Better than religion

Sundays you might just as well go to church on Niue since there isn’t a damn thing open except, in the afternoon, Willy’s Washaway. The question is which church since the island has more places of worship than villages. So I asked Levu, the young girl who brings me my coffee and milk in the dining room every morning, which church would have the best music.

“Ekalesia church in Tamakautoga,” she said.

Really? I said. That’s the best?

“Best singing,” she said, smiling. “Everyone knows that.”

I asked her if she sang gospel. She sheepishly nodded. “And what church do you go to?”

“Ekalesia,” she mumbled, pouring the milk into my coffee.

In what village?


So around 10 I walked down the red dirt road about half a mile to the little village of Tamakautoga. The Ekalesia church—a long, narrow building with a blue tin roof, seemed to float in the middle of a lime-green field that was being picked over by bush chickens. I chatted with Taso Tukunou, wearing leather sandals and a baggy suit, until it was time for him to go off and toll the bell atop the church.


Taso Tukunou, the bell toller

Taso Tukunou, the bell toller

I saw Levu, wearing a white linen dress, her hair pulled back in a ponytail and tied with a red ribbon, coming across the field with her mother and she waved at me. There were men in white suits and little girls wearing bright-colored sun dresses coming into the church but mostly there were the church ladies, all dressed in finery once commonplace only on Easter in the deep South—fine white linen dresses and wide-brimmed hats decked with flowers and lace.


Tamakautoga church ladies

Tamakautoga church ladies

Being in shorts and a barely-clean polo shirt, I felt a little out of place so rather than go inside the church, I just stood outside the open door along with some of the more fidgety kids and the bush chickens who, every now and then, meandered inside the church in hunt of a green grasshopper or multi-legged centipede.


Photos by David Lansing

Photos by David Lansing

Levu was right. The music was good. There was a lot of calling out and some tremulous angelic solos but mostly it was just a buttery blend of mostly female voices from a small choir swaying back and forth in the still air in front of the church. I couldn’t tell you what the songs were or what they were saying, but I could have stood there all day listening to Levu and her sisters sing. You want to shiver from the touch of god, you don’t need to read any nonsense in the bible or listen to angry preachers. Just close your eyes and listen to a girl like Levu sing in a way that makes you feel you’re having sex just by listening to her. This type of singing isn’t religion—it’s better than religion.  

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  1. Andrea Watson’s avatar

    In reality, no single religion could guarantee us a place in Heaven. In the end, what matters is how we a treat other people..,*

  2. Nogi Head’s avatar

    … one has to adjust (make an effort) to any culture wherever one goes … its not to fit in BUT to experience it!

    Niue is one of those places to “reflect on life the past & the present” … brings one back peace to the spirit &
    revival … ?? (Andrea Watson’s right with comment) …its how we treat people while we on this earth BUT no guarantee a place in heaven (no one’s been there & back to tell the story!) ?

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