Sunday mornings are very special in many places in the world, but what does a Sunday morning feel like in Saint Vincent?

A fresh breeze lifts the curtains, birds are singing, the night crickets just went quiet, the rooster is waking us up… Today is Sunday, no worries, the sun is rising on the other side of the volcano, and the sea takes a pink color before giving in to the blue skies of the Caribean… Oh, wait, is that rain I’m hearing… “Well, you live on this green rock in the middle of the sea… why do you think it’s called a rainforest?!” Anyways, it’s warm and a bit rainy, but who cares! it’s Sunday!

Some friends decided that it was time to mingle and discover more about local traditions and culture, so, right after breakfast, we set out to the nearby village of Chateaubelair (more commonly referred to as Chatô), more precisely to a Church service! In our best clothes, we start our pre-church warm-up walk! 50 minutes to Chato if we don’t get a ride! But we are very determined and God is happy to see us going to church, so he sends us a sand truck! (The sand truck, is exactly what it is, a truck full of Sand! One activity at Richmond beach is sand mining. People earn a living by selling sand to construction sites.) So here we go in our Sunday dresses, climbing in the back of the truck on top of a big pile of Sand … riding away to Chato, holding on to the railings and to each other, hair in the wind, happy as can be! This is freedom! None of us could do such a thing back where we come from, there are no such things as Sand Trucks, they would never stop to pick up 4 ladies walking in their church clothes, and we wouldn’t even be allowed to ride at the back anyway (we wouldn’t even consider riding in the back either I guess!)!!!

Anyways, it takes us less than 30 minutes to get to Church, so we are pretty happy! You must know that there must be at least 6 to 8 churches in the greater Chato area (which counts about 3000 inhabitants!), but my friends did their homework and found one that starts later than 7am, and that has instruments and a lot of singing. A church doesn’t need to be a building with towers and all kinds of golden statues and gargoyles and 16th century paintings. As long as it has a roof, some doors, a lot of fans (yes, it can get pretty hot under the metal roof!) and some chairs, you got a church! No extras, just simplicity! The colors and the beauty come from the people that walk in and out as they please during the service. The ladies are especially outstanding. They wear beautiful dresses, often hand made, as many of them are skilled tailors, with matching headbands over their artistically braided hair. And many children wear matching outfits! What a sight!

So here we are, 4 white ladies (two Christians, one Muslim and one Atheist!), quietly entering and finding a hidden spot at the back of the Church. But, the second the Preacher spots us: “and Welcome to the ladies from Richmond Vale, thank you for visiting us, Jesus loves you!” and the crowd now all watching us: “Yes! JESUS LOVES YOU!”… ok, so much for walking in incognito! From what I know, the service starts at 9:30… it’s 10:30 when we walk in, but no one cares, this is not the type of church we are used to! Everyone walks in and out all the time, people shout ‘Amen’ or ‘Halleluja’ in answer to the preacher’s words, and it’s just a happy organized chaos!

Soon after we settle into our seats and recover from our first introduction to the assembly, the music starts. The rhythm is catchy, people start standing up and singing along, really loud… not always in tune, but mostly with a lot of heart and joy! You can tell that people love this place, this is an open space where you just let go and give love to everyone. People talk, shout, sing, laugh, cry, children walk around, play, dance, draw, sleep… The pastor and other preachers speak a lot, or should I say shout!? They use Vincy dialect also called broken English, and it’s not always easy to follow, but the message is pretty clear: Spread the love of God and Jesus, praying is useless if you don’t work for what you’re asking for, Smile more (even if you have to fake it!), Encourage yourself and always support others, Sharing is Caring, be Generous… It’s the first time I feel the message so deeply in my heart, all the things I needed to hear today were said… It’s funny, how the Universe conspires to deliver its messages when you most need to hear them!

Our Church experience lasted about 2 and a half hours, it was joyfull, loud, exciting, funny, awkward, uncomfortable… but mostly really happy and we all came out fully energized and ready for many other adventures! People were very happy to share their culture and traditions with us and we are now richer of many friends, especially little ones!