Priest hopes work in Guyana continues

Published May 1, 2003

Rev. Philip and Adriana Rowswell

This July, when Rev. Philip Rowswell and his wife Adriana close the gate of their compound in Georgetown, Guyana, and return to Canada for perhaps the last time, it will be with the fervent wish that another Canadian priest will soon come to carry on with urgently-needed training of Guyanese men for the Anglican priesthood.

“These men deserve to have more than one teaching voice,” said Mr. Rowswell of his trainees. In recent months, the Canadian has taught eight men every Friday and Saturday to prepare them for ordination.

Mr. Rowswell, 68, and his wife, 62, have volunteered in the South American country for a total of 19 months since 2001, which they have separated into three stints.

Although the country struggles with frequent power blackouts, the Rowswells say they have found the work they do in Guyana “a lot of fun.” Ms. Rowswell has developed her own ministry leading literacy and craft programs with the children of young single Guyanese mothers who live in a nearby shantytown.

Mr. Rowswell said although there is extreme poverty and a high crime rate, the bougainvillea-rimmed compound where they live and teach is in a quiet and relatively safe area. Their home is built above the open-air St. Aloysius Chapel, and the temperature stays at around 30 C. The compound is just five kilometers from the Atlantic Ocean.

Initially, Mr. Rowswell did a one-year stint as a parish priest at a two-point Guyana parish in 1999 and returned to Ontario not expecting to go back.

However, once the couple learned of the desperate need for priests to teach candidates for ordination in Guyana, they went back. He credited Bishop Barry Jenks of the diocese of British Columbia and Canon Philip Wadham, General Synod?s mission co-ordinator for Latin America and the Caribbean, with providing help and support in the form of teaching materials and books and input into course content. (The program is sponsored by the diocese of Guyana and is not technically a Partners in Mission program of the Anglican Church of Canada.)

“There’s a real need to train local men for the priesthood,” said Mr. Rowswell. “Retirement for those in government service in Guyana is 55 years old, so I have a group of men in that age bracket in a program to become priests.”

The men have all previously served the church as sidesmen, lay readers, and in one case, the diocesan treasurer.

Mr. Rowswell teaches a New Testament course concentrating on the Gospels, church history, and introductory theology.

The Rowswells get a $280 monthly living allowance, which they supplement with their own funds.

?The dollar here is terribly devalued. This little country simply hasn?t been able to keep up with the world economy,? he said.

The church, which Mr. Rowswell describes as high church, is vital in Guyana. ?There is strong devotional life in the parishes. There are a lot of men in church life, which I find pretty impressive.? Women are not allowed to train for ordination yet, he said, ?mostly because of it?s a different cultural set-up in many ways.? The Mother?s Union is very strong and there is a diocesan officer solely devoted to Mother?s Union work in the diocese.

Although the church is strong, he noted, ?we are losing in the balance with the evangelicals and charismatic churches.?


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