Pastor Al Ebanks, leader of the Agape Family Worship Centre in George Town, passed away Friday night.
The 52-year-old pastor, who was chairman of the Cayman Islands Constitutional Commission, which is responsible for reviewing Cayman’s governance arrangements with the United Kingdom, had been battling a longtime illness.
The Cayman Ministers Association, in which Pastor Al served as chairman from 2001 to 2006, in a notice to its members, said: “We give grateful thanks to the Lord for the gift and privilege of knowing such a good shepherd and guide, having him as our friend and benefiting from his outstanding leadership.”
Wil Pineau, chief executive of the Cayman Islands Chamber of Commerce, who served on the three-member Constitutional Commission with Pastor Al, called for a moment of silence to observe the passing of the much-loved minister at a health conference being held in Cayman on Saturday morning.
He told attendees: “Our community has lost a loyal servant, a friend and a visionary,” and he asked the audience to observe a moment of silence to reflect on Pastor Al’s “outstanding life of service to others in our community”.
“Cayman truly has lost a wonderful individual,” he said, adding he had worked closely with him on the Constitutional Commission where Pastor Al had used his “diplomatic nature” to deal with many issues arising from constitutional matters.
Health Minister Mark Scotland offered his condolences to Pastor Al’s family on behalf of himself and the Ministry of Health.
“Pastor Al, in his role in the Health Services Authority, gave great contributions to the country in that regard, as well as in others. He was involved in constitutional review for many years and obviously made many contributions in the community,” Mr. Scotland said.
Pastor Al, whose full name was Alden A. Ebanks, was chairman of the Health Services Authority Board from August 2005 until September 2009.
However, he is likely to be remembered more for his church services and efforts to assist the less fortunate in the local community. With help from the Department of Children and Family Services, Pastor Al, who at the time was chairman of the Ministers Association, led efforts to process applications and identify those most in need of assistance following Hurricane Ivan. Over the years, he had also served at the Marine Institute and the National Youth Commission.
“When I heard of his passing, I was beside myself, distraught,” Premier McKeeva Bush said. “I really didn’t expect him to pass now.”
Mr. Bush said he and Pastor Al went to school together in West Bay as children, the premier being just a few years older.
“The country has lost a good man,” Premier Bush said, adding he wished to send condolences to Pastor Al’s sisters, wife and family. “He was a man of God,” he said. “He was just a counsellor to the nation,” said Opposition Leader Alden McLaughlin, a long-time friend of Pastor Al’s. “I don’t know that there’s any other person in Cayman that has that level of love and respect as Pastor Al.”
Julene Banks, who also served on the constitutional commission with Pastor Al, said she has known him since childhood. “We have lost a wonderful, loving, compassionate man, but his light will shine on,” she said.
In remembering Pastor Al, Mrs. Banks quoted from Psalm 24 – the section of the Holy Bible from which Cayman’s motto – ‘he hath founded it upon the seas’ is derived. “Who may ascend the mountain of the Lord? Who may stand in His holy place? The one who has clean hands and a pure heart.
“That sums up Pastor Al,” she said. Fellow minister Nicholas Sykes, who had known Pastor Al since the mid-1980s, said he remembered “with great thanks” his involvement with the Agape minister during the constitutional negotiations “and, indeed, before and since” then.
Pastor Al was ordained a Christian minister in 1987 and became the full time pastor at Agape. In 2003, he was one of 500 people recognised as a nation-builder on Cayman’s Quincentennial Wall of Honour.
He served as co-chairman of the Chamber of Commerce working group on constitutional modernisation in the Cayman Islands and in this role, addressed the United Nations Select Committee of 24 on Decolonisation at the UN Headquarters in New York and also at a regional seminar in St. Vincent. In 2009, he travelled to London with a delegation to finalise Cayman’s new constitution, which was approved by voters later that year.
He was a recipient of the Certificate and Badge of Honour from the Cayman Islands government.
Pastor Al is preceded in death by his eldest son. He is survived by his wife Kathy and three children.