2001-11-22 / Top Stories

Caribbean Clergyman Leads Growth Of Local Church

By Lloyd G. Beeston

By Lloyd G. Beeston

The Reverend Father George Banner of St. Alban's Chruch blesses one of his parishioners during "Remeberance Day" services on November 11.The Reverend Father George Banner of St. Alban's Chruch blesses one of his parishioners during "Remeberance Day" services on November 11.

About eighteen years ago a young priest from the Anglican Seminary in Bridgetown, Barbados, landed in the Big Apple to seek his dreams and new horizons.

Called to pastor a fairly large Caribbean congregation at the Church of St. Joseph’s in East New York, The Rev. Father George Bonner came with fresh ideas and hopes to build on what he would inherit from his predecessor.

This opportunity faded as unforeseen problems mounted, forcing him to serve by assisting other pastors from Sunday to Sunday. Then came the call from the Bishop in Long Island offering him a small church in Canarsie - St. Alban’s on Farragut Road and East 94th St. With great vigor and expectations, the young clergyman took up the reins of leadership with a small, but spirited congregation of about fifty-two worshipers.

Faith in himself and a God who he holds with undying reverence in his heart, gave the inexperienced, but willing, pastor the necessary strength to prevail against the many challenges he faced him in the early years at St. Alban’s.

This congregation mushroomed over the years and now numbers nearly 400 parishioners. The church building was redesigned to accommodate about 100 new seats. The sanctuary was renovated and the church now boasts new crystal-like chandeliers and modern lighting in the sanctuary.

Many groups now function at St. Alban’s, including the Youth Organization, The Altar Guild, St. Margaret’s Guild and the Rising Star Guild. There is a very active Senior Citizens program, which conducts weekly visits to the elderly and shut-in, plus special outreach services that cater directly to the needs of the church’s senior citizens.

Plans are now in place to erect a senior citizens center on the grounds in the coming year.

As I worshipped at St. Alban’s on November 11th - Veteran’s Day, also referred to as "Remembrance Day" when parayer services are helkd to rewmemvber those men and wopmen who gave their lives in the nation’s world wars - I witnessed the return of its leader from a well-earned vacation in his homeland, the island of Belize in the Caribbean. My spirits soared with the sound of beautiful voices rising to the glory of God in Thanksgiving and praise for the safe return of their shepherd to his flock.

The service came to its close with a fitting tribute to the nation’s war dead with the singing of "America the Beautiful" and "The Star spangled Banner."

Pointing to the growth of this vibrant church, thirteen babies were baptized on this Sunday.

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