Just being present to witness the historic consecration last Saturday of Peter Fenty as the Anglican Church of Canada’s first Black bishop was fulfilling for Carlos Clarke.
To be first in a lengthy line to congratulate the newest ordained member of Canada’s third largest church after enjoying the nearly two-hour service featuring steel pan music was icing on the cake for the senior.
Close to 800 people filled St. James Cathedral pews and another 250 were accommodated in adjoining Snell Hall for the consecration of the suffragan bishop in the Diocese of Toronto.
“I knew Peter’s father from way back when I attended the YMCA in Barbados where he was a very respected member,” said Clarke, who came to Canada in 1957. “To see his son and a fellow Barbadian come this far and make history was something that I could not miss.”
Marjorie Taylor travelled from Brampton for the momentous celebration.
“As a cradle Anglican having been brought up in St. Peter’s Anglican Church in Jamaica, I welcomed the selection and could not miss today’s event,” said Taylor, who attends Christ Church in Brampton. “It’s a first in the Anglican Church of Canada and long overdue.”
The product of a strong Christian family, Fenty attended St. Leonard’s Secondary Boys School where he was the head boy, and was a Sunday School teacher prior to entering Codrington College to pursue theology studies.
Several of his Codrington classmates from around the world, including Anglican Church of the West Indies bishop, John Holder, attended the ordination.
“Today is extremely significant for all West Indians and Barbadians,” said Holder, who is the godfather of Fenty’s daughter. “Very often, people in communities need symbols of success and progress to inspire them to move on. The fact that Peter could come here and move to the point where he becomes a bishop is a positive sign of progress. I have known Peter since the 1960s and I am not surprised he has reached this level.”
St. James Cathedral rector Douglas Stoute, who was also born in Barbados, agreed with Holder.
“This is an important day, particularly for the West Indian community which has made a huge contribution to this diocese,” said Stoute, who is the dean of Toronto. “It’s appropriate to have somebody like Peter who is a visible reminder of all that has been done by very faithful people over the years. He has made a significant contribution in this diocese.”
William Guthrie of the Diocese of Central Florida said Fenty’s leadership and compassion impresses him.
“One of the things that struck me about his leadership is that he attends just about every important international gathering where there is a need and he always demonstrates care,” said Guthrie, who was born in Guyana.
Rev. Canon Stephen Fields, the incumbent of Holy Trinity Anglican Church in Thornhill, was overwhelmed by the occasion.
“This is fulfilling,” said Fields. “The church has made a very important statement and that is that we affirm all people regardless of their background or culture.”
As part of the ordination, Fenty – in the presence of several family members, including his wife, Angela and children, Andre and Peta-Anne – was presented with the symbols of his new office by the city’s suffragan bishops. The symbols comprise a pectoral cross, an episcopal ring, a staff and a mitre.
“This is a special day, not only to be called to be a bishop but to be surrounded by the love, prayers and support of my family and the many, many faithful people of God in this diocese,” said Fenty, who was ordained a priest in December 1975 in St. Matthias Church in Barbados. “I look forward to this new ministry with joy and great expectation.”
Fenty was the rector of three parishes before accepting an invitation in 1992 to come to Canada to be the rector of St. Lawrence Church in the Diocese of Montreal. He was appointed the incumbent of St. Joseph of Nazareth in Brampton in the Diocese of Toronto in 1997.
Over the last nine years, Fenty has been the archdeacon of York and the executive officer to the Bishop of Toronto. As the executive officer, he worked closely with the College of Bishops that provides episcopal oversight of the diocese; oversaw the diocese’s Fresh Start and Momentum programs and co-chaired the postulancy committee. In addition, he has served the church at the national level as a member and advisor to the multicultural ethics committee and co-chair of the Partners in Mission and eco-justice committees.
The area bishop for York Simcoe and a member of the Black Anglican Co-ordinating Committee, Fenty is the second Barbadian to make history in the Anglican Church.
In 1983, Codrington College graduate Wilfred Wood became the first Black bishop in the Church of England. He died in office 11 years ago at age 77.