We overslept on Sunday morning. Luckily not by much. Scurrying around prepping for church in a hurry was complicated by our unfamiliarity with our new condo and by our hasty unpacking done in a haze of fatigue the previous evening. The Daniels picked us up about 8:20 a.m. in two different vehicles and we caravanned to church.
Welcome to the St. Martin Branch, Mon!
For friends who may read this who are not Mormon, here’s a quick crash course in Mormon vocabulary: A congregation of Mormon’s comes in two types: wards and branches. Wards are big. Branches are small. I don’t know the definitive number where a ward becomes a branch, but I do know that the St. Martin branch is a long ways from reaching it. Neither is better than the other, they are just different. And each has their own peculiarities and challenges.
I had no idea what to expect of the St. Martin branch. None of us did. And yet trying to keep an open mind, it turned out, didn’t help ease the culture shock very much.
Ok, it didn’t actually help at all.
I didn’t count heads, but I’d take a stab in the dark and say there were maybe 30 people at church our first Sunday. We could maybe even say 35. Counting us. Coming from the St. Cloud ward where attendance every week was well into the hundreds, the shear lack of people alone was an adjustment.
But it wasn’t just the size of the congregation that made our first Sunday a cultural experience. It was the culture itself. It was the same LDS religion and the same Gospel, it was just presented Caribbean style. Everything here is so much more laidback, slowed down, and happy-go-lucky. And church, it appears, is no differentJ. Just one example: We started about 15 minutes late, and nobody but the newly arrived Crookston’s seemed to think this was anything other than business as unusual.
In addition to the much more laidback attitude, however, I also found myself contemplating the people. The cultural differences between Americans and Islanders will make the process of becoming close friends, as is so common in a ward or branch setting, a little slower and require a bit more patience.
But it will also make the friendships we develop that much more rewarding in the long run. I’m looking forward to engaging in this little Branch and being an asset in any way we can. And we’ll start next Sunday.
Carina and I have been asked to speak.