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A Short History of the Diocese of the Windward Islands
The nineteenth century was a turbulent period for the peoples of the Caribbean. The early part of the century was marked by a series of attempts by the slave population of the region to secure their freedom. It was also in the early part of the century that the most important development of that period occurred. The institution of slavery was abolished. The formation of the Diocese of the Windward Islands occurred less than fifty years after the abolition of slavery.

Alfred Caldecott, in his history on the Church in the West Indies, claims that the formation of the Diocese of the Windward Islands was related to certain political events of the time. In 1876, an attempt was made by Britain to federate the smaller territories of the eastern Caribbean. This attempt is seen by some historians as a move by the British to reduce the cost of administering the islands and at the same time to gain firmer control of them. The idea of a Federation was resisted by the Barbadian plantocracy, and the plans for a federation were shelved. Britain then proceeded to group St. Vincent, Grenada and their dependencies, along with Tobago, into the Windward Island government.

This new political arrangement carried with it some ecclesiastical implications. The Diocese of Barbados, under whose jurisdiction the islands of the new government fell, was the established church of that island, with the stipends of clergy and other church expenses being met by the government of Barbados. Some of these benefits could have been extended to all the islands that were politically attached to Barbados. Now that these islands were being formed into an autonomous political unit, Bishop Mitchinson, who was Bishop of Barbados at that time, thought it best that the islands, which comprised the new government, be formed into a separate Diocese. He advocated that the islands of St. Vincent, Grenada and their dependencies, along with Tobago, be formed into the Diocese of the Windward Islands. The Church Councils of the individual islands as well as Provincial Synod gave approval to Bishop Mitchinson’s proposal.

The islands were separated by Royal Warrant from the Diocese of Barbados and formed into a separate Diocese under the style of the Windward Islands. The instrument of separation, which bears the seal of the Most Rev. Archibald Campbell, Archbishop of Canterbury, is dated 8th November 1877. In 1889 Tobago was placed politically with Trinidad and passed into that Diocese. St. Lucia was incorporated into the Windward Islands in 1899.

The Diocese shared a Bishop with Barbados until the year 1927. It was in this year that the original intention that the Diocese should have its own Bishop became a reality. A Synod of the Windward Islands, held the previous year, expressed a strong opinion that the time had come when the Diocese should stop sharing a Bishop with Barbados and secure its own. Synod passed a resolution to this effect. The resolution read:

Whereas the Diocese of the Windward Islands has been administered from its inception by the Bishop of Barbados with permission of government of Barbados, and whereas it appears from the records that it was the original intention that the said Diocese should be administered by its own Bishop so soon as provision therefore could be made financially, and whereas at a meeting of the Synod of the said Diocese held at the Cathedral in St. Vincent on the 20th April 1926, there was a unanimous expression of opinion brought about by the impending retirement of the present Bishop of Barbaods, that the time had arrived for making an effort for the carrying out of the original intention, and whereas it is the desire of the said Synod that the Provincial Synod be humbly approached at the earliest opportunity with the view of obtaining sympathetic assistance and advice in the direction indicated, be it therefore resolved that the Synod places on record its grateful appreciation of past service rendered to the Diocese by the See and government of Barbados, and humbly requests Provincial Synod to convey the gratitude of this Diocese to the See and government aforesaid, and in so doing, to endeavour to obtain some assurance, that should it be found impracticable either to make or to continue to make the necessary provisions for the maintenance of its own Bishop, the Bishop of Barbados to resume the administration of the said Diocese.

On March 19th, 1927, the Synod of the Windward Islands, comprising nine clergy and fourteen laymen, elected Bishop Alfred Berkeley, the retired Bishop of Barbados, as Bishop of the Windward islands. Bishop Berkeley held the See in conjunction with the rectorship of St. George’s Cathedral.
The last fifty years have seen the Diocese going from strength to strength. During these years, some twenty-four persons from the Diocese have offered themselves for the priesthood. Among them is the present Bishop of the Diocese, the Rt. Rev. G.C.M. Woodroffe. Many others have held responsible positions both in the Diocese and abroad.

Major Events in Diocesan History

1877 - Diocese constituted by letters patent.

1899 - St. Lucia incorporated into the Diocese.

1917 - Anglican High School of Grenada founded by Archdeacon Walton.

1920 - The Cathedral celebrated 100th anniversary of consecration as a parish church.

1927 - The Bishop of Barbados stopped administering the diocese, and for the first time in its history the Diocese of the Windward Islands is administered separately by its own Bishop.

1943 - The Church of Holy Trinity, Castries, celebrated its 100th anniversary of consecration.

1947 - The Mothers’ Union organization was introduced into the Diocese.

1962 - The first consecration took place in the Diocese. Archdeacon Harold Piggott was consecrated Bishop of the Windward Islands.

1964 - Three more Secondary schools started. These are the Bishop’s College of Kingstown, Georgetown and Carriacou.

1969 - The Archbishop of Canterbury visited the Diocese.

1970 - The Cathedral celebrated its 150th anniversary of consecration as a parish church.

 

 











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