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Bishop Wilfred Wood a man of honour

8/1/2010

THE Church of St. Lawrence yesterday celebrated the 25th Anniversary of the consecration of ‘The Church of England’s first black Bishop,’ Barbadian Rt. Rev. Dr. Wilfred Wood.

Now retired and happy to be back home, the noted second greatest black Briton recalled his journey and accomplishments which grated him since leaving Barbados in 1962.

In an interview with the Barbados Advocate, Bishop Wood, a past Combermerian spoke of his calling to the Ministry as a young man regularly worshipping at St. Ann’s in St. Joseph and his admittance to Codrington College in 1957, where is studied alongside the Right Reverend Dr. Rufus Brome.

Having being ordained Deacon on the island after completion of studies in 1962, Bishop Wood’s journey had just begun as he was sent to the Diocese of London, first serving in a parish called St. Stephen’s Shepherd’s Bush.

Throughout his Ministry, Bishop Wood had a strong interest in race relations and social justice in London, as it was for this interest that he was appointed the Bishop of London Officer in race relations, also serving on a number of other important boards, from 1978 to 1981.

He recalled: “I was a member of a Royal Commission called the Royal Commission on Criminal Procedures and in our report, we recommended an establishment of an independent prosecuting service, which has now been established, called the ‘Crown Prosecuting Service’. Up to that point, police would investigate and prosecute, but we recommended an independent prosecuting service.”

Serving on the Archbishop Commission on urban priority areas – where for three years he and his team visited all the cities and towns in England, such as the large housing estates and areas in need of assistance – Bishop Wood noted that a report on the findings were published and also recalled the setting up of the urban church fund.

Bishop Wood also served as a Lay Magistrate from 1971 to 1982. He was the moderator of the World Council of Churches Programme to Combat Racism, known for its work on South African apartheid, acknowledging the importance of the work of commission as they supported the liberation movements against the racist apartheid regime in South Africa.
Serving as Archdeacon of Southwark from 1982 until his consecration as Bishop of Croydon in 1985, where he oversaw the Croydon Episcopal Area, Bishop Wood said that the honour was very humbling.

“When I become Bishop of Croydon in 1985, it was a big occasion because I was then becoming the first ever black Bishop in the Church of England. At the service at St. Paul’s Cathedral, which holds 2 900 [people], there was not enough room, as people had come from all over the world – mostly black [people] were in attendance – and there are 49 bishops who took part in the service. Actually, when my appointment was announced, I received 703 letters of congratulations and well wishes. It was a great day,” he expressed.

In 2000, another great honour was placed upon the Bishop, as Queen Elizabeth II appointed him Knight of St. Andrew (Order of Barbados), for his contribution to race relations in the United Kingdom and general contribution to the welfare of Barbadians living here.

Before his retirement in 2002, Bishop Wilfred Wood also served on the Board of the UK’s Housing Corporation from 1986 to 1995 and was a founder-member of a number of housing associations and revealed that up to his retirement, he was either president or patron of 26 charitable organisations.

Also having the honour of having several housing developments and streets named after him in London – such as ‘Bishop Wilfred Wood Close’ located in Peckham in South East London – the Bishop was made an Honorary Freeman of the London Borough of Croydon in 2002. He holds three honorary doctorates; one from the Open University in the UK, an honorary degree of Doctor of Laws from the University of the West Indies and a Doctorate in Divinity from General Theological Seminary, New York.

Notably happy to be back, Bishop Wood is the husband to Ina Wood, who is also a Barbadian and he is the father of five and grandfather to eight.

Now, on his latest journey as an author, Bishop Wood launched his book ‘Faith,’ during his trip back to Southwark Cathedral, where he was invited back along with his consecration ‘twin’, Bishop Colin Buchanan to commemorate their 25th Anniversary of their consecration on July 25th.

Adding that all 25th anniversary celebrations went well, Bishop Wood, although losing his sight a few years into his retirement, is still very active, as he pointed out that he is always knew he would return to Barbados to live and he is even more delighted to be surrounded by his Church of St. Lawrence family where he worships. (TL)

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