Life is full of adventures – some more memorable than others.
On a recent Sunday I had an adventure so grand and memorable that it made me pause and be still. And for me, neither is an easy fete.
A special church service involving the children and parents of Research and Education for Autism and Related Challenges (REACH) led me to the old and renowned St. Barnabas Anglican Church in Nassau, The Bahamas. As a Baptist, the smell and pomp and circumstance of the service were overwhelming.
The Anglicans are a formidable group in The Bahamas, stretching across 25 islands in The Bahamas and Turks & Caicos, according to the Archdiocese.
On this Sunday, the head bishop and the church’s canon walked the church’s center aisle, draped in white robes, adorned with purple and gold overlay in reverence to the approach of Holy Week. They are guarded, escorted by men and boys in crisply-pressed black robes with white overlay, palms of their hands together held ever so gently before their chests.
I would later learn that the clergy and ministers’ costumes are known as vestments with an undergown called a cassock and an overgown known as a surplice. These beautiful garments add to the festivity and beauty of the service.
Anglican services are marked by kneeling and standing, call-and-response, making the sign of the cross. And incense. The use of incense during the liturgy was unexpected. It floated through the air like smoke from a simmering barbecue pit, but the smells were sweeter, almost intoxicating.
And yet with all the pageantry, one moment stood out.
While television cameras rolled the aisles, filming the services for viewers throughout the Caribbean and South Florida, the visiting head of the Anglican of Archdiocese of The Bahamas and Turk & Caicos Islands – leaned toward the mike and in a low, melodic voice sang these words:
I surrender all,
I surrender all;
All to Thee my precious Savior,
I surrender all
Voices from all over the building joined his, and when two, or maybe three, refrains were sung, he leaned back from the mike ever so slightly to pause and reflect.
Then he made an unexpected request.
The bishop, noting the trouble men in The Bahamas are facing, the uncertainty inflated by crime and unemployment, asked all the men in the church to stand and to sing.
It was one of the most beautiful sounds I can ever remember hearing – a sea of black men standing tall, facing forward, proud.
That song was the most familiar part of the service for me, and yet the beautiful tenor sound floating throughout the building was new, and wonderful.
All to Jesus, I surrender
All to Him I freely give;
I will ever love and trust Him
In His presence daily live
And then like thunder: I surrender all!
It was a fitting prelude to upcoming Palm Sunday, Holy Week and, finally, Easter – the most holy and joyous season on the Christian calendar.
I left the church and stepped into the sun, facing one of the most beautiful days in months. And as I drove along the Atlantic Ocean, I knew that the Sunday morning adventure would be one I would not soon forget.