On Tuesday November 10th I flew to Trinidad via Fort Lauderdale, Florida. (Trinidad is a full three-hour flight south of Florida, just east of the northern coast of Venezuala.) I arrived a day early and got a hotel on my own where I could recover. Bishop Calvin Bess picked me up late in the afternoon of the 11th and took me to a beautiful hotel in the capital city of Port of Spain with excellent service and cuisine (the Kapok Hotel, owned by an Anglican friend of the Diocese of Trinidad and Tobago). Bishop Bess showed me some sites along the way, including the Bishop's mansion which is one of the "Magnificent Seven" (Buildings, currently under renovation). The next morning we left for a Roman Catholic retreat centre where my teaching sessions took place. I taught all day on Thursday and Friday to a full class of about 25 clergy. This was a new initiative of Bishop Bess who was seeking to offer his clergy some Continuing Education. I stayed overnight and took meals with the clergy who stayed overnight, about fifteen in number. I taught for three-and-a-half hours in the morning and a further 90 minutes in the afternoon. I covered various topics relating to Biblical Proclamation, including case studies on preaching Gospel texts, on preaching from selected portions of Genesis and the Psalms. I offered a lot of practical advice on preaching and preached various styles of homilies and sermons.
The Bishop called Saturday a day off, out of consideration for clergy from Tobago who could not attend that day, as they were heading back to Tobago for Sunday services. Thus, on Friday evening I was brought back to the Kapok Hotel through until Sunday evening. On my day off –- Saturday -- I arranged for a tour of the northern part of the Island, where I swam in two different places (a deep pool in a river under a waterfall called Avocad falls, and Trinidad's best beach, Maraka beach). My guide introduced me to a family from the backwoods who lived off the land and with whom we had lunch. I also ate a local delicacy at Marakas called Shark Bake(?).
On Sunday morning, as previously arranged, I preached at the Cathedral. The homily was on Hebrews 10 and seemed to be warmly received. The Dean had attended the sessions to that point and was thus familiar to me.
The Bishop picked me up at the hotel on Monday morning and took me back to the retreat centre where I completed further day-long sessions on Monday and Tuesday. By this time I knew several of the clergy quite well. I was pleased to be invited to a pub for some "liming" (hanging out) one evening. On Wednesday I taught only in the morning, as my flight left for Miami mid afternoon.
The clergy ranged quite widely in theological backgrounds. Many were second-career folks who had little or no formal theological training. Several had trained at Codrington College where they earned an M.Div. A few held doctorates in related fields. They were receptive and enthusiastic (in a Trinidadian sort of way which is a bit understated I'm told). They were open to various types of teaching methods, including group discussion, lectures and case studies in small groups or in plenary sessions.
I would recommend that faculty who might wish to go to have a practical, ministerial bent to their content, and to use a variety of teaching methods. The clergy were on the whole sharp, comparable to a range of clergy one might find in Canada. Take a hat, sunscreen and don't worry about the electricity (the outlets are the same as in Canada).
The temperature ranges between 75 and 85 Fahrenheit all year. On two of the humid days, the locals seemed almost as uncomfortable as I was.
On the return trip to the airport, the Bishop expressed his pleasure at the sessions and remarked that a favorable endorsement came from some unexpected quarters.
The Continuing Education programme of the Diocese continues next term (Winter 2010) with a visit by the Principal of Codrington College, also a New Testament scholar.
I thoroughly enjoyed my time and am grateful to the Bishop of Trinidad and Tobago, the Rt. Rev. Calvin Bess, and to the Principal of Wycliffe College for taking the initiative to make this event happen and to be a success, which it most certainly was on all counts.