Death, especially when it is of someone who has been a vital and rewarding part of your life from your earliest days, will inevitably bring deep sadness.
But when that life has been characterised by an unselfish devotion to the service of brother and country, that sadness must invariably be tempered by that warming feeling that the Creator is welcoming him or her home with a smile.
That’s how I felt on Wednesday evening when I learned of the passing of the Reverend Canon Andrew Hatch, a very close family friend and personal guide for a significant portion of my life, having christened me more than a half-century ago at the St. Mary’s Anglican Church in Bridgetown.
Though he retired from the priesthood more than two decades ago, his profound impact on the lives of countless Barbadians as a spiritual leader will, no doubt, make his passing a moment for quiet reflection in many households.
But Father Hatch — as he was affectionately known by Anglican and non-Anglican, Christian and non-Christian — was in many ways a paradox. While the country recognised him as a leader in the Anglican Church, which itself represented everything traditional and conservative about Barbadian society, he was anything but the traditional parish priest.
He was a Barbadian innovator long before the word became fashionable, building and installing what has been described as Barbados’ first solar water heater — the forerunner to an industry that is now synonymous with Bajan manufacturing and which put Barbados at the top of the renewable energy map decades ahead of much better-resourced countries.
And even in the midst of all this, he still dedicated so much of his time to what often appeared to be a one-man “windows to the sea” campaign of the 1980s and ‘90s to ensure that along the West Coast, unchecked tourism development did not lock Barbadians out of access to the beaches.
Perhaps though, even for many of those who never set eyes on him or had the opportunity to interact with him at the historic St. James Parish Church, which he led for 12 years, his most recognisable contribution to Barbadian life, no doubt, was as a pioneering moderator on the midday radio call-in show, Getting Down to Brass Tacks.
For years his was the voice that countered, provoked, stimulated and even upset Barbadians of every character on every topic imaginable. Much of the credit for the popularity of these shows today must go to him.
Father Hatch was the consummate Anglican priest, but he was not a slave to the status quo.
While I will forever miss him, my reasons are far more personal. When I was first appointed a Cabinet minister, I received two very special pieces of advice that have guided me every day since then — one was from Father Hatch, and today, I can pay no better tribute to his life than to share it with the country.
It was a card that contained The Peace Prayer of Saint Francis:
Lord, make me an instrument of your peace:
where there is hatred, let me sow love;
where there is injury, pardon;
where there is doubt, faith;
where there is despair, hope;
where there is darkness, light;
where there is sadness, joy.
O divine Master, grant that I may not so much seek
to be consoled as to console,
to be understood as to understand,
to be loved as to love.
For it is in giving that we receive,
it is in pardoning that we are pardoned,
and it is in dying that we are born to eternal life.
On behalf of the Government and people of Barbados, I extend heartfelt condolences to his wife of 66 years, Sheila, son Marcus, daughter Rachel and other members of his family. May his soul rest in peace.