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Seeking company, finding community

Bored of the beach, a tourist attends a local church service.

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As I sunned myself on a secluded, white-sand beach in rural Gren­ada, literally lounging under a coconut tree, one thought continually crossed my mind: "I'm bored."

When I'd planned my holiday in New York City, the concept of plopping down on an isolated Caribbean beach for a week with my family appealed, but after a day of building sand castles and watching the waves, I missed meeting locals, shopping at crowded markets, hearing new music, and eating street food. I crave hubbub. Being at one with nature just didn't feel natural.

To cope with my cove-side claustrophobia, I spent a Sunday morning singing, swaying, and Hallelujah-ing with the congregants of the Ebenezer Pentecostal Tabernacle.

Attending a religious service in a foreign land offers travelers – whether they are evangelical Christians, avowed atheists, or, as in my case, an agnostic Jew – a window on an unfamiliar society and the chance to transcend the servile relationships common at resorts. In a worshipful setting, artifice tends to erode.

Before visiting a new house of worship, it makes sense to conduct a bit of intelligence. Some conservative mosques, for instance, ban non-Muslims. But the proselytizing Pentecostals of Grenada, I had heard, welcome strangers. Not that the spare, one-room church with a corrugated metal roof gets many visitors. St. Peter's Basilica, Ebenezer Tabernacle is not.

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