When I think back to the Sundays of my childhood, I think of the minibus that my dad drove every Sunday. I remember him navigating the hilly roads of the island countryside, picking up smiling, chatty and immaculately dressed passengers along the way. I remember the children bickering in their frilly frocks, wrinkled men in their fresh pressed suits, and beautiful women with accessories so flamboyant they put London Fashion Week to shame. I remember the excitement of catching up with friends after a week of school, the exuberant keyboardist and the stern side-eye from my mother when we laughed too loudly. I remember falling asleep an hour into the all-night prayer meetings, wondering when I would be old enough to take part in Holy Communion, and aimlessly flipping through the pages of my illustrated bible while the preacher promised “I am about to finish,” for the third time.
When my family packed our bags and moved to the UK, attending church gave us the continuity and community we so desperately needed. Church affirmed our value and worth in an environment that threatened it almost daily. In church, I gained a respite from the onslaught of questions my peers at school had about who I was and where I was from. In church, I could read scriptures at bible study without my accent struggling to be understood. In church, I saw my father addressed with respect, and my mother preach from the pulpit with authority. In church, people who looked like me, spoke like me and thought like me were pastors and leaders. They were secretaries and accountants, musicians and stewards. Growing up in church, a black church, gave me, a young black girl in a foreign world, a sense of security, community and hope.