Remembering 'Father G'

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Remembering 'Father G'

BY Shona Webster
Heron

Thursday, December 03, 2020

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When my mom called to say Father G had gone, my heart sank.

I remember very vividly the day the Rev Ernle P Gordon, as a young priest, walked into St Mary's the Virgin Church, 99 Molynes Road, to act as priest-in-charge while Rev Don Taylor (affectionately called Don T) was away. If I recall correctly, it was September 1970, and it should only have been for a short time. But, he became priest-in charge of St Mary's Cure, covering Duhaney Park and Tower Hill (St Paul's), and never left until his retirement.

As young people, we were immediately drawn to his infectious laugh, winning smile, and “cool” persona. He became Father G to us and throughout the years. Even when he became Canon Ernle P Gordon, he was still Father G, no matter where life took us.

He was close to the Anglican Young People's Association (AYPA), which later became the Anglican Youth Fellowship (AYF) and, through his leadership, the AYPA of the Church of St Mary the Virgin became a force for youth ministry, not only in Kingston, but in other parishes, as we were able to interface with other youth groups. Father G took us everywhere and exposed us to so much.

We had a vibrant prison ministry to Fort Augusta prison, won a Jamaica Festival award for our depiction of the Arawaks, performed Easter pageants ministering to the community as our young people walked with the cross re-enacting the crucifixion, and so many other activities. Some of us participated in radio discussion programmes, we wrote and performed plays, he introduced drumming to the music ministry and dancing to our worship, in addition to the traditional hymns, there were Caribbean songs. We participated in Anglican youth camps and conferences in Jamaica and down the Caribbean.

I recall in about 1971, 70 youngsters from St Mary's going by diesel to Montego Bay to attend AYPA's islandwide conference, and I remember how proud Father G was when we won the prize for being the largest and the most outstanding group.

Father G was close to the families of St Mary's Church and although my active involvement as youth leader only spanned a few years, throughout our lives and until his retirement, he was a significant part of almost every event in our family and so many of the St Mary's families — engagements, weddings, christenings, birthday celebrations, and funerals. Or he would just turn up and somebody would say, “Father G is at the gate.” He was sometimes late, but we always knew he was coming. He was a constant in the lives of his parishioners, ably supported by his wife Patsy, whom we called Mrs G.

Ernle Gordon was a man of strong intellect and firm conviction. He had a very engaging personality and loved discourse. He listened, and you could tell by his very expressive body language that he was listening. But he had the courage of his conviction and he was not afraid to articulate his views, sometimes very stridently.

A leader's influence is best measured by the growth and accomplishments of his followers. I can only speak of that group of young people of the early 1970s at St Mary's. His influence spans discipline, Christian values, the opportunities to express our creativity and talents, our training to lead and influence others, and the bond we forged with each other which continue to exist to this day.

It was amazing, and thanks in large part to Ernle P Gordon's influence, the members of that group of young people have become significant influencers in church and State — archbishop, bishops, canons, educators, university professors, economists, politicians, heads of executive agencies, ministers of government; leaders in medicine, the judiciary, in the arts and culture, in the financial sector, business, media, and so much more.

Like our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ, Ernle Gordon was all about people. He went to them wherever they were, and offered care. He was a very practical, down–to-earth clergyman whose influence stretched way beyond the pews of the Church of St Mary the Virgin and way past the shores of Jamaica. He was an enigma. He was just different.

He was and always will be Father G.

Shona Webster Heron was president, St Mary's Anglican Young People's Association (1970-1973). Send comments to the Jamaica Observer or shonaheron@gmail.com.


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