The Ethiopian Orthodox Church is widely regarded as the oldest Christian church in the world. Although the vast majority of its members are in Ethiopia, it also has a presence in several other countries, including Barbados. Priest of the local parish, Kes Amha Selassie Yaicob, told the SUNDAY SUN the church has adhered to the original teachings of the Bible. “We haven’t changed anything,” he said. “We’ve preserved faithfully everything that the apostles delivered to the world as the Christian religion. All the books of the Bible, we have preserved them. All the teachings of the fathers, we’ve preserved them and we’ve preserved the Old Testament also.” He said that the origins of the church could be found in Acts 8, when the Ethiopian eunuch was baptized by Philip. The Ark of the Covenant is a chest described in the Book of Exodus. It contained the tablets on which the Ten Commandments were written. Today the Ethiopian Orthodox Church claims to have possession of the chest. Yaicob noted that the Ark was taken from Jerusalem to Ethiopia by Emperor Menelik I of Ethiopia who was Solomon’s son from the Queen of Sheba. The former journalist, who is now a teacher, explained how the church came to be established in Trinidad and Tobago and how he ended up being part of a group which led to its establishment in Barbados. “Over the years I’d been interested in African things. I also grew up in one of the Christian denominations so I had the background of familiarity with the Bible.” He realized that what was being practised was “not exactly what the Bible says”. . He said he admired and was influenced by the autobiography of the Emperor Haile Selassie who was a member of the church. There was yet another reason. Yaicob, who was born in Tobago, went back to visit his mother and, given that his brothers were members of the Ethiopian Orthodox Church there, he visited the church. “As people say, one thing led to the other until over the years I came to form this preparation committee in Barbados where we wished to have a branch of the church,” he reported. “We made contact with the archbishop in Trinidad and he sent a delegation in December 1993.” The local parish started in 1995 at Long Gap, St Michael and Yaicob said about 100 people had been baptized over the years. The church has met in several locations on the island but the priest said it is slowly working towards having its own building. The church meets on Sundays at the Young Men’s Christian Association (YMCA) in Pinfold Street, St Michael. The services are led by two active priests and two anagnosts (the equivalent of an acolyte in Western Christianity). Ethiopian orthodox faith is based on belief in the Holy Trinity, incarnation of the Son of God, holy baptism, Holy Communion and resurrection. Members also adhere to seven sacraments: baptism, which is the only way to enter into the membership of the church, confirmation – the reception of the Holy Spirit immediately after baptism, Holy Communion, holy matrimony, ordination, penance and unction of the sick. Yaicob explained that penance was the sacrament through which one got forgiveness and this was done by a priest. “Confession in our church is done through the priest,” he said, noting that the priest had the authority to grant or deny absolution. One of the unique things about the Ethiopian Orthodox Church is that it maintains its own calendar which is more than 4 000 years old. “It’s a calendar in which we have 13 months,” Yaicob explained, adding that 12 months have 30 days and the five or six days which are left over make up the 13th month. “The year begins at Meskaren 1 which corresponds to September 11,” he explained. “Our calendar accords with the Egyptian calendar.” Following this calendar, members of the church observe several holy days.