There were smiles all around as St. John residents came out for an inaugural service at St. Ursula’s Episcopal Church and the reception that followed at the Battery.
“It’s very important to show your appreciation to the governor,” St. John resident Ina Lee said, echoing remarks made by several people as they made their way into the church.
St. John resident Kate Norfleet said by showing her face, she was showing her support for the governor.
Others said they came to celebrate the fact that Gov. John deJongh Jr. and Lt. Gov. Gregory Francis have four more years in office.
“I like the good stuff the governor did for four years, and he showed me he could do good for the next four years so that’s why I’m sticking with him,” St. John resident James Penn said.
The event even attracted at least one visitor. Kathy Wagner of Chestertown, Md. said that she came to honor the citizens of St. John “by being here for an hour.”
Most of the almost 200 people who attended the church service were dressed to the nines for the occasion. St. Ursula’s was equally resplendent with vases of white flowers near the altar and white bouquets affixed to the pew ends.
The hour-long service featured prayer and song to honor deJongh and Francis.
“We’ll now stand and sing lustily ‘Hope is Built on Nothing Less,’” church warden Alecia M. Wells said, drawing a bit of laughter from those gathered at the church.
In his message to deJongh and Francis, their wives Cecile and Cheryl, a slew of cabinet members and other government officials as well as St. John residents at the service, Bishop E. Ambrose Gumbs of the Episcopal Diocese of the Virgin Islands spoke about his concerns for the crime that plagues the territory. He said that on St. Thomas, he happened upon an Innovative Telephone repairman who was busy fixing lines shot up by gun-toting revelers on Old Year’s Night.
“Something is wrong with our community and we need to address it,” he said.
St. John resident Shatik Stephens received rousing applause for her rendition of “Still I Rise.”
As deJongh headed for the Battery in his limousine bearing the V.I. license plate 1 and sporting the territorial flag, many of those at the church service headed in the same direction to dine on boiled shrimp, ribs, salad, strawberries, cake, and much more.
St. John resident Robert O’Connor Jr., who ran the deJongh/Francis reelection campaign, was busy chatting with friends.
“We’re preaching togetherness,” he said.
St. John elder Guy Benjamin, now 97, waited patiently for someone to bring him a plate of food. Chatting, he said he was delighted one of his “own people” was elected governor.
“It’s the greatest thing,” he said.