At an impressive retirement function, the Caribbean Union Conference Administrators and Executive Committee members celebrated the outstanding service of three leaders, who are scheduled to retire during the fourth quarter of 2022. The guests of honor included: Dr. Hilary Bowman and his wife Verina Bacchus-Bowman, whose last service portfolio was with the Education Department of the Caribbean Union Conference; Pastor Robinson Danforth Francis, former President of the East Caribbean Conference; and Pastor Dermoth Baptiste, who transitioned into retirement from the presidency of the St. Vincent and the Grenadines Mission. The retirement celebrants basked in the loving support of their spouses, families, friends, and former coworkers who gathered for the memorable occasion at the Hilton Hotel in Barbados.
“Three iconic stalwarts” was the phrase fondly used by the President of the Caribbean Union Conference of Seventh-day Adventists, Dr. Kern Tobias, to describe his retiring colleagues. His retirement message honoured their journeys of exemplary leadership, “I feel privileged to signal appreciation for the years of sacrifice that these individuals have given to the work of God. They have given monumental service. A total of 188 years of sacrificial service to the Church. We applaud you – while expecting Jesus to applaud you one day. Thanks for your faithful service to God and to His Church.”
Decades of Faithful Service
Dr. Hilary Bowman began his ministry with the Seventh-day Adventist Church in October 1977, as a teacher at the Mountain View Adventist Academy in St. Vincent. During the span of his forty-two-year ministry in the Caribbean Union Conference, he served as principal of the Mountain View Adventist Academy in St. Vincent, Education Director of the East Caribbean Conference of Seventh-day Adventists, Education Director of the Caribbean Union Conference, and as President of the University of the Southern Caribbean from 2016 to 2021.
Dr. Bowman’s commitment to Christian education was unwavering as he led the Caribbean Union Conference’s Education Department – with responsibility for 53 schools within the territory.
Dr. Bowman served as an education administrator in the Caribbean and the United States. His passion for the field of education and his achievements have been lauded. He received the prestigious Ellen G. White Award from the Inter-American Division of Seventh-day Adventists. His service to Trinidad, Tobago and the wider Caribbean was marked by an award from the Deputy Speaker of the Parliament of Trinidad and Member of Parliament (MP) for the Tunapuna region in Trinidad. Dr. Bowman also founded and managed a private school in Leesburg, Florida. His contribution to education, and more so Christian education in the Caribbean and beyond, made him an education icon among educators of rank, and have certainly left a legacy for others to emulate.
Dr Bowman has been happily married to Verina Bacchus-Bowman for 47 precious years and they have two adult children: Dr Kurt Bowman (who practices medicine in Florida, USA) and Karen Swan. They have been blessed with five grandchildren.
“The Lord has been most magnanimous to me throughout my life. It is His amazing grace that has sustained me and my ministry through thick and thin. I have found Him to be faithful and utterly trustworthy”, said Dr Bowman.
Leadership That Touched Distinct Ethnic Groups
At the age of 29, Pastor Dermoth C. Baptiste began his denominational service on September 1, 1980, as a ministerial intern in the East Caribbean Conference. Over the years, he served as a district pastor in the Central, Marriaqua, North Windward and the Northern Grenadines districts in St. Vincent and the Grenadines. He also served on the island of St. Lucia as a district pastor.
From September 30, 1997, to August 4, 2001, he served the East Caribbean Conference (which was then comprised of Barbados, Dominica, St. Lucia and St. Vincent and the Grenadines) as Personal Ministries Director.
As life would have it, he did not stay at one stage and the constituency saw it fit to appoint him as the Executive Secretary of the East Caribbean Conference on August 5, 2001, with St. Lucia being omitted from the configuration. He held the post until December 31, 2007; he was then asked to serve as President of the St. Vincent and the Grenadines (SVG) Region from January 1, 2008, to July 15, 2011.
At the Fifteenth Quinquennial Session of the Caribbean Union Conference, Pastor Baptiste was asked to serve as the Stewardship Director and its first vice president. He remained in these two offices for a short stint, from July 16, 2011, to November 6, 2012, and God had much more for him to do.
As the SVG Region moved from the infancy stage, she was bursting out of her newborn onesies and needed to be placed in toddler wear. The Caribbean Union acknowledged that growth and the SVG Region achieved Mission status on November 7, 2012, with Pastor Dermoth C. Baptiste becoming the first indigenous president. He served the Mission as President and Education Director for just under 10 years. As with everything in life, there must be an end; so, with 42 years and 1 month of service to the Lord, Pastor Baptiste officially retired from active denominational service.
A Ministry that Spanned the Globe
Pastor Robinson Danforth Francis began his pastoral ministry in the Suriname Mission in 1979, where he served as district pastor, Lay Activities Leader, Stewardship Leader, and Sabbath School Director. During this period of service, he was ordained to the Gospel Ministry on April 2, 1983. This first appointment set the tone for a life of mission, and he served in multiple capacities, in each country to which he was called.
His service continued on the island of St. Vincent in 1986 and speaker for the New Life Broadcast was added to his responsibilities. In 1989, he returned to Barbados as a district pastor and in 1991 became the Church Ministries, Stewardship and Youth Director of the East Caribbean Conference.
In 1992, he was called to the Indian Ocean Mission, and served as the Communication, Personal Ministries and Stewardship Director. His service extended to youth ministries where he was instrumental in directing the translation of resource materials into French and Malagasy.
Pastor Francis was called to serve as President of the Seychelles Mission, Mauritius Conference, and the West Africa Union Mission in 1996. There, he toiled to promote the expansion of the work of the gospel, improved governance, and promoted evangelism through training in lay leadership.
In 2003, Pastor Francis headed to the West Central Africa Division where he served in various capacities until 2011. He was Field and Ministerial Secretary, Coordinator of Extra-Ordinary (tithe fund projects), Global Mission Coordinator, Director of Office of Leadership, and Director of Office of Effectiveness and Assessment. He worked assiduously to ensure the growth and development of the fields and territories, as well as to assist ministers in honing new skills.
Pastor Francis returned to the Caribbean Union Conference in 2011 and was selected to serve as Director of Personal Ministries; he embraced this responsibility and introduced innovative strategies which encouraged new advances in evangelistic outreach and energized the departments within his purview. In 2013, Pastor Francis was elected to be the President of the East Caribbean Conference and held this position until his retirement.
Reflecting on their service to the Church, Pastor Johnson Frederick, Executive Secretary of the Caribbean Union Conference, said, “They have been an enormous blessing to God’s worldwide Church family. Their constant focus on mission and their emphasis on Christian leadership have been appreciated greatly. Their congenial and positive spirit will be missed. It has been a great privilege to work with them for these past years, and we wish them God’s richest blessings in their continued witness for the Lord and His soon coming.”
Their service to the Church is a distinct privilege and we are sure they are deeply humbled. Whatever plans the Lord inspired them to do, they followed through to the best of their abilities. Human accomplishments are in the dust – all glory goes to the Lord.