Nova Scotia

Beloved patriarch of Whitney Pier's African Orthodox Church dead at 93

The longtime patriarch of the African Orthodox Church in Whitney Pier has died at the age of 93. Archbishop Vincent Waterman and his wife Isabel set up their ministry at St. Philip's African Orthodox Church in 1983.

Archbishop Vincent Waterman and his wife Isabel set up their ministry at St. Philip's in 1983

Archbishop Vincent Waterman was best known for his compassion to those he served. (George Mortimer/CBC)

The longtime patriarch of the African Orthodox Church in Whitney Pier has died at the age of 93.

Archbishop Vincent Waterman and his wife Isabel set up their ministry at St. Philip's African Orthodox Church in 1983.

Waterman retired two years ago, moving away from Cape Breton to be closer to family in Halifax.

His daughter, Victoria Byrd, remembers him as a caring and generous man, always willing to open his door to those needing help.

'We are servants'

"It was maybe a drug addiction or dealing with people who were going to be incarcerated [and] next thing I know, the food that I made for myself, or I thought was made for me, was given to these people," Byrd said. "My dad would always say, 'We are servants. We have to learn to provide for others who can't provide for themselves.'"

Waterman with his wife, Isabel. (George Mortimer/CBC)

Waterman was born in Barbados in 1925 and moved to New York City as a teenager.

He later became a priest and served as chaplain at New York's notorious Rikers Island jail.

He was elected as worldwide head of the 5,000-member African Orthodox Church in October 2015.

Follower of Martin Luther King Jr.

In an interview in 2016, he told Cape Breton's Information Morning that he was an avid follower of Martin Luther King Jr., and attended the civil rights activist's speeches in New York in the 1960s.

"We would go to 125th and 7th Avenue and listen to these people on a soapbox or a ladder," he told CBC host Steve Sutherland. "He was brilliant — [as was] Malcolm X."

Waterman also said then that one of his proudest moments was watching the election of Barack Obama to become the first black president of the United States.

Waterman and his wife set up their ministry at St. Philip's in 1983. (George Mortimer/CBC)

'Really good person'

Waterman was especially well known for his compassion, his daughter said.

"It didn't matter what you looked like, it didn't matter what religion you were, if you didn't have a religion, didn't matter," said Byrd. In fact, as recently as Tuesday people were contacting Waterman by phone or social media to ask for his prayers, she said.

"He was all of the things that make a really good pastor, but also a really good person."

Funeral arrangements have not yet been completed.

With files from Cape Breton's Mainstreet

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