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A Visit to St. Thomas’s Anglican Church, British West Indies

View from the churchyard of the parish church of St. Thomas, Nevis, Leeward Islands, West Indies. Visible in the distance is St. Kitts

[Mary Green wrote this article as the introduction for this past week’s weekly email update. – Editor]

When possible my husband Tim and I enjoy attending local church services while traveling. Sunday, April 11 was a most memorable experience when we attended services at St. Thomas’s Anglican Church, the first church to be built on the island of Nevis, in 1643 – only 170 years prior to the building of St. Mary’s. Because of the church’s unpublished school vacation schedule change, we arrived late – during a most jubilant exchange of the peace – but immediately felt welcome. The gracious priest greeted us at the door and countered our apology for tardiness with an assurance that “we were in time for the best part.” Using the Book of Common Prayer for the British West Indies, we joined the local parishioners in prayer and at the altar rail for that best part, the Holy Eucharist. The welcome we received brought back fond memories of the warm welcome extended to Tim and me on our first Sunday at St. Mary’s 15 years ago.

The similarities to St. Mary’s were numerous, including the glorious sun and warm temperatures we had enjoyed in Newton Lower Falls on Easter Sunday. Like St. Mary’s, the doors and windows were flung wide for the beautiful breeze, and we could see the churchyard cemetery on the left. Beyond the cemetery lies the beauty of the bright blue Caribbean. St. Thomas’s sits on a hill, welcoming visitors with limited parking on its incline, just like home. It is one of five Anglican parishes serving a population of 10,000, a reminder of Newton’s demographics. St. Thomas’s struggles with issues of diversity also. Along with one Chicagoan and our guests, Tim and I were the only non-West Indians.

Youth activities are similarly an important part of St. Thomas’s ministry as the majority of the announcements focused on the upcoming events and outreach activities, with other parishes, of the confirmation class. The range of ages and duties of its acolyte corps exceeded ours. One tyke, perhaps five years of age, jangled small handheld bells at the Sanctus, the Elevation of the Sacraments and the Communion, closely supervised by his robed mother. Two late-teen acolytes served as thurifurs.

Our two parishes ascribe the same importance to quality music in our worship service. An organ more modest than ours produced vibrant hymns so numerous they filled not one, but two, hymn boards. St. Thomas’s has introduced a new hymnal which did not include all the hymns of that Sunday. Parishioners handed their personal “old” hymnals to our group, and the priest even gave Tim his copy as he passed our pew during the recessional. Then the visual image of the ushers locking up the church by securing the shutters on our departure reflected the faithful servants at St. Mary’s.

Although we had missed his sermon, I shall remember the priest’s “message of the week” for this Second Sunday in Easter: “We live; we die. Christ dies; Christ lives.”

For those of you away for school vacation next week, we will miss seeing you this Sunday and await your return from safe and restful family time.

– Mary Green

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