by Rev. Dr. Cortroy Jarvis
The Rev. Romeo Challenger was born in the village of Liberta on August 12, 1948. He was the fourth of seven children for his parents, Ida and Samuel Challenger. His father predicted that he was going to be a Minister of Religion. The first time this was told to Rev. Challenger was the day le left for College in Jamaica. His father did not live to see his prediction fulfilled as he departed this life when Romeo was nine. His mother assumed the responsibility of raising seven children without a father. She did a wonderful Job as all of her children are making significant contributions to society.
He grew up in the Gracehill Moravian Church in Liberta and played many roles in the Church over the years. He was Sunday School Teacher, Delegate to Island Conference, Treasurer, Superintendent of the Sunday school and Leader of the Youth Group.
He attended the Gracehill/Liberta Primary School and All Saints Secondary School. He also attended the United Theological College of the WI in Jamaica and Codrington College/University of the West Indies, graduating with a Diploma in Ministry and a Bachelor of Arts (Hons) in Theology. At the time of his death he was pursuing a Master’s Degree in Pastoral Counselling.
In his work experience, Rev. Challenger taught for four years at the Goodwill Academy specializing in Geography.
Having being called to the Ministry, he entered the United Theological College of the West Indies in Jamaica from 1974-1978. He holds a Bachelor of Arts degree in Theology and a Diploma in Ministerial Studies. At the time of his passing, he was pursuing a Master’s degree in Pastoral Counselling.
He was Ordained a Pastor on July 23, 1978 at the Grace-hill Moravian Church by Bishop John E. Knight. In July 1989 he was Consecrated a Presbyter by Bishop Selvin U. Hastings.
From 1978 to 2012, Rev. Challenger has worked tirelessly to share the Gospel wherever he went. He was a very dedicated and committed Pastor. He has touched the lives of hundreds of persons throughout the Caribbean over the 34 years he served as an Ordained Pastor.
Rev. Challenger worked in St. Kitts from 1978-1981; in Tobago from 1981-1985; in Barbados from 1986-1993; in Antigua for the past 19 years from 1993-2012.
He was Superintendent of the Moravian Church in Antigua from 1996-2003 and during that time he served as the President of the Antigua Christian Council for two terms. At the time of his passing he was Chaplain of the Senate of Antigua and Barbuda and a Member of the Police Service Commission, two institutions where he performed with distinction. For many years he was the Supervisor of CXC Exams at the Antigua Girls High School and then at the Antigua State College for the Cape Exams. He always saw his involvement as his civic responsibility to give back to his country; the country that nurtured and molded him.
He was an avid Sportsman and actually played competitive cricket and Volley ball. In cricket, he represented his village Liberta, St. Paul’s Parish, the University of the West Indies and the United Theological College of the West Indies as an opening batsman with much success. He gave leadership to all those teams. He tried to rub it in my face from time to time that his highest score of 97 was against Swetes. In those days, Swetes and Liberta had some fierce competition between themselves in cricket.
He has touched many lives and has always given thanks to God for allowing him to have served in so many com-munities and capacities. God surrounded him with a host of able Leaders, friends, young and old, Lay and Ordained, who never ceased to lift him up in prayer every day.
Rev. Romeo Challenger gave much credit to his mother Ida Challenger for his early development. His sisters, brothers, aunts, uncles, cousins, in laws and Teachers at the Liberta Primary School and All Saints Secondary Schools have contributed to the affirmation of God’s call upon his life. The Gracehill Moravian Church provided the atmosphere for his faith development and spiritual growth.
He would be sorely missed by his partner in Ministry and wife Deborah, his daughter Shanna and his son Christopher.
The 34 years of Ministry presented many challenges for Rev. Challenger, but through it all, God’s love provided the sustaining power. He was for me a wonderful Pastor and friend. Indeed, he was a man of God, who sought to do his best with the gifts that God blessed him with. We did not always agree on everything, but the friendship never wavered.
He served well and would be missed by the Community at large, but more especially the Moravian Community. We will all miss him, especially his laughter and camaraderie and his uprightness.
We have shared a strong bond of friendship from 1983, when I worked in Trinidad and he worked in Tobago. We cooked lunch and went to see cricket together at Queen’s Park Oval in Trinidad. When he was called to Barbados, I would journey to Barbados from Tobago for us to go to watch cricket at the Kensington Oval in Barbados. I am the God Father of his son Christopher, whom I also baptized in Trinidad. Romeo was my Best man in 1985 when I got married and on September 8th, 1993 when he got married in Grenada to his wife Deborah, I journeyed to Grenada to share in the ceremony.
Rev. Challenger passed into the nearer presence of God on Saturday March 10, 2012 at the Mount St. John Medical centre after a period of illness. He was buried at the Gracehill Moravian Church Cemetery in Liberta the place where he had fond memories of, having attended the Gracehill Moravian School next door.
May our brother, Pastor, Colleague and friend rest in peace eternal.