While there are many issues besetting The Bahamas and the Turks and Caicos Islands, Anglican bishop, Reverend Laish Boyd, reminds that God has blessed both countries abundantly, and in every area of challenge and opportunity, the people must seek to do their best.
“Doing our best is not easy, but it is what is required,” said Boyd during the opening of the 117th Session of the Synod of the Anglican Diocese of The Bahamas and the Turks and Caicos Islands at Christ Church Cathedral on Monday. “May God give us the vision and wisdom to address these and other realities as He would have us to. Remember, God is still God, and we are still the church.”
In his Charge, Boyd said while 2020 will be remembered for the COVID-19 pandemic – a reality that has changed people’s lives and the world – he commended the Anglican diocese for its response: active telephone ministries to keep in touch, virtual services, Bible studies, meetings and even youth groups, Sunday diocesan Eucharists, diocesan daily devotions – which he said continue up to today, promoting online giving, and what so many individual clergy, parishes and ministries are doing in the area of virtual ongoing ministry.
“Our clergy and lay leaders and our various ministries did well and are doing well,” said the Anglican bishop.
“But I must also commend the entire Christian church in The Bahamas and the Turks and Caicos Islands, for in all denominations, the same thing happened. The church rose to the occasion and will never be the same, although some things will return to the way that they were.”
At the in-person socially distanced service, Boyd applauded the Ministry of Agriculture and Marine Resources in collaboration with Access Accelerator (the Small Business Development Centre – SBDC) and the announcement of a number of policies by Minister of Agriculture Michael C. Pintard, which Boyd said points The Bahamas in the right direction while promoting fishing and farming projects throughout the country – grants to small businesses in the micro, small, medium and large categories.
“In the first instance, five million dollars has been set aside, requiring entities which import fresh and processed food to purchase 40 percent of the items from Bahamian producers; an expansive training curriculum has been compiled to build skills for all persons in the sector. These initiatives are so important since we need to encourage local farming and fishing. But this is just a start – we must ensure ways for those farmers and fishers to get their produce (fruits, vegetables, poultry, honey, eggs, meat, seafood, etc.) to markets, locally and internationally.
“It is also important because we need to ensure that locally grown products get into hotels, etc. … but also into the local supermarket and smaller food and convenience stores. It is well and good to have food supplies grown and raised locally, but it would be pointless if the farmers have no place to sell their produce. We must also look at restricting the import of food items that are grown locally and are in large supply. Of course, with that said, local producers need to up their game, expand their operation to be able to meet the demands consistently and with consistent quality.”
The Anglican bishop said those kinds of things must be a national priority. He noted the importance, heightened by COVID-19, which he said has only reminded people of what they already knew.
“With the onset of the pandemic, one area of concern was food security and sustainability. We were reminded of how little we grow ourselves and how much we import. While the initial scare about not being able to get the usual imports is gone, the overarching concern remains. More of us need to grow more, and this requires effort by governments and citizens to promote and effect change.”
Boyd endorsed The Church Commercial Farming Group (TCCFG) chaired by Reverend Dr. Patrick Paul, superintendent of the Assemblies of God in The Bahamas and the Turks and Caicos Islands.
“Several years ago, there was a discussion among church leaders, led by the current president of the Bahamas Christian Council, Dr. Delton Fernander, about the church getting more involved in business development and nation – and facilitating initiatives that can make a difference in people’s lives. At that time, the Christian Council formed the Bahamas Investment Group of Companies Ltd. (BIGCL) to move this process forward. The discussions evolved but intensified when COVID-19 hit and the issue of food security became more urgent.”
He said Pintard invited churches and others to the table to discuss the issue and to promote backyard farming and other food independence concepts, to which he asked Father John Kabiga and the Rev. Willish Johnson to represent the Anglican Church in the discussions.
“The Minister gave a challenge to the churches to do more in this area and the response was the Church Commercial Farming Group, a grouping designed to promote backyard farming and commercial agriculture and fisheries, to educate and to increase awareness and appreciation among our people and, ultimately, to increase local food production and sustainability. As the Anglican bishop, I am humbled and proud to endorse this leadership by Bishop Delton Fernander, Dr. Patrick Paul and the entire team, which has moved this forward, and to support these and other initiatives.”
In his Synod address, the Anglican bishop also spoke to the fact that 2020 will be remembered for the COVID-19 pandemic, a reality he said has changed the lives of the people of The Bahamas, Turks and Caicos Islands, and the world. He commended the governments of both territories, which he said had very difficult decisions to make, many of which happened with no playbook to go by, and no precedent to follow.
Boyd encouraged people to learn to live safely and responsibly with COVID, which he said is not going anywhere anytime soon. He reminded people that their best weapon is observing the protocols.
“We are the front line in the fight. So we have to stop blaming governments, government agencies and the private sector so much – and do our part.”
Boyd also spoke to diversification of the economy from Nassau and Providenciales, which he said for many decades have relied on tourism and banking as their two major industries and sources of income for many of its citizens.
“This present pandemic has once again brought to the forefront how fickle both of these industries are in the face of world crises.”