“We welcome all who worship at this historic Church in the heart of downtown Kingston, Jamaica. Your presence enables and enriches the worship of Almighty God which has been offered on this site for over three hundred years.” These are the words of The Right Reverend E. Don Taylor, Rector of the Kingston Parish Church (KPC) as extracted from the December 19, 2010 church program. Bishop Taylor, a KC Old Boy (1950 to 1956) and KC headmaster from 1972 to 1974, returned to Jamaica two years ago after serving as priest in Atlanta at Holy Cross Church, Archbishop of New York City, Bishop of the Virgin Islands, and Bishop in New York City. As a former student of Bishop Taylor (the beloved Don T) at KC, it was my privilege to meet with him on December 23, 2010 at the Kingston Parish Church to talk to him about his life as a returning resident to Jamaica.
I started with the extract from the program because in the hour I spent with Bishop Taylor, I thought that this was the central theme. Bishop Taylor is happy to be at KPC, and ever the teacher, walked me through some history of the church which is more than 300 years old and was the first building in the city. Kingston, at the time, began at the waterfront and ended at North Street with the eastern boundary being East Parade, and the western boundary being West Parade. He said in the early years, the church had less financial needs because the membership consisted primarily of affluent Jamaicans such as the Syrians and Chinese as well as the upper crust of the society. Now the need is great as approximately 50% of the membership has no job, either because they are children, old, or are unemployed.
Bishop Taylor told me discipline and morals are sometimes poor. People (adults and children) frequently approach him for financial help. He has had many a night when he returns home without food or money because he gave it all away. He, however, is not concerned about his personal needs as he could always stop by friends on his way home and get a sandwich or two to sustain him, whereas the people who are asking for help, have no such options. There are many school children who work hard in school and would do well, if they are fed. Some fall through the cracks in the system because of lack of nutrients and guidance. He says that in January, he is starting an after-school homework program in the church hall where the children can come to do their homework in a quiet place and get tutoring and a small meal. While he has several KC boys in mind, he will be welcoming children from any school who live in the area around KPC.
Bishop Taylor is very much a KC Old Boy and supports the KCOBA. He reiterated that KC is the only school that is supported to the extent it is financially by past students. While I sat in Bishop Taylor’s office we were interrupted by a phone call in which I overheard Bishop Taylor querying as to who and who were KCOBs because he knew they could be relied on. Bishop Taylor is quick to inject KC in his speeches to the point where he has been accused of being a “clannish KC boy.” As a member of the Anglican Clergy and a KCOB he can, and has been able to, resolve conflicts between the church and the KCOBA, but cautioned that although he has been very successful in doing so, his boss is the Bishop of Jamaica and he has to follow his instructions. However, he has been very successful in being an intermediary and understands both sides.
Before I met with Bishop Taylor, I drove and walked around in downtown Kingston, and observed that it is a lot different from the downtown I was familiar with in the sixties. Most of the buildings were intact but seemed run-down with stripping paint and generally dirty. Yet people were going about their business and were alive and vibrant, focusing on their Christmas shopping. I did not in any way feel insecure perhaps because many police were around but I could not help but notice they were all wearing bulletproof vests and had big guns. I asked Bishop Taylor if he was concerned about his safety in the downtown area. He responded that there were no concerns because he is well known, and as one who is there feeding the poor and meeting their spiritual and physical needs, he is protected.
The last question I had for Bishop Taylor was “How can we help?” Bishop Taylor’s response was surprising in that he said just keep doing what we are doing through the KCOBA. He spoke about KCOBs who not only gave money but meet with the kids to find out how they are doing and to mentor them. Bishop Taylor said “we do it right”. He said if any of us could help by sending $100 US a month or even $50 a month that would go a long way. This was over and above what was being given through KCOBA. Bishop Taylor though, did not want this to interfere in supporting the KCOBA. Perhaps I am stepping out on a limb here, but as KCOBs do we just focus on KC students? Bishop Gibson’s vision was to serve the boys in the downtown area. However, now that we have an elite KC education, don’t we have a responsibility for others in that area? What about the girls (the other 50 percent of the population)?
One thing I have to report is that despite the hardships he faces every day, and the lack of discipline which breaks his heart, Bishop Taylor is happy to have returned to Jamaica. He is confident and optimistic that discipline and morals will improve, and he feels very significant to have returned to serve his own people. He is happy to be a part of the rebuilding of the City, to be in the historic KPC in the downtown area, and near to KC.
A little bit of insider information, in October 2011 Bishop Taylor will be celebrating 50 years as a priest.