Governor John deJongh, above with wife Cecile, celebrated his re-election on St. John at a post inaugural ecumenical service at St. Ursula’s.
Young and old and dressed to the nines, residents of all ages packed St. Ursula’s Church in Cruz Bay on Wednesday afternoon, January 5, to witness the Post Inaugural Service for Governor John deJongh and Lieutenant Governor Gregory Francis.
Following deJongh’s inauguration on St. Thomas on Monday, January 3, and service on St. Croix on January 4, the governor, lt. gov. and cabinet members brought the party to St. John on Wednesday for an interdenominational service at St. Ursula’s followed by an open house soiree at the Cruz Bay Battery.
While government house pared down this year’s inaugural happenings due to the still slacking economy, St. John was still festive as residents came out in droves to show their support for the governor’s reelection.
With the road outside closed to traffic, it was standing room only inside St. Ursula’s where cabinet members, deJongh supporters and residents packed the pews for the ecumenical service.
More than 200 residents including Lt. Gov. Gregory Francis’ wife Cheryl and St. John business woman Cheryl Boynes-Jackson, above first row center, packed the pews of St. Ursula’s Church for Governor John deJongh and Francis’ post inaugural ecumenical service on Wednesday, January 5. The crowd made its way to the Cruz Bay Battery after the church service for a reception with the territory’s top brass.
The congregation sang “God of Grace and God of Glory” as deJongh and First Lady Cecile and Lt. Gov. and his wife Cheryl, filed into the church. Following an invocation by the RT. Reverend E. Ambrose Gumbs, Ja’Leah Stephens read from scriptures, Zechariah chapter eight. Karen Stapleton then delivered the responsive reading, followed by Alice Krall who read from First Peter.
A rousing rendition of “My Hope Is Built On Nothing Else,” by the congregation lead into Gumbs’ poignant inaugural message to the territory’s highest elected officials.
“We give thanks for the progress we’ve made over the past four years and express concern for the quality of life in this American Paradise,” said Gumbs. “We had 62 murders in the territory last year which says to me that something is wrong. Something is wrong in our community and we must come together to address it.”
“The church must be part of the solution,” Gumbs said. “We must call a time of prayer and fasting.”
Gumbs also offered a few good reminders to the governor and lt. gov.
“Wise rulers must be careful from whom they take advice,” said the reverend. “To be the ruler of all, one must be the servant of all. Let this not be the last time we pray with this administration.”
After Gumbs’ thoughtful words, Shatik Stephens entertained the church with her rendition of Yolanda Adams’ “Still I Rise,” which was followed by thunderous applause.
All clergy, including Our Lady of Mt. Carmel Catholic Church Father Louis Kemayou, Lutheran Church Pastor Carlyle Sampson, Seventh Day Adventist Church Pastor Clinton Liburd and Judge Alan Smith of the Baha’i Faith, joined in blessing both deJongh and Francis and their wives.
Lt. Governor Gregory Francis and wife Cheryl
The congregation joined hands to sing the “Lord’s Prayer” before St. John Pentecostal Church Pastor Dennis Estridge offered a rousing benediction. Voices rose to sing “The Right Hand of God” as deJongh and Francis proceeded out of the church.
The governor and lt. gov. stood outside St. Ursula’s Church to greet many of the residents who came out in support of the elected officials.
“This is a pivotal time for the Virgin Islands and I’m here to celebrate who we elected to lead us through these times,” said Dr. Iris Kern, who acted as one of the many hosts and hostesses at the church.
“I’m here supporting our governor and lieutenant governor because I know they are going to do well,” said fellow hostess Edna O’Connor Freeman.
Ina Lee was sure of deJongh’s continued success leading the territory, she explained.
“With me behind him, telling him what to do, of course he’ll do a great job,” said Lee. “It’s very important to come out and show support to the governor.”
St. Ursula’s Church senior warden Alecia Wells helped during the service and also attended to show her support to the governor.
“Whether you are here or there, it’s important for us all to work together and support our governor,” said Wells.
St. Thomas/St. John Chamber of Commerce’s St. John Chapter president Kate Norfleet attended the service to celebrate four more years of deJongh’s administration.
“I’m here to celebrate the man I voted for being in office for another four years,” Norfleet said. “If you show your face, you’re really showing your support — especially if you drive all the way from Coral Bay to be here.”
The dignitaries and the crowd made their way down to the Cruz Bay Battery to greet deJongh and Francis and toast to the administration’s second term in office.