Saint Helena – Religion

We really wanted to visit a church while on St. Helena. The different options listed on the website were: Anglican, Roman Catholic, Baptist, Jehovah’s Witnesses and even Bahai. We chose to try the Baptist church, but did not know what we would find. They have an evening service, so we decided to listen to one of Chris’ sermons in the morning. That way, we would still get good teaching, regardless.
The Baptist Church in James Town is a very old stone Church. It is also quite high up in the gorge, so we left well in advance to be in time. This is the first time ever that our trip to Church included a spray-filled ride in a dinghy with life-jackets, pulling up of same dinghy onto the landing and a stiff climb through Town. In the end, we arrived about 30 minutes early. There was no sign of anything happening. We should have known that there would be nothing – it is after all a Baptist Church . Baptists are never early!
We were just ready to call it a night, when a very friendly lady called to us. “Were we the “yachties” that phoned during the week?” “Yes Mam, indeed.”
Graeme and Hazel Beckett are the Pastoring Couple for the whole of the Baptist Ministry in St. Helena. This means that Graeme holds three services on a Sunday at the different venues. It was with real pleasure that we learnt that the True Gospel of Jesus Christ was preached here. The worship was also a great blessing. We recognised most of the songs and the acoustics of this little stone Church is amazing. Graeme himself also plays the trumpet and another member played the guitar.
The congregation was really small with only one other child, a girl of sixteen. (My girls really enjoyed chatting to you, Regan). The Sandy Bay Congregation is the more active one, with more converts, but even there, the young people are scarce. We had the chance of attending a service there on the second Sunday. Hazel drove us in the car and Graeme followed on his motorcycle.
Most Saints belong to the Anglican Denomination. This does not mean that they attend church. They tend to be nominal Anglicans more concerned to belong somewhere than to seek God. We asked our Island Tour Guide – a truly delightful chap – what he believed about God and he said: “I’m an Anglican. Don’t go to Church much. Used to. My wife did the reading on Sundays, so’s we went regular then. But not anymore.” When we asked whether he ever reads a Bible, our deduction was no.
If Saints choose to attend gatherings at another church or other religion, they are no longer welcome in the Anglican Church. This also means that they would not be able to be buried in the Anglican graveyard. This is a real problem for people of whom their beloved spouse already lies in the Anglican graveyard. Hazel ran a Sunday School class for about 10 children, until the Bishop warned the children off. Only one little girl remains. It is not that these children go anywhere else now, they are just not allowed to attend the Baptist Sunday School.
According to the Becketts, St. Helena Island is a very dark place spiritually. Sexual immorality is high and people don’t see any need in getting married. There is a lot of work to be done and few workers.
The Baptist Church is planning some open-air services at the end of this month. The Gospel Invitation will be clearly given and we are all praying that God will be doing a mighty work in the hearts of those who hear.
It was a real joy to meet up with the Becketts. Fellow believers immediately feel like family. Here we were, total strangers, and yet they let us into their home and life in a real meaningful way. Graeme spend a lot of time taking us all over the Island and Hazel shared her jigsaw puzzles with us as well as her washing machine. Wow! It really was amazing to see so many dirty things get clean so quickly. Thank you Graeme, Hazel and family for encouraging and loving us as you did.

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