Have faith, will travel – in Caracas

Santa Capilla
Santa Capilla, my oasis in a hot, noisy city

Finding a church to attend in a foreign country can be difficult, because for a start there may be a language barrier. When I married a Venezuelan woman and moved to her town on the coast, an hour’s drive from Caracas, I found it surprisingly short on places of worship, and the few there were were Roman Catholic.

As a Church of England sort of guy, even though I have sampled the styles and habits of other denominations, I have always found Catholicism strangely daunting. The thought of learning how they do things with the Spanish language issue complicating things further was more than I felt I could handle, so that was Sunday services temporarily abandoned.

But that didn’t mean staying out of churches altogether. I spent every weekday wandering around Caracas, teaching English as a Foreign Language to young adults in their offices. One of my hotspots was the Ministry of Finance, and there were two big churches and a cathedral in the area, so I made a point of spending time in those.

In many parts of the UK you can’t do that because the churches are locked when not in use to keep vandals and thieves out, but although Caracas is a violent city with a lot of gun crime, the churches are open.

My favourite was called Santa Capilla, which is on a traffic-choked street but reached, for me, up a quiet alley from a beautiful square, Plaza Bolivar. There, or in the other church or the cathedral, I would spend a few minutes in quiet contemplation, giving thanks and asking God for help, as you do.

The other good thing about all three buildings was that they are cool inside, especially Santa Capilla, where I would sit just off the central aisle near the back, with a breeze coming through like free air conditioning.

Refreshed in body and soul, I would then head off to impart the secrets of the English language to students who seemed to enjoy it more than most, because for them it was a break during the working day.

Caracas cathedral
The cathedral seen from Plaza Bolivar

Another area where I spent a fair bit of time was five or six metro stops away in a newer and much more salubrious part of the city.

But no churches. Not one. Just big, smart office blocks and hotels and a mall. I used to ask people if there was a church nearby until one day someone explained that everything there was new, and when areas are redeveloped, one thing they don’t include is places of worship. Because people don’t go to church so much anymore.

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