Farewell: Seventh-Day Pastor Stefan Burton-Schnull. *Photo by Kageaki Smith
Farewell: Seventh-Day Pastor Stefan Burton-Schnull. *Photo by Kageaki Smith

Socialize with Bermudians, integrate yourself into the community and immerse yourself into the culture.

That’s the advice to expatriates from a pastor who is returning to England after seven years on the island.

Pastor Stefan Burton-Schnull came to Bermuda in August 2006 with his wife Barbara, son Micah and daughter Michae to work at St George’s Seventh-Day Adventist Church.

The family was there for four years before they were transferred to Pembroke Seventh-Day Adventist Church.

As they prepare to leave, Pastor Burton-Schnull reflected on his time in Bermuda.

“Any non-Bermudians worker should strive to immerse themselves into the island,” he told us. “Looking back, that’s some very good advice I would give not only to pastors but anybody really who’s coming in from abroad.

“Go out on May 24th with your colleagues, not your American or British colleagues. Say to your Bermudian colleagues, ‘Can I hang out with you?’

“I find Bermudians to be very welcoming when you do that, when you say ‘I want to know about Bermuda’.

“But the barriers go up when you notice those guys who want to stick with themselves. Because Bermuda is so small, you have this fantastic opportunity to get to know a country, a culture and a people very quickly.

“In England, it takes you years to get to the level of networking you can get to in Bermuda in a couple of months. That’s something I will miss, that close networking. After seven years, I have to start all over again.”

Asked if his view of Bermuda has changed from when he first arrived to now, Pastor Burton-Schnull said: “There’s a surface knowledge you have at least when you first move here.

“As the years go by, you acquire a broader and more inclusive view of what is there. Bermuda has changed in that it’s become bigger than the surface. The friendliness is still there but you know that below it, there’s stuff.”

He continued: “As a pastor, you have to deal with it sometimes. That hasn’t changed my view of Bermuda, it’s just made it a more complex picture instead of the simplistic picture you have when you arrive. You acquire a deeper view of where you live only when you live there for an extended period of time.”

Asked about the rise in gun violence, Pastor Burton-Schnull said: “It’s sad of course that the level of violence has increased and the number of deaths and gang related incidents. That’s sad but I can make a fairly educated guess that it’s just the tip of the iceberg that’s much larger underneath.

“Bermuda shouldn’t be afraid to dig, to tackle things like violence. That of course brings us face to face with issues that are painful and embarrassing, yes. That’s not just Bermuda, it’s everybody who has to deal with it.”

When Pastor Stefan Burton-Schnull first arrived in Bermuda in 2006, the clear blue water, the colourful houses and the beautiful scenery captivated him.

As he gets ready to leave, he’s still captivated by the scenery, but he will miss the people and the culture he immersed himself into.

 “I came in from JFK and of course everything was dark and you descend into darkness. But the next day when I saw everything in the light, it was extremely beautiful, but small. There were skinny roads, the colours of the houses. I’m from England where everything is grey and brown and dark.

“The next impression was everybody was friendly. Coming from London, that was somewhat of a contrast.”

Asked for his favourite memories, Pastor Burton-Schnull said: “There are memorable events such as Dame Lois Browne-Evans’ funeral. I found myself in the middle of things. I thought, in England, this would have never happened.

He also said Cup Match and the May 24 celebrations stand out as well. “Those big community events, it was nice to be out with the people.

 “… Because Bermuda is so small, it’s possible for me as a smaller pastor to be in the company of the Premier and Cabinet members, things that I had never experienced.”

Asked how he feels about leaving, Pastor Burton-Schnull said: “Personally, I don’t feel I’m ready but I take it as God’s plan for my life and that means I’m ready.” n