June 2014 Volume 11

The Rt. Rev. Egbert Don Taylor - In Memory of My Mentor and Fellow K.C. Old Boy

Winston Stewart
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Bishop Egbert Don Taylor, more affectionately known as Bishop Don T., or just Don T. by his contemporaries, was born in Jamaica on 2nd. September 1937, in humble surroundings. For the purpose of this tribute, I will take the liberty of referring to him as Don T.

He spent his formative years at Kingston College where he came under the influence of the school's founder and first headmaster, the late Bishop Percival William Gibson. The young Taylor was in awe of Gibson and, in turn, the headmaster saw in him a future "Man of the Cloth". Such was Don T.'s obsession with the aura surrounding Bishop Gibson that his friends at school started referring to him as "Bishop".

After leaving K.C. in 1956, Don T. soon found employment at the local radio station RJR, where he got the opportunity to exercise one of his true loves, broadcasting. Blessed with clarity of voice, speech enunciation and organized thought processes, he commanded attention from a large audience of listeners. The only exception to this eager throng of radio followers was Bishop Gibson himself, who had other plans for Don T. As my mentor, I had ready access to his life's travels, and he related to me quite vividly the day that Bishop Gibson confronted him in the studios of RJR. The elder bishop expressed his displeasure in patented Gibson style, which meant that Don T. not only suffered embarrassment, but endured immediate soul searching for having upset his mentor. In short order, Don T. was out of the broadcasting business and into the journey of lifelong service to his fellowman/woman in Christ, via the Anglican Church.

Service in Christ:
He was ordained a priest in 1961, and celebrated his Jubilee in the priesthood 3-years ago in 2011, along with his good friend Rt. Rev. Alfred Reid, former Anglican Lord Bishop of Jamaica. The first steps of his illustrious journey of Christianity were towards the Church of St. Mary The Virgin on Molynes Road in St. Andrew, which was initiated by women. He spent 12-years there growing the relatively small mission into a formidable congregation, with Sunday school attendance topping 1,000.

He returned to Kingston College to serve briefly as headmaster, succeeding the legendary Douglas "Dougs" Forrest in 1971. I had the distinction of serving the school as headboy in 1972, during his tenure. He left K.C. in 1973 and journeyed to the United States, where he spent 5-years serving the communities of Buffalo in Upstate New York, and 9-years at Holy Cross Anglican Church in Atlanta, before moving on to become Bishop of the Virgin Islands in 1987. He went back to the United States in 1994 to take up the significant position of Vicar Bishop for New York City, that encompassed 81churches, including the famed Cathedral of St. John The Divine, where he would be based for the next 15-years. On a personal note, he insisted that he presided over the wedding of my fiancée and me at the Cathedral, including receiving us at the high altar, an action normally reserved for dignitaries. Despite the large area of his responsibilities, he found time to visit each of the 81 churches, establishing lasting relationships with the congregations.

Throughout his journey to this point, he was not only a "Man of the Cloth", but a "Man for all Seasons". He could walk with kings and queens, and dance with beggars in the streets, without missing a beat. He once told me that he was not necessarily impressed by homes that were pristine from top to bottom, as it could also be an indication of the absence of God and their inhabitants living unhappy lives, such was the profoundness of his thinking. He had an affinity for helping others; it came naturally to him, and he had a particular interest in the poor amongst us. Don T. walked swiftly at times, but he was never in such a hurry that he did not have time to share a few words, including, of course, his many anecdotes, with whomever he happened to encounter.

A True Fortis & Jamaican:
No matter where in the world he might have traveled, one could be certain that Kingston College would be introduced in any conversation involving Don T., including amongst bishops of the Anglican Diocese and ordinary folk alike. The name of Bishop Gibson was central to his discussions, as he never forgot his years at K.C. under this venerable clergyman, and the indelible influence he had on his life. He rarely missed a KCOBA function in New York, even with the knowledge that he had numerous Church schedules to fill the next day on Sunday. At these functions, it also helped that he could advertise his purple garment under his suit, as this is the color of the Anglican Church, but at the same time allowing him to pay tribute to his beloved alma mater.

He loved Jamaican food, particularly jerk pork, and had very little hesitation in consuming a couple glasses of rum punch. He also enjoyed a good party, as he loved to be around young people, from his early days at St. Mary's on Molynes Road. Many frowned upon this and thought it "unbecoming of a priest to be seen in such an environment", but this did not faze Don T., because he knew that in the long run he was influencing many of those same young people towards a Christian life, including yours truly. Music to him was the celebration of life, and an earthly homage to the glory of God.

The year 2009 was pivotal in two major respects for Don T. First, it signaled his intention to retire from his position as Vicar Bishop for New York City, and second, it meant leaving the U.S. to return to Jamaica to shepherd the congregation of the Church of St. Thomas, more popularly known as Kingston Parish Church (KPC).

He quickly rejuvenated the "spirits" at KPC, and the landmark structure soon filled up to capacity each Sunday. The homeless suddenly found a home, and felt that someone was looking out for them at last. The congregation always left the Sunday services equipped to face the challenges of a tough Jamaica, shaped in many ways by the high levels of crime and decadence in the once proud jewel of the Caribbean.

One Bright Morning:
Don T. was equal to the challenges that he faced as Rector of KPC, and in his usual style, he met them head on. For the next 4-years, he was consumed with the work of KPC. However, in the latter part of 2013 his physical health started to fail, including suffering a significant stroke, and he took the decision to seek treatment in the U.S.; no doubt an unplanned twist in his journey.

He spent some time in hospital, before entering a convalescent home to recuperate. Unfortunately, his health deteriorated, and he was returned to Phelps Memorial hospital in Westchester County, New York. He made the final journey to be with his Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ on 24th May 2014. Don T. emulated his mentor in every aspect of life, including, uncannily, a 77-year earthly life span (Bishop Gibson passed away in 1970 at the same age of 77).

May his soul be guided by purple light towards the good Lord's garden of eternal rest.

Fortis Cadere Cedere Non Potest!

Winston L. Stewart, P.E.
29th May 2014

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