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627: Eglise Sainte Esprit, Cap Haitien, Haiti
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Eglise Sainte Esprit, Cap Haitien, Haiti
Mystery Worshipper: Zandolit.
The church: Eglise Sainte Esprit, Cap Haitien, Haiti.
Denomination: Episcopal.
The building: Rather cheerful looking, if plain. Very tall ceilings with vaulted arches. The walls were whitewashed and there was blue trim around the doors, windows and railings. What looked like decorations from Pentecost were still up (and probably will be until they fall down). The doors and windows were wide open to let the breeze in. The roof appeared to be made of wood, making the building much cooler than if it had been the usual tin.
The church: I don't really know much about the community. They seem to know each other well and greeted each other in a friendly fashion, asking after each other's health and so on. I assume they are mostly urbanites from Cap Haitian.
The neighbourhood: Downtown Cap Haitien – the second largest city in Haiti. The streets are narrow, the buildings each on top of each, and the population is dense. The downtown is run-down, dilapidated, dirty and smells bad, yet it has a certain charm that is hard to describe.
The cast: I was only able to find the name of the celebrant – Père Panel Guelier, but there were some acolytes and a crucifer and someone who appeared to be a deacon.
What was the name of the service?
Sainte Euchariste.

How full was the building?
The building could comfortably hold around 300, and I estimate it to be about three-quarters full.

Did anyone welcome you personally?
Oh yes I was greeted! I arrived 50 minutes early and sat behind a row of older folks (who were also 50 minutes early for some reason) who all greeted me warmly and asked after my health. One gentleman introduced me to the person I borrowed a song book from. Later on, during the interminable wait for the service to begin, three teenage boys came in and sat near me. One of them, after determining that I spoke Creole, asked me if I knew what time the service started – he thought I was a regular! I had to inform him that I was a visitor too. Then during the peace I think I shook hands with every single person there. Someone not from the Anglican tradition might well have assumed the service was over at this point. After the service during the announcements Père Guerlier said that he was glad that people were so enthusiastic in greeting each other during the peace, but would they please not use the time as a bathroom break?

Was your pew comfortable?
Um... no. This could be because I ended up spending about three hours in it though. The back and the seat were at right angles to each other, making for very uncomfortable sitting.

How would you describe the pre-service atmosphere?
Quietly chatty. Thirty minutes before the service actually started was Sunday School – the adults in the back of the church and the little ones in the front. I understand that at this service it was the first Sunday School meeting for the year, so Père Guerlier gave us an overview of what the Sunday School is all about which I quite enjoyed.

What were the exact opening words of the service?
They went by too quickly for me to catch them. Some sort of words of greeting were spoken by the worship leader and an invitation to worship, followed by the announcement of the first hymn.

What books did the congregation use during the service?
It was a "bring your own" affair. The priest encouraged us all to bring our Bibles, prayer books and hymn books every week, and a collection was taken up to buy some for people who don't have any. The readings were from the Creole translation of the Bible. La livre de la priere commune was used (French BCP) and the hymn book was la livre des cantiques.

What musical instruments were played?
Electric organ and some sort of synthesizer/keyboard type of thing.

Did anything distract you?
During the sermon, the lady who was sitting next to me was nodding off and threatening to nod off right into my lap! I also spent a lot of time fretting to myself about my shoes – I had forgotten to bring a nice pair to change into so all I had were my scruffy Tevas (nice shoes are de rigueur in church). I was wishing I had on a longer skirt I could hide my shoes under. Also, my slip had ridden up considerable on the trip to the church, so I was trying to squirm discreetly to get it back down.

Was the worship stiff-upper-lip, happy clappy, or what?
Hmm... hard to explain. Typically Anglican, yet also distinctly Haitian. Could just be the tropical climate...

Exactly how long was the sermon?
40 minutes.

On a scale of 1-10, how good was the preacher?
6 – I actually enjoyed his Sunday school teaching better (practical teaching on how to live the Christian life) – which I would have rated a 9 or a 10. I suspect some of my dissatisfaction had to do with the fact that at this point I had been sitting there for two hours and my bottom was very sore.

In a nutshell, what was the sermon about?
The parable of the vineyard servants: We were encouraged to examine how we are doing in comparison with the wicked vineyard servants. Are we like them who killed the owner's son or are we taking proper care of what God has entrusted us with?

Which part of the service was like being in heaven?
Well, I must say I am a sucker for the smell of incense. I also loved the enthusiastic way people were greeted during the Peace. And worshiping in a church outside of my home culture is wonderful, reminding me of how many brothers and sisters I have all over the world.

And which part was like being in... er... the other place?
Well, as I type this, I am still feeling the pain of the torture bench. The hymns, when not accompanied by the synthesizer (which provided a beat) tended to be quite dirge-like – they just got slower and slower with every verse until at the end it was impossible to finish a line without gasping for breath.

What happened when you hung around after the service looking lost?
I never really had the chance. Several people came over to chat, and I had to return the hymn book I borrowed. I chatted with the priest regarding the service times – I found out the reason for their randomness is that he travels to different congregations, and he shifts the schedule around depending on where he is going. Apparently this would have been clear had there been a bulletin.

How would you describe the after-service coffee?
None. I have never been to a church in Haiti with regular after-service refreshment.

How would you feel about making this church your regular (where 10 = ecstatic, 0 = terminal)?
8 – I'll probably make it my regular. I'm just not looking forward to the commute.

Did the service make you feel glad to be a Christian?
Of course!

What one thing will you remember about all this in seven days' time?
To bring nice shoes. I don't want to sit and fret about them for several hours again!
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