WORD VIEW: Village harvest (2)
Harvest Sunday had finally arrived. Lengths of sugar cane formed an arch beginning from each side of the platform and meeting in the middle.
The arch itself was wreathed with all kinds of flowers to be found in the village: Queen Ann’s lace, Joseph’s coat, cream, red and white roses, bachelor-buttons, anthurium lilies and various species of fern.
The aisters who had come to “dress the church” during the day had strung sugar cakes, raw nuts, golden-coloured glassies, comforts and even a few loaves of bread throughout the cropped coconut branches they had carefully attached to the arch.
All along the base of the platform covering the altar were bunches of yams, sweet potatoes, eddoes, and every other ground provision the villagers had planted and reaped.
Dressmakers had been busy for weeks but no matter what the style, the colour was a foregone conclusion: white. The men wore dark suits which they had sunned during the week. Now, in the afternoon heat, the air was redolent with the smell of Brilliantine, Eau de Cologne and Talcum Powder.
“Praise the Lord.”
Pastor Beckles, resplendent in his new suit, had mounted the platform and was about to begin the service. He opened with a prayer and the church choir sang their first two songs. Pastor Beckles then invited the visiting choir to give their renditions.
It was at this time that Janice knew better than to look in Lucy’s direction. Her sister’s shoulders would soon begin to shake. Lucy would fight to compose herself, especially under the stern glances of their grandmother, but after a while, the girl would give way to muffled but unrestrained laughter, taking several others along with her.
The choir from the neighbouring village was a rare treat indeed, for while Mr Woodroffe laboured faithfully over his charges, no choirmaster ever turned up with this group, and it was an ongoing question as to whether they had ever had contact with any such person at all.
As if to defend their choir status, this visiting choir had assumed a marked belligerence. This was particularly obvious in Sister Brown’s case. She did not sing; she bellowed. Sometimes one of her group dared to start the song on a note considered accessible to the rest of the group but Sister Brown’s roar would supercede every other sound and the others, including the men, would meekly comply.
The renditions now over, Pastor Beckles delivered his message stressing the goodness and generosity of the Lord and exhorting the congregation that, above all, they should be reapers of souls for the Kingdom of God.
It was now the children’s turn to recite. They had been learning their pieces for several weeks, reciting them along the road to and from school and each child now came to the platform and performed to the loud applause of the congregation.
When occasionally lines were forgotten, it was not strange to hear somebody prompting the child to substitute Big Jerusalem.
Bob Lashley was now approaching the platform and there was a look of dismay on Pastor Beckles’ face. Bob’s name had not been on the list of children who would recite, but his sister had fallen ill and Bob’s grandmother had insisted that he recite instead.
Bob was a big lad and he was approaching the platform with a certain resoluteness. He stepped on to the stage, turned to the congregation and stamping with all his might, saluted in full military style.
He then delivered his recitation with great gusto and with all the “actions” on which the grown-ups always insisted.
Bob was using hands, arms and legs in as many gestures as he could think of whether or not these “actions” had anything to do with the sentiments expressed in his piece. By the time he was finished, the arch had been knocked sideways, some loaves of bread dislodged, and the ground provisions looked ready to retreat if only they knew how.
Sister Lewis was heard to remark: “Wuh loss! good ting ’e finish, otherwise he woulda tumble down de whole church pon all o’ we.”
Sister Lashley ignored the remark.
The service was now nearing its close. Brother Holder hadn’t done too badly keeping tune, and all the songs, recitations and the message had been a joyful appreciation of the Creator’s benevolence and faithfulness. There would now be a sharing and sometimes the sale of the bounty among the neighbours until another harvest next year.