An Older Persons Banquet was held on June 14 at Friendship Tabernacle Church for elderly persons living in the Dundas and Murphy Town communities.
The event was organized by Kenneth Cornish of Greater Faith Ministries, which is a ministry that was initiated by his mother – the late Enamae Parker. Seeking to carry on her work, Cornish recognized and honoured many of the island’s senior persons for the contributions they have made.
During the service, Leroy Thompson was the moderator for the event. Highlights of the banquet included the recitation of the entire Book of Psalm 24 by six-year-old Xatia Alexander, whom the audience gave a hearty applause. Senior Island Administrator Preston Cunningham and Bishop Lernis Cornish were asked to give remarks.
Administrator Cunningham called it an honour to stand before so many able citizens.
“Any time it comes to the senior citizens, somehow I could never pass it up straight,” he commented. “I have to be present.”
He told them that God has been extremely good to them because they have lived to see old age in a time when many have died young. Instead of merely existing, they have been productive citizens, he said. Administrator Cunningham also praised them for educating the young ones and teaching them good manners, how to pray, and how to become real young men and women.
In his life, he is still blessed to have an 87-year-old mother, who prepares her own meals and keeps her house clean. Growing up, she taught him and his siblings to do everything in the house that a young lady would have been taught to do.
“One could say what one wants to say, but all that we enjoy in Abaco right now is because of what you senior citizens have done here in Abaco over the years,” Administrator Cunningham admitted. He closed by asking the older persons to continue to pray for the young, to provide counsel for them and not to slacken off.
Before Bishop Cornish spoke, Kipling Armbrister more commonly known as Kipco, strode to the podium smartly attired in a gray coat suit and his signature dreadlocks. He sang a stunning rendition of “It Is Well With My Soul.”
In his remarks, Bishop Cornish talked about his grandmother Rebecca Davis from Bluff Point, and growing up in Bain Town as an altar boy in the Catholic denomination. His mother died when he was three years old, so one of his aunts helped to raise him. He talked about his call to salvation; his courtship and marriage to Rowena Cornish; and of course, his experience crabbing.
Finally, he recalled a time when there was not much crime in Nassau because, according to him, criminals were hanged as punishment. On Abaco, law and order abounded. Bishop Cornish said that Roy Curry took care of Murphy Town while his father – the senior Mr. Curry – was in charge of Bluff Point. Arnold Edward was responsible for Dundas Town, and Banyan Key took care of Marsh Harbour.
“Sometimes I only stand and look and say: ‘Now you know if this was in our time?’” Bishop Cornish said. “These towns had their own law; what the people are doing now they couldn’t do it.”
Bishop Cornish asked for continued prayers for the elderly as he spoke blessings over everyone in attendance. Thompson prayed over the gathering before everyone was dismissed to the dining area where Chef Terrell Russell had prepared a scrumptiously healthy meal.
While the honourees and their guests ate, Thompson told hilarious jokes and was joined by Viola Johnson, who contributed some gospel music to the tune of rake n’ scrape. Joseph “Joe” Davis mimicked the mannerisms and antics of some of the older persons who have passed on. Several people received gift prizes, while all honourees received certificates for their dedication and commitment to Abaco.
Kenneth Cornish thanked committee members, namely Churton Toote and Terrance McDonald, and all community stakeholders who made donations or assisted him. Although it is the first event he has organized, he is hopeful that the Older Persons Banquet will become an annual one.
“It first started out as a passion and now it turned into love,” Cornish said. “It was a vision my mother had before she died, and I get a little emotional, but I know she is looking down and smiling.”
He advised all of the young people to spend more time with the elderly because when they are dead and gone, so much is lost in their passing. The stories they share, he said, would bring you to tears if you knew how they grew up. Although we’ve all been through our share of hardships, Cornish said it was God who brought us out.
“I am a living testimony. I had a hole in my heart at a young age, and I spent nine months in Princess Margaret Hospital, but if I take my shirt off there’s no scar,” he exclaimed. “The power of prayer; God has been good to me.
“We came here to serve and not to be served. Jesus washed His disciples’ feet. Who was greater than Jesus?”