Love your neighbor as yourself.
It is among the most basic of the 10 Commandments; one you’d certainly expect to see followed in church, most especially by the priest, right?
The breaking of this very Commandment in this very spot, though, is what gives the otherwise plain-looking St. James Methodist Church a very colorful past…
As noted previously, the church stands our prominently, despite its understated appearance, nestled, as it is, right along the Atlantic shores of Elbow Cay in Hope Town, one of the most charming little seaside towns you’ll find in the Abacos, or really anywhere in The Bahamas.
It is this seaside location that begat the nefarious act…
This legend is set in the 19th century, a time when salvaging shipwrecks was big business in the Abacos. Most every able-bodied male living in the islands at the time was involved in the enterprise, including, as it turns out, the preacher presiding over the St. James congregation at the time.
One Sunday, as the story goes, the preacher ended mass abruptly, instructing all parishioners to keep their heads bowed as he exited the church.
The reason: he had spied a shipwreck from the pulpit during his sermon and wanted first dibs on all the loot.
St. James, as it existed then, was not the current structure you’ll find in Hope Town today. The church was re-built several times on the same spot over the centuries.
In fact, when it came time to re-build a few years after the preacher’s deception, parishioners ensured that the reef just offshore could not be seen from the new pulpit.
Do unto others…
The wrecking industry has long since faded from prominence in the Abacos, of course, though St. James’ oceanfront setting continues to distinguish the church, making it an ideal location for destination weddings.
For more on St. James, visit the church online.