According to the Guiness Book of World Records Jamaica has the most churches per square mile of any place in the world. I believe it. Here in Runaway Bay there seems to be a church in every neighborhood. Our host Tony says there’s a church and a bar on every corner in Jamaica. On Sunday the streets are full of people heading off to church-the men in suits, dress shirts and ties and the women dressed fashionably.
We attended the United Church last Sunday. The Resource Centre where we work is located in the Church Hall. Almost all the hymns were familiar. The worship leader or pastor would just launch in with a hymn and the poor organist was left scrambling to try to figure out the key he was singing in and slide into that key on her instrument after experimenting with several. The organ was surrounded by iron grating to prevent it from being damaged or stolen during the week. There was a choir of five elderly women who wore matching tops and sang two numbers. They marched in and out of the sanctuary in solemn procession before and after the service.
There were several rows of children in attendance- all dressed beautifully- the girls in colourful fancy dresses and the boys in long sleeved shirts and pressed pants. There was a short children’s story for them and some chorus singing led by a very enthusiastic and well dressed young woman who kept shouting “God is Good” to which the children responded “All the Time.”The pastor was speaking on the story in Matthew 4:18-22 where Jesus asks the fishermen to follow him. “We need to be careful who we follow,” Pastor Delroy Johnson warned the congregants. His Jamaican example of someone his parishoners should be wary of following, was employment recruiters who take Jamaican people’s money and promise if you follow them you’ll get a good job in Canada, or the United States or England. Some of these recruiters are scam artists. They take unsuspecting people’s money and then disappear with it leaving their victims without money or a job overseas. Church was two and a half hours long with seven traditional hymns, seven prayers, three Scripture readings, a time to walk around the church and say hello to literally everyone and an altar call.
Jamaica is one of the most churched places in the world. 99% of its citizens say they are Christians. In a country where poverty is widespread, violent crime is a daily reality, the public education system is under funded and in disarray, and the only hope for the majority to have stable employment is to leave the country, churches provide an important safety net and offer a glimmer of hope in a place where the future for many is bleak.
Other posts about Jamaica…………