Monday, April 22, 2024

Frank-ly speaking


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The name Frank Marshall has a particular resonance throughout the Anglican community of Barbados.This year marks 41 that Marshall, now Dean of the Cathedral of St Michael and All Angels, has served this Anglican Diocese. Adored by some parishioners, disliked by others, the man who claims to have had a sense of service to community from childhood is resolute in his mission, and insists: “I have enjoyed my ministry. I would not claim difficulty in my ministry.” But he has been confronted with many challenges along the way, sometimes encountering opposition from factions among congregations as he attempted to put his stamp on the management of churches he headed.In a frank and instructive interview with the Sunday Sun at the Deanery, Marshall addressed the notion of conflict often associated with him, and spoke extensively about the work he has being doing in the Anglican Church over the last four decades.“I am not autocratic. Some people think so. What I do appreciate is accountability . . . that one needs to be accountable with respect to any mandate that one has received, and to whatever extent you delegate, you must not abdicate,” he stated. “While you espouse some democratic principles you have to be careful with fiddling with what you receive.” And he observed: “One of the main problems with our churches does not come from the priests; it comes from the political issues that there are between groups and groups.” His experience at St Mary’s Church may have influenced this observation. From St Stephen’s were he had his first appointment as a rector, Marshall was appointed rector of St Mary’s Church in Bridgetown where he served for nine years. A contentious relationship with a faction in that church saw the choir going on strike.Yet the outspoken priest told the Sunday Sun: “I would not say that I was unpopular. Church is a place where people seek to fulfil political ambition; it isn’t only the spiritual fulfilment. “One has to recognise that the church, probably more than any other institution, throws up quite a political mix because it is one place where you can seek power if you have not got much of it.“One of the things I found at St Mary’s was that St Mary’s did not have a gaze in the direction north of it. It looked south going into Bridgetown, but it did not look to Emmerton, Chapman Lane, New Orleans.“I addresed the mission of looking to the north and that itself was going against the grain . . . . So sensitive was the power struggle at St Mary’s that I had to chart my way,” he said.But Marshall forged ahead, reaching out and embracing the neighbouring communities.As Dean of the Cathedral of St Michael’s and All Angels, another City church, Marshall is challenged to augment a dispersed membership. He is aware that in this urban environment it is not easy to attract members from the church’s catchment area and he concedes he needs “to do an outreach ministry around Bridgetown”. This, while insisting: “I am not a numbers person.” Declined invitationMarshall declined an invitation to participate in the recent national prayer service for ailing Prime Minister David Thompson. And he shared his reason and thinking on the matter. “We are taught to trust in God and rely upon God for doing his thing, not our telling God what to do. But there is this new age religion which pretty much seeks to present itself as having a certain power to do what traditional churches have not been able to do – to heal, to raise up.” The Anglican priest argued: “Even as we get prayerful support, each person has to process his pain, his suffering, and it is an important stage to go through because it is a way to move beyond the earthly, worldly, material focus and to raise oneself to that higher appreciation of who am I as a child of God.” Instead, he said he had exchanged personal correspondence with the Prime Minister regarding his illness, and had also written to other Anglican churches instructing that special prayers be offered for the Prime Minister.“My view is a pastoral perspective, as one who has dealt with sickness and suffering over the years, recognising that the support to persons is important, but also the facility in allowing the person to do his or her processing.” By his own account, Marshall has had a fulfilling 41 years in ministry as curate, rector and dean.He spoke slowly during the interview, at one time pausing briefly to ackowledge a popular criticism: “I speak too fast. People tell me that.” He continues to enjoy his work, informed by a maxim he once shared with a priestly charge: “It is not about people loving you. We are God’s priests to God’s people, and whether they hate you, kick you or kill you, you love them . . . but don’t go on any premise that they are to love you.“I never sought the path of popularity,” he declared.

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