Easter is an important season in The Bahamas, where the vast majority of the nation identifies as Christian. The acknowledgement of Jesus’ death and celebration of his resurrection are marked by multiple church services, a long holiday weekend and social events. Anticipation builds steadily, with many Bahamians attending Ash Wednesday services to mark the start of Lent, and then observing a fast of some sort for the 6-week period leading to Good Friday.
Both Good Friday and Easter Monday are public holidays, providing a much-needed break after months of working continuously since January. The weekend is joyous, kicking off beach season with picnics, regattas and Family Island homecomings. The traditional Good Friday meal is fried fish with hot cross buns, and on Easter Sunday Bahamians pull out all the stops for a feast including baked ham, peas n’ rice and more hot cross buns. However, the meal has to wait until after church, another grand affair. Although worship services are typically viewed as more formal events, the hats, dresses and suits worn on Easter Sunday are rivalled only by those seen at Christmas.
If you’re lucky enough to be in Nassau on Easter weekend, there are countless churches to choose from. Here’s a list of several historic and well-known sanctuaries on the island, all of which would welcome you and your family with open arms.
Christ Church Cathedral
Photo Credit: Mighty Mac
Christ Church Cathedral is the Mother Church of the Anglican Diocese of The Bahamas and the Turks and Caicos Islands. It is also the oldest church in The Bahamas; the first services took place in 1670 on West Hill Street in historic Charles Towne, the original city centre. That sanctuary, and three more after it, was destroyed, relocated and rebuilt, for a total of four buildings in the church’s history. The present sanctuary, near Bay Street, opened in 1841. It has tall stained glass windows, a pipe organ and descriptive memorial plaques along its walls that help us imagine what life was like for Bahamians long ago.
Where: George Street
Sunday service times: 7:30 a.m., 9 a.m., 11:15 a.m.
Bethel Baptist Church
Photo Credit: Bethel Baptist Church
Bethel Baptist Church is the oldest Baptist church in The Bahamas, founded in 1790 by runaway slaves Prince Williams and Samuel Scriven. Located in the heart of a neighbourhood known as Over-the-Hill, today’s sanctuary is on the same site as the original Bethel’s Meeting House and is a foundation of this historic community.
Where: Meeting and Dillet Streets
Sunday service times: 7:45 a.m., 11a.m., 6:30 p.m.
Trinity Methodist Church
Photo Credit: Luton Photography
The present congregation of Trinity Methodist Church in downtown Nassau can trace their roots to a chapel established by a group of slaves in 1796. In 1890, Trinity Methodist established the oldest private school in the country, Queen’s College. Today the gothic sanctuary where congregants worship dates to the late 19th century.
St. Andrews Kirk
Photo Credit: St. Andrew’s Kirk
Where: Frederick Street
Sunday service time: 11 a.m.
During the American Revolutionary War, many Americans opposed to independence moved to The Bahamas, still under British rule. Among these Loyalists were a group of Scots, 55 of whom came together in 1798 to establish a place of worship in their Presbyterian tradition. They lay the cornerstone of St. Andrew’s Presbyterian Kirk in 1810, in a building that is the second oldest church building in Nassau. The Kirk is a member of the Evangelical Presbyterian Church (USA).
Where: Princess Street
Sunday service time: 10:30 a.m.
St. Francis Xavier Cathedral is the oldest Roman Catholic church in The Bahamas, with the original parish opening in 1886. Today weekend services take place in the newer sanctuary, which opened in 2004. The cathedral has a well-developed choir programme, beginning with a children’s choir, open to little ones as young as six, and culminating in the senior choir, which is lauded by members and visitors.
Where: West Hill Street
Sunday service times: 8:30 a.m., 11a.m.
Calvary Bible Church
Photo Credit: Calvary Bible Church
Calvary Bible Church is an independent church that was established in 1962. It has both contemporary and traditional music style services twice on Sundays and is known for dramatic musical productions at both Easter and Christmas. In addition to the community focussed services offered by many churches, Calvary is unique in supporting the Christian Counselling Centre, a professional therapy clinic staffed and directed by people who are largely members of the church.
Where: Collins Avenue
Combined Easter Sunday service time: 10:30 a.m.
Regular Sunday service times: 8 a.m., 11 a.m.
Annunciation Greek Orthodox Church
Photo Credit: Paul McClure
The Greek presence in The Bahamas is rooted in the late-1800s and the sea sponge industry. In those days, large numbers of Greeks crossed the Atlantic to maintain their sea-faring livelihoods. As a result, a Greek community steadily grew in The Bahamas. Annunciation Greek Orthodox Church was established in 1932 and it remains a keystone of Greek-Bahamian life, providing not only a place to worship but a place to gather for community events. The most famous of these is the Greek Festival, which all Bahamians look forward to every other year. Note that the orthodox tradition follows a different calendar, with Easter Sunday falling one week later than it does in the universal catholic church.
Where: 11 West Street
Sunday service time: Orthros 9 a.m., Divine Liturgy 10:15 a.m.