June 2014 Volume 11

Tribute to Bishop Don Taylor

Professor Stephen Vasciannie
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As Principal of Kingston College in the early 1970s, the Revd. Don Taylor was a guide, source of inspiration, and a first class leader.  Reverend Taylor, as a young, dynamic priest of the Anglican Church who had come under the direct influence KC's founding fathers, including Bishop Gibson and Douglas Forest, was a brilliant link between the school's past and its future.  Known affectionately as "Don T", Reverend Taylor was an outstanding orator and intellectual, who was always willing to engage even the most neophyte College youth on the niceties of the Fortis spirit and the Anglican contribution to our beloved school. 

In subsequent years, as Reverend Taylor rose most deservedly through the ranks of the Anglican hierarchy in the United States of America all the way up to the bishopric of New York, he brought pride and joy to many Jamaicans.  Among others, Reverend Taylor served communities in Buffalo,  Atlanta, and the Virgin Islands (as Bishop); in 1994, he became Vicar Bishop of New York City, with primary duties within Manhattan, the Bronx, and Staten Island.   And, upon his return to Jamaica, without inclination to retirement, Bishop Taylor continued to serve with distinction, from 2009, at the Kingston Parish Church.  

My last recollection of Bishop Taylor is from his KC Old Boys’ Association Bishop Gibson Lecture.  In a characteristically brilliant lecture, the Bishop reminded us of the role of his alma mater in bringing him up from poverty -- through a class-based and colour-conscious wider Jamaican environment -- to success and fulfillment.  Speaking without notes, the Bishop was at his mesmerizing best.  He emphasized his love for pastoral work, and called on the gathering to work to promote ethical values and the development of young people throughout Jamaican society, propositions that were received with enthusiasm by the Bishop's audience at KC's St. Augustine Chapel, North Street.  Bishop Taylor emphasized the value of KC to the wider society (“If KC fails, Jamaica fails”), and encouraged us all – including the Sixth Formers present – to carry on the school’s traditions of dignity, social equality and fair treatment for all.

At the time of Bishop Taylor's Gibson Lecture, he was vibrant, full of life and cosmopolitan in style and substance.  Various points in his presentation were reminiscent of Don T's deliveries to KC boys in the 1970s on the virtues of integrity, commitment, and dedication to Jamaican development.  As Principal, he would occasionally walk with us through the streets in the immediate environs of Melbourne Park, publicly discussing Kingston College history, motivating us to develop into public-spirited Jamaican citizens, whether we ended up living at home or abroad.  Personally, I recall especially Don T’s efforts to introduce “Lift Every Voice and Sing” as the KC school song as a reminder of struggles past and liberties won, his effervescent, inspirational morning talks in the old Melbourne Park Pavilion, and his reminder that the inclinations of childhood often become the habits of a lifetime.

The Bishop was at home in the St. Augustine Chapel, in the Melbourne Pavilion, and in the KC Principal’s Office in the downstairs vicinity of the famous “Big Yard” of the early 1970s -- but he has made his indelible mark on the lives of many persons in many other venues.  Bishop Taylor's lived his life in tribute to God by serving humanity.  May his soul rest in peace.

Stephen Vasciannie is a KC Old Boy and the Jamaican ambassador to the US.

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