30 January 2008

Ministry in Wandsworth and Windward Islands: Dr Sehon Goodridge

Ministry in Wandsworth and Windward Islands: Dr Sehon Goodridge

The Rt Revd Wilfred Wood writes:

EBULLIENT, effervescent, irrepressible — these descriptions come instantly to mind in recalling the Rt Revd Sehon Sylvester Goodridge, retired Bishop of the Windward Islands, in the province of the West Indies, who died on 28 December in his native Barbados.

He was educated at Coleridge and Parry School and Harrison College there; but it was as a teacher in Grenada that he recognised a call to the ministry, and as an ordinand from the Windward Islands diocese that, in 1959, he entered Codrington College, Barbados, the provincial theological college.

At that time, Codrington was in the care of the Mirfield Fathers. Like others of that time, Sehon received a thorough grounding in the devotional life centred on the daily celebration of the eucharist, and a disciplined life of prayer. The Principal then was Fr Anselm Genders CR, who later became Bishop of Bermuda.

Sehon was made deacon in 1963, and ordained priest in 1964, serving a title at Holy Trinity, Castries, St Lucia. This was interrupted to enable him to complete his BD at King’s College, London. During this time, he was attached to All Saints’, New Eltham, in Southwark diocese, with the Revd Barney Milligan. They became firm friends, and Canon Milligan was present, years later in the Cathedral in St Vincent, to see him consecrated Bishop of the Windward Islands.

It was also at this time, in 1966, that he married Janet Thomas, a schoolteacher from Croydon, whom he had courted in Barbados, where she had gone to teach at Codrington High School for Girls. She was a devout and committed Christian, and became the most devoted and supportive of wives in all spheres and phases of his ministry.

No sooner had they returned to St Lucia than they were whisked off to Jamaica, for Sehon to serve as Anglican Chaplain to the Mona Campus of the University of the West Indies. That stint ended with his move to the staff of the United Theological College, also in Jamaica


Then, in 1971, came the call to return to Codrington College as its first West Indian Principal. The Mirfield regime had given no quarter to the strains of Pentecostal worship widespread in the Caribbean, which owed their origin to evangelism, post-slavery, from the southern states of the US. They provided native Caribbean peoples with a much needed means of self-expression in worship and church organisation.

Now, in a Caribbean made up of sovereign states, recently declared independent of Britain, and with black Governors-General and Presidents, Prime Ministers, Members of Parliament, et al., Sehon threw himself into the task of training the clergy to be more sensitive to the culture and customs of their flock. Spirituals made their appearance among English Hymnal hymns in the college chapel.

After 11 years, he moved, in 1982, to become Warden Student Counsellor of the Cave Hill Campus of the University of the West Indies in Barbados, and was there when he was invited to the UK to become the first Principal of the Simon of Cyrene Theological Institute, which was housed in a large former vicarage in Wandsworth.

The Archbishop of Canterbury’s Commission on Urban Priority Areas, in its report Faith in the City, had recognised the need for some form of training for black ordinands that respected their cultural norms and, while equipping them theologically, did not require an abdication of the worship and spirituality in which their vocations had been formed.

Sehon brought his customary infectious enthusiasm to this post, and became a familiar figure to virtually all the Caribbean communities in the various British cities. He was appointed a Chaplain to the Queen.

After five years, he was once again recalled from Britain to his diocese of the Windward Islands, this time to serve as Bishop. He was consecrated on the feast of St Ambrose, 7 December 1994, in St George’s Cathedral in St Vincent. He served in that post until his retirement in 2005.

Sehon was a visionary, a mover and a shaker. He could not stand still. Nothing illustrates this better than the Anglican Pastoral Centre. He secured the much sought-after site near the Bishop’s residence, and convinced others that it was not only desirable, but achievable; and today, with its offices, conference rooms and facilities, and residential provision, it is of incalculable benefit to the diocese.

Sadly, in his last years, his health deteriorated badly. With a leg amputated and loss of vision, he spent most of his waking hours in a wheelchair. But a steady stream of visitors to the Goodridges’ home in St James, Barbados, found him as cheerful and engaging as they had always known him, and the loving, caring Janet always in attendance.

It so happened that all three children and nine grandchildren had come together from their homes in the US, Germany, and Barbados to spend Christmas together. Soon after this, he had to be rushed to hospital, but succumbed to a heart attack.

His funeral in St Michael’s Cathedral, Barbados, was attended by a large and representative congregation. His cremated remains were later interred in the grounds of St George’s Cathedral, St Vincent, near those of one of his predecessors, Bishop Harold Piggott.

He is survived by his widow, their children Rachel, Stephen, and Elizabeth, and nine grandchildren.

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