Archdeacon of the Northern Bahamas Rev. Father Earl Andrew Hepburn, was officially installed as the fourth rector of The Church of the Ascension Anglican Church, West Beach Road on Friday, May 3.
With a number of well-wishers, family and friends, locally and overseas, many whom Hepburn has had the privilege of serving prior to his relocation to Grand Bahama nine years ago, gathered to witness the memorable event, which was officiated by The Right Reverend Laish Boyd, Bishop of the Diocese of The Bahamas and Turks and Caicos Islands.
Deputy Prime Minister K. Peter Turnquest and his wife Sonia Turnquest; President of the Senate, Kay Forbes-Smith and her husband Godfrey Smith, other senior government officials; Rev. Dr. Robert Lockhart, President of the Grand Bahama Christian Council and other ministers with their spouses were all present for what was deemed an auspicious occasion.
Sharing a powerful and compelling sermon and charge to Hepburn and parishioners, Bishop Boyd expressed, “I greet the Wardens, Vestry and people of the Church of the Ascension on this glorious occasion. I want you to know that as the Bishop, I am delighted to be here to induct your new Rector.
“In the Epistle reading for today, Ephesians 4, we read the following, ‘The gifts He gave were to equip the saints for the work of ministry, for this building up the Body of Christ.’
“This evening we are here to gather, to share in ancient and meaningful ceremony which symbolizes and officially pens the leadership and authority of the rector of this parish into that responsibility.
“We are here to induct Father Earl Andrew Hepburn as the fourth rector of the Church of the Ascension and, as we induct Father Hepburn we challenge the family of the Ascension to be the people of God.
“It is easy on such grand occasions, to get caught up in the ceremony and majesty of the occasion, and, while ceremony and majesty are wonderful, and must be promoted, these things only point to a deeper reality and accentuate a much more profound responsibility,” noted the Bishop.
Speaking specifically to Hepburn he continued, “And so my brother Earl, as we gather on this occasion, I will like to distill this event, and to present to you, the three important and significant things that this ceremony is all about.
“First of all, this ceremony is about you, because significant or insignificant as you may be, it really could not happen if you were not here.
“This evening, brother Earl is about you and everything and everyone that makes you who you are, because it is that composite individual who serves as the chief pastor in this congregation.
“The second thing about this evening’s ceremony is that it is about the Church of the Ascension. If the Ascension were not here, you would be the rector of nothing. The new rector is the rector of a parish and the parish is the wonderful parish of The Ascension.
“We think about years ago, when the congregation was first set aside from the time in a little hall, up to the time that we are here in these wonderful premises. We think of the rectors that have passed, Eric Sam, Cornell Moss, Michael Gittens. We think of the many assisting clergy, we think of the present curate, Deacon Dave Thomas and we think of all of the hundred, perhaps thousands of girls, boys, men and women who have passed through this Ascension and who have helped to make it what it is.
“We must thank God for where this church has come,” said Boyd.
“Now, it is time for this parish to take its next step. All that has happened in the past has been wonderful, we thank God for it, but, it is just that; it is the past.
“This evening we open a new chapter, with a new cast of characters, a new rector and individuals who are different today, than they were just yesterday.
“I, therefore, challenge this parish to take its next step, to answer the call of this new ministry, which is adopted by priests and people.
“This, my friends is a call. If the induction of your new rector is going to be worth anything; if the acceptance of this responsibility, Father Earl, is going to be anything, then it is about answering a call and it is about not being the same person anymore, but the person whom God wants you to be tomorrow, to do his work.”
He continued by challenging his audience to not become so self-absorbed with self, rather focus on living a life dedicated to ministry and spreading the word of the Lord.
“One of the biggest challenges to ministry is ego, whether it is to ministry in the spiritual realm, the physical realm, the sacred realm or the secular realm; in the home or the workplace, it is ego; that is the greatest impediment to forward movement. So many of us are caught up in the past or in the present that we cannot begin to imagine the future that God has for us, when we are so caught up in ourselves.
“Ego was one of the greatest destroyers of the church. It destroys the workplace; it destroys the home, it wrecks marriages; it kills friendships. Why? Because it causes all of those things not to be able to take their next step, and to be able to be what God has for them to be tomorrow, so that this work of ministry can carry on.
“This is Ascension’s time; this is a new chapter. There is much excitement for things that you want to do, but I pray that with all of that, there is also a person who you want to become in Jesus Christ.”
The third and final reason, he noted behind the ceremony on Friday evening was that the induction and installation of Hepburn was about God.
“This is about God, that is what this is about; it is not about us. It is not about how we look and who we are; God gave all those things but is about God.
Tonight, is about Earl Hepburn; tonight, is about the parish of the Ascension, but overall tonight is about God and about God’s call. God is calling us from the foolishness and the pretentions of ourselves, into what God wants us to be.
“I wish to congratulate the rector, curate and people of this parish on this wonderful occasion. All I can say to you is, get out there and do your best. I have given you a charge this evening; you get out there and do your best.
“When you allow God to change you into a different person and that will involve putting aside some things that you held in; some things by which you defined yourself up to this point, some places where you used to go, some things you used to do, some people you used to hang with, but, more importantly, a new focus in terms of your life and your ministry.
“This congregation has a wonderful history, accomplished many things, and we thank God for that. A part of your future, if you are going to sustain yourself and grow, but more importantly a part of your future, if you are going to be the kind of witness that God has for you to be, then a part of your future is going to be going out. Leaving these four walls, walking these neighbourhoods and telling people that your church is here. You are not going out to win them to Ascension, no you are going out to win then to Jesus. Let them know that God is alive. If they know that He is alive and they see him in you, they will want to come to Ascension.”
Following the institution, induction and installation Hepburn thanked all in attendance for being a part of the service.
“I would like to say publicly in this setting my humble thanks and appreciation to our Diocesan Bishop Laish Boyd for the trust, responsibility and confidence he has shown in me, in making me rector here at this great parish of the Church of the Ascension. I guess I also have to thank him for making my cup runneth over with work, for making me Archdeacon of the Northern Bahamas, and for that again I thank you,” said Hepburn.
Requesting a moment of silence for his parents whom have passed away, noting that the occasion was indeed a very special moment for he and his family and one which his parents would have been proud of as well, he continued his thanks to the person whom he described as one which there could never be enough words in the English language to express his love and appreciation to her, that of his wife.
“I have to pay homage and recognition to someone who has been there for me and journeyed with me from the very beginning of my call to ministry. When I think of this person, there are not enough letters in the alphabet, not enough vowels in the English vocabulary and certainly not enough words to describe the support, help and encouragement I have received from this person. I speak of none other than my lovely wife,” expressed the Church of the Ascension rector.
Presenting her with a bouquet of flowers he shared that the gift was just a small act of appreciation, to express his gratitude to her.
He continued by thanking all of his family and friends from near and far that travelled to the island to celebrate his installation with him.
“I would also like to extend my heartfelt thanks and appreciation, dignitaries, government officials, ministers of religion and other dignitaries of our community who have joined with us here at the church of the Ascension on this auspicious occasion.
“I thank you all for your presence and your support,” concluded Hepburn.