By Katie Foot
It started with a deafening drum roll “earthquake” and ended in joyful songs of praise. “Psalms for Haiti”, held in Geneva’s old town cathedral (Protestant) this 30 October, led more than 400 people in a meaningful exploration of past devastation, present recovery and future hope.
Speaking of his visit to Haiti just days after the earthquake last January, the General Secretary of the World Council of Churches, Rev. Dr. Olav Fykse Tveit, recalled seeing hopeless, “empty places” but also hopeful “people who cleared away stones and dust”. This hope was further attested to by Rev. Canon Ogé Beauvoir, Dean of the Episcopal Theological Seminary in Port-au-Prince, who told of his fellow compatriots’ determination to “stand up and walk” in the face of adversity.
The event raised over 10,000 Swiss Francs (around 10,200 USD) to help rebuild the Episcopal Church of Haiti’s central place of worship and adjacent schools. Beauvoir shared that the reconstruction of the cathedral complex had become a national symbol of resurrection. “Just as the cross is the way to the resurrection,” he said, “the rebuilding of the cathedral is a symbol of Haiti’s need for spiritual, mental and physical reconstruction”. Tveit also echoed this sentiment, calling the raising of the cathedral “a sign of the cross” and therefore “of life to come”.
While Haiti continues to suffer – not least due to the recent outbreak of cholera and the 1.3 million people that are still living in makeshift camps – it is also looking to the future. And just as the Episcopal Church of Haiti met and continues to meet emergency and recovery needs in the way of healthcare, food and shelter, the Church is committed to raising “the torch of hope for Haiti” through the provision of education and spiritual and mental support. “Things may look dark, but there is light at the end of the tunnel. We see light already – through God and through you,” said the Haitian Canon.
Tveit and Beauvoir’s testimonies were framed by spoken and sung psalms set to traditional and contemporary music (by Arvo Pärt, Howells, Monteverdi, Brahms, Berkeley, and Bernstein) and dramatically performed by the combined choirs of Geneva’s Anglican and Episcopal churches, directed by Shauna Beesley (Episcopal) with Keith Dale (Anglican) at the organ. A song in Creole added a Haitian flavour to the evening’s meditations and prayers.
The following day, Canon Beauvoir preached at Geneva’s Emmanuel Episcopal Church and spoke in more detail about the work of the Episcopal Church of Haiti during a forum following the service. “Our challenge is not only to reconstruct but to train and grow stronger leadership to run what others have helped rebuild”, he said. During the event in the cathedral, Yasmina Tippenhauer, Director of the Centre culturel Tierra Incógnita I Pou Ayiti, also highlighted the importance of Haitians being leaders in their own development.
It is hoped that these events, organized by ARCH, a newly established Swiss charity, will be the beginning of a lasting relationship of solidarity and sharing between the Anglican and Episcopal churches of Geneva and Haiti. Further donations are always welcome.
For more information contact Katie Foot, email@example.com, Cell: +41 79 759 06 99
Notes to Editors: