Last Thursday night, the Barbados District of the Wesleyan Holiness Church paid tribute to one of its most loyal sons, the late Ivan Mortimore Wickham, during the inaugural lecture in his name, at the Whitepark Wesleyan Holiness Church. It was delivered Reverend Dr. Hamilton Taitt.
It was all part of year-long celebrations of the church’s 100th anniversary in Barbados, and today we reproduce an edited version of that presentation, which looked at Wickham’s like as a family man, community workers and church leader.
by Rev. Dr. Hamilton Taitt
Henry Wadsworth Longfellow said, “Lives of great men all remind us, we can make our lives sublime, and, departing, leave behind us, footprints on the sands of time.” Such can be said of the great man, Rev. Irvine Mortimer Wickham.
How did Rev Wickham relate to his family friends, and those in the community? Let us begin with:
A careful investigation has been made among existing family members, and they all gave him high praise. They would know him better than any of us who interact with him outside the family. Look at his nurturing family.
This refers to his development as a child in the home of his father and mother. Let us see him as a son.
Irvine was born in Bridge Cot, St. George, Barbados, on February 9, 1913. His father was
Charles Wickham, a tough, fearless preacher who walked from Bridge Cot to almost any part of the island of Barbados to preach. Sometimes he would use his donkey and cart… Irvine gave his heart to the Lord at 13 under the ministry of his father. The mother Lydia Wickham in her quiet way helped to mold the life of her son. How do we see him as a sibling?
Rev. Wickham’s parents had six sons and two daughters; all are deceased except one sister,
Ercilla Sealy. I spoke to her; hear what she said about Rev. Wickham: “He was ever a good boy; he grew up in the Pilgrim Holiness Church.” She herself grew up in the Pilgrim Holiness Church, but because of age she goes to the Newbury Nazarene which is nearer to her; she is 95 years old, and still very alert and engaging.
We will now look at the next important phase of Rev. Wickham’s life; what we call the nuclear family. We will view his communications in two ways — as a partner:
How the romance between Irvine and Doreen started is no secret to their children. He saw this beautiful young lady walking down Roebuck Street and said he wanted her to be the love of his life. He earnestly approached the Lord about it and the rest is history.
On the 25th June, 1936, they were married. God blessed the union with six children; Edzil, Natalie, Gloria, Carol, Marilyn, and Wendell Irvine, whom the Lord took early. Mother Doreen Wickham nee King, was a gracious, loving, kind, generous and peaceable lady. Her husband truly found a gem. She was seen as one who kept the family together, especially, when her husband was kept busy with the care of all the churches. Rev. Wickham said that they had never had a quarrel; this was verified by all of the children. Mum and dad loved each other; they were married 42 and a half years.
It pleased the Lord to take her on the 19th December, 1978; thirteen years before her husband. Gloria, the daughter, puts it this way: “Dad was born on the 9th February, 1913, while mum was born on 8th February, 1914; one day and one year apart, and both died in December.
A distinguished couple, we all would agree.
Let us now view Rev. Wickham as a parent. I had the privilege of speaking to each of the children, and they spoke very highly of him. He was depicted as a man of integrity who practised what he preached. He was humble, caring, and compassionate. Here are some other things they said: Edzil, his son, said that he was true to his beliefs and to his God. He always placed God first, and family next.
He helped his children to understand the right way. If he had to discipline he would first talk to you, then apply the strap as needed. Edzil said that he would rather the whipping right away. Natalie Knight called him a great dad with whom she had a good relationship. Gloria Parris saw her mum and dad as two unique persons, great parents and very helpful to people. Carol Thomas claimed they thought her to be the last; she would interrupt his afternoon sleep and cry, “Go to the ant , thou sluggard”.
Sometimes she would climbed into his lap and tell him all her troubles. As a surprise along came Marilyn, whom mum and dad recognised as a gift from God to take care of them. After mother died in 1978 Marilyn took good care of dad for 12 and a half years. Her dad was very precious to her. She is now married to Ishmael Daniel and has one child.
How did Rev. I. M. Wickham function among his familiar contemporaries? He was admired by the authorities. Many of his leaders, like him, have gone on to be with the Lord but Dr. A. Wingrove Taylor, who is now living in US and who served the Wesleyan Holiness Church in the Caribbean for approximately 20 years as General Superintendent is still with us. He was Rev. Wickham’s neighbour in Barbados for a number of years. This is what he had to say about Rev. Wickham:
“His life always manifested consistent dedication to Jesus Christ. He lived a life above reproach. He was always Christian, always conscientious, and altogether cordial.”
But he was still human as when there was a disagreement over a particular church matter; it was discussed and graciously resolved to the glory of God. Further comments will be made later about Rev. Wickham’s function as a churchman as seen by Dr. Taylor, but he summarised Rev. Wickham this way: “His life and labours were extended and exceptional.”
Rev. Wickham was also admired by hi associates.
He, along with Rev. G. Colin West and Rev. Prince Albert Wiltshire were known as the three W’s in comparison with the three W’s of the cricket world in the Caribbean; Weekes, Worrell and Walcott. Just as the Caribbean depended on the 3W’s to pull the team to victory, the church could depend on the 3 W’s — Wickham, West and Wiltshire — to proclaim the Word of God unapologetically.
These men were famous in the Pilgrim Holiness/Wesleyan Holiness Church in Barbados. Rev. I. H. Goodman, who now resides in Florida was District Secretary while Rev. Wickham was District Superintendent. He said that Rev. Wickham was a man of integrity; he was warm-hearted, and one that had a passion for souls. He did not see him as very emotional, except when he was groaning over souls. He was also very confidential.
Another factor about Rev. Wickham: In the church and other areas, he was given honoured positions.
Rev. Wickham was greatly appreciated in the Caribbean where he functioned as an outstanding church leader. But position did not cause him to act high and haughty, or to treat persons under his authority badly. He was a man who handled elevation humbly, and yet, with dignity and gracefulness. He learned how to take a humble place.
Those who have had the privilege of entertaining him, like Cedric Wiltshire, Rev. Prince Albert Wiltshire’s son, found him to be very down-to-earth, jovial and friendly. He was not a problem to entertain at all.
Now we must ask: How did Rev. Wickham adjust to fluctuating communities?
He was respected by many; he was a distinguished statesman. No matter where he went he was treated respectfully. In Christ Church where he served as a very young pastor, he was well known and respected. One politician, who later became a minister in Government occasionally attended Lodge Road church where Rev. Wickham was the pastor. Even though Rev. Wickham moved to the City, he still spoke of the tremendous impact Rev. Wickham made on the community and on his life. He fulfilled his duties with dignity and efficiency.
In the city he gained more respect, especially, from business people with whom he had to deal.
Another factor which might have won the hearts of the people to Rev. Wickham was his delight in serving.
He was never afraid to soil his hands to help in the constructing of churches, or in alleviating pressures from members or others in the community. He worked hard in the construction of both Sargeants and Carrington churches. When he went to Bank hall as District Superintendent, and as a native, many approached him for help; whether finance, food, or counsel, he would try as much as he could to meet the need.
Generally, Rev. Wickham was responsive to many — he was beloved by many!
When he was leaving Carrington to become the District Superintendent, although it was a promotion to the highest office on the district, it took sometime for the members of Carrington to settle down. The writer for the celebration on February 6, 2003, said that there was no doubt that he was well loved and appreciated by the members of Carrington. The same can be said in Christ Church and across the Barbados District.
(To be continued tomorrow)