Visit from Caribbean theologians to Diocese of Long Island promises deeper understanding of faith and place

Episcopal Diocese of Long Island
Posted Dec 14, 2023

On Saturday, December 16, the Mercer School of Theology will host a “Day of Learning” with leading theologians from Codrington College, an Anglican theological college in Barbados. The series of talks, entitled “Anglophone Caribbean Theology and Spirituality: A Matter of Identity” will explore the interconnections between geography, history, theology, spirituality and culture —on Long Island and across the West Indies. The Anglican Province of the West Indies encompasses 13 island countries and 19 dependencies across three archipelagos. The Diocese of Long Island represents the largest island adjoining the continental United States.

The visit is the result of a renewed and deepening relationship between leaders from Codrington College and the Mercer School of Theology, the Cathedral of the Incarnation, and the Center for Spiritual Imagination based in Garden City.  Visiting faculty from Codrington include Archbishop John Holder, former Archbishop of the West Indies; Canon Monrelle Williams, Professor of Theology; Canon Kirkley Sands, dean of faculty and head of academics; and Dr. Michael Clarke, principal.

On Sunday, December 17, all four faculty members will preach at Episcopal parishes across Long Island: Principal Clarke will preach at St. Paul’s in the Village of Flatbush, Brooklyn; Canon Williams will preach at St. Alban the Martyr in St. Alban’s, Queens; Canon Sands will preach at Christ Church, Oyster Bay; Archbishop Holder will preach at the Cathedral of the Incarnation in Garden City.

The Very Rev. Michael Sniffen is the dean of the Mercer School, the Cathedral of the Incarnation, and co-founder of the Center for Spiritual Imagination. He visited Codrington twice in the last two years, preaching, lecturing, and exchanging ideas about the church’s mission and ministry in island contexts as well as the challenges and opportunities for clergy formation and education in the current spiritual landscape. He said, “For me, this visit represents a very significant moment for us as a diocese. Numerous vibrant ministries and parishes of Long Island are led by West Indian leaders and their descendants. There are many connections to Caribbean history and Caribbean Anglicanism across our island. It will be a gift to hear some leading theologians from several distinct Caribbean cultures share what they know about our church in that part of God’s world, past, present, and future. Long Island is thousands of miles away from Barbados, but we are connected in myriad deep ways, and we have much to learn from one another’s experience.”

In the coming year, there are plans to offer classes for both Mercer and Codrington students in a joint cohort. The first in-person class will be a preaching intensive that Sniffen will teach in Barbados this spring. Mercer students and Long Island priests participating in continuing ed will stay at Codrington and study alongside residential seminarians from that province.

During this visit, the faculties of both schools will be in conversations about further opportunities to deepen their partnership. Sniffen hopes this will include an ongoing exchange of faculty and students, and discussion of shared responses to complex issues facing our islands, including climate change, reparations, natural resource management, the shape of congregational ministry, and how all of these fit into our ministry of reconciliation as people who proclaim the gospel of Jesus Christ today.