. I grew up in Holy Cross in Long Island and when I was coming to live in Nassau my priest gave me a letter to take with me to give to Father Lambert, the priest at St. Matthew’s back then. It was important to always be in church so I did as I was told. I was accepted as a member of the church. Ever since I have always been here and it’s 58 years later. The most important thing to me about the church is it is so steeped in history and it has been kept the same way it was from the time it was built. It has been our mission as members of the church to always do what we can to maintain it so that we have something to pass down to future generations.
Thomas Treco, 75
St. Matthew’s Anglican Church is my home. I have known no other church. Sure, I have visited other churches but I do not ever leave my church. It is a sense of joy for me knowing I am a part of this church. It’s a place to say thank you to God and to worship him as He deserves. I remember how prestigious it used to be to come to this church because it was considered to be the second cathedral. To me St. Matthew’s has served its community well and I see it doing even more to bring everyone together. It hasn’t changed much in the 200 years it has existed on the outside, but on the inside there have been a few changes and improvements. For the most part we wanted to keep our church as true to its original form as possible. I have seen other changes as well such as the level of reverence people give the church. In the past when you passed a church, men took off their hats and women signed the cross quietly. Nowadays it’s not so. People just pass and they don’t pay as much respect to the church like they used to.
I remember in the old days when Father Addington Johnson was still rector and the church was a strict and closely run place. He taught me many things. He really cared about what was happening and ensured everything was examined before it was done. Since then we have had numerous other priests. They’ve all been different, but valuable in their own ways. I have seen many things change throughout the years when it comes to church and society. In the past the church was revered and had respect for the church. Nowadays there is so much chatter and the youth cannot be quiet and reverent. The clothes the people wear to church now … Father would role over in his grave as they would say. On the other hand our church has had the honor of having two female deacons stationed with us upon ordination, Angela Palacious and Beryl Higgs. That was historical for us and for the Diocese. I can forsee things getting better and better for us. With all this church has been able to accomplish I am so proud to be a part of it.
Vivienne Francis, 80
I have been very active in the Anglican Diocese all my life. I have gone wherever I was needed and as a result I have been to 96 of the 110 churches in our Diocese. Even with so active a church life my home is still St. Matthew’s. I was baptized and grew up here and now that I am retired I am home. I do think many things have changed in the church, but for the most part I find that things are relevant to the times. In the past we used to have foreign priests and now after so many years we have mostly Bahamians in our Diocese. This is great because it means we are becoming much more indigenized in time. I am glad that although many things have changed there are some things like my church that haven’t. I am happy about where we are as a church right now and I am sure it will get better as more time passes.
William Thomas Roosevelt Godet, 79