“Well, being dressed in shorts, you surely wouldn’t be permitted into the
Pentecostal Church,” she smiled. “That’s o.k., I said. “I really am not up to
a Pentecostal service anyways.” Her smile said, "Gotcha' buster."
suggested a Baptist church and my face must have been as telling. I
didn't even have to say anything before she continued, “Well, there is a Methodist church
in Waterin’ Place - - my
daughter was married there before the hurricane. It's a bit of a walk.” Bingo. We have a
winner. She graciously gave us directions on how to find it. So in
downtown Coxen Hole,
we hopped off the collectivo before any more fillings came loose and
headed west as she had instructed. I thought it was west, anyways. I vaguely remembered her parting cue, “Look
for a bridge past the docks.”
walked for what seemed like an eternity but we weren’t to the promised land yet.
Up ahead was a simple bridge over what appeared to be a creek. Great. Now,
what did she say to do when we got to the bridge? I couldn’t remember but
fortunately an elderly man was resting against the bridge.
Ah, More Directions...Again?
He was an ancient fellow and I noticed his left eye had long ago lost
its battle with cataracts. I stopped and spoke very slowly, aware that the blacks of Roatan without the tourist exposure spoke an island dialect that was
very different from North American English. Not many tourists came walking into
this part of Coxen’s Hole, home to descendents of Africans from the Caymans and
other Caribbean islands.
“Excuse me ... can you tell me … Where is … the Methodist Church?” I rolled it
out in measured phrases. He paused for about 15-20 seconds before he ever so slowly
pointed and said:
“Hill…” A good 5 seconds elapsed before he said, “Right...” as he motioned
with his arm. I took it that once we crested that hill, we were to turn to
the right. Well, I knew we were in Waterin’ Place. He surely recognized the
church that our fellow passenger had told us about. I thanked him and looked
at the hill that lay before us. Heavens.
about the time we didn’t think we could walk any further, a path to the right
appeared. We turned there and within 2 minutes, we could see Wesley Methodist
Church. It was 11:05 a.m. when we entered the back door of the sanctuary.
The congregation was in the middle of a hymn. Knew the tune but not the
wasn’t sure how we would be received; each of us dressed in walking shorts and
Come on In
Well, we entered Wesley Methodist church and were received like royalty. A woman usher (they call
themselves ‘stewards’) strode up to me. I apologized in English for the way we
were dressed. She said in an accent that you would hear in Jamaica, “We are
delighted to have you with us,” and with that, she grasped my hand. She held my hand in hers
aloft - -
at her shoulder level and she led us mid-way into the assembled people of faith. Although
the way we had held hand made me feel awkward, I knew I was welcome, at-home, and valued. In a
completely different culture from my own, I felt like I belonged. The
mystery of faith.
Images still come back from that Sunday. The youth choir was all dressed
in white shirts and often sang acapella. The music was all in unison, without parts. When I closed my eyes, I could hear the same tone, rhythm, and
resonance that I heard at home from African-American youth choirs.
Underneath the sound was a unifying, underlying cultural sound from Africa.
I knew I was "hearing" Africa and all of a sudden, I felt myself going to a
deeper level of racial awareness. It was sound that had done that for me,
not thought. Needed to remember that.
bulletin so I couldn’t accurately gauge the pending length of the service.
Having worshipped in Central America with Protestants before, I sensed we were
in for a long haul. I looked over at Dee and the poor girl looked like a
beet. It had to have been 90o
church, despite the overhead fans. Dee sat down and I reached into my purse,
took out the ice cold bottled water I had bought in Coxen’s Hole, and put it to
her brow. Immediately, the same steward that had ushered us in was next to
my wife, offering a very-needed hand fan.
The English used during the worship service sounded like some type of Caribbean
English (it is called Island English in Honduras) and I only thought I had a handle on it.
During segments of the sermon, the pastor became more animated and his
manner of speaking changed into an Island English that I couldn’t get my arms
around. At two times -- during the sharing of the peace and after church -- the
congregation broke into the local dialect and I couldn’t catch the sense of it. It
sounds like conjugations get dropped and subject and object needn’t agree. Some
type of ‘chopping’ in phrasing occurs and I knew I wouldn’t be picking up a third
language in this brief trip. “The peace of the Lord be with you as well,” I responded
as others warmly greeted us.
I couldn’t believe the number of kids in church. Just a few men in attendance and they were elderly. Guess ‘religion’ is women’s work. I don’t know. Church lasted 2 hours and 20 minutes that hot Sunday in Waterin’ Place.
didn’t act out and I didn’t see any parents needing to correct
behavior. Periodically, children would leave for 10 minutes and return as
quietly as they left. Interesting.
not sure why I hadn’t noticed it earlier, but when we went forward to share
Communion with the parish, I saw a painting, a picture of Jesus in the Garden of
Gethsemane. There it was, hanging behind the altar. Robed in a pink, flowing gown, Jesus’ skin tone was darker
(and more historically accurate) than all the figures I have seen of him in
North American churches. As for the pink gown, I have no idea what that is
about. I will have to wait for what I hope is many more years before I find out for sure.