Reaching the Nations

Saint Lucia

By David Stewart and Matt Martinich

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Geography

Area: 616 square km.  Located in the Caribbean, Saint Lucia is a small volcanic island north of Trinidad and Tobago between the North Atlantic Ocean and the Caribbean Sea.  Mountains dominate the landscape, which is bisected by several fertile valleys.  Tropical climate with marked dry and rainy seasons occurs throughout the island.  Hurricanes and volcanoes are natural hazards.  Environmental issues include deforestation and soil erosion.  Saint Lucia is divided into 11 administrative quarters. 

Population: 160,267 (July 2010)       

Annual Growth Rate: 0.416%    

Fertility Rate: 1.82 children born per woman (2010)   

Life Expectancy: 73.78 male, 79.27 female (2010)

Peoples

black: 82.5%

mixed: 11.9%

East Indian: 2.4%

other/unspecified: 3.2%

Blacks primarily descended from African slaves brought to the island by Europeans.  Most of those with mixed ancestry are part white European and black African.  East Indians arrived as indentured servants during British rule. 

Languages: Saint Lucian Creole French (99%), English (1%).  English is the official language and spoken by many.  Saint Lucian Creole French is not intelligible with standard French and is virtually the same as Dominica Creole French. 

Literacy: 90.1% (2001)

History

Arawaks and later Carib Amerindians populated the island prior to European discovery and colonization.  Local Carib tribes thwarted European efforts to establish trading posts on the island in the sixteenth century.  England and France competed for control over Saint Lucia, which changed possession 14 times in the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries.  In 1814, the United Kingdom  officially gained ownership of the island.  Greater self-government was granted in the 1920s.  The United Kingdom attempted to establish several semi-autonomous dependencies in the Caribbean in the late 1950s and 1960s which included Saint Lucia and most British-owned islands.  The British used the island for cultivating tropical crops and granted autonomy to Saint Lucia in 1967.  Saint Lucia won independence in 1979 and continues to hold strong ties with the United Kingdom, recognizing Queen Elizabeth II as the head of state.[1]

Culture 

Saint Lucia exhibits practices and customs adopted from African, French, and English cultures and shares many cultural similarities with neighboring islands.  Most settlements on the island were originally founded as fishing villages.  Catholicism is a major cultural influence but the population is tolerant of non-Catholic Christian groups.  Alcohol consumption rates are among the highest in the Caribbean largely due to tourism.  Most children are born out of wedlock, partially due to the high cost of getting legally married.  

Economy

GDP per capita: $10,900 (2009) [23.5% of US]

Human Development Index: 0.821

Corruption Index: 7.0

In recent years, Saint Lucia has successfully attracted foreign investment through developing its tourist and banking sectors.  Economic weaknesses include dependence on foreign oil, fluctuations in the number of tourists visiting the island, and natural hazards.   Today tourism generates the most revenue (80% of the GDP) and employs many.  Services employ 54% of the work force.  Industry generates 15% of the GDP and employs 25% of the workforce.  Primary industries include clothing, electronics, food processing, and cardboard.  Agriculture remains an important sector of the economy employing 22% of the work force and generating five percent of the GDP.  Primary crops include bananas, coconuts, vegetables, citrus, and cocoa.  Forests, sand, pumice, mineral springs, and geothermal energy are natural resources.  Major trade partners include Brazil (83% of all imports), Spain, the United Kingdom, and the United States. Saint Lucia experiences the lowest levels of perceived corruption in the Caribbean and is one of the least corrupt nations in the world. 

Faiths

Christian: 92.9%

other: 1.1%

unspecified: 1.5%

none: 4.5%

Christians

Denominations  Members  Congregations

Catholic  108,180

Seventh-Day Adventists  15,092  46

Pentecostal  9,135

Rastafarian  3,366

Anglican  3,205

Evangelical  3,205

Jehovah's Witnesses   739  9

Latter-Day Saints  205  2

Religion

Two-thirds of the population is Catholic.  Most non-Catholics follow one of the many Protestant denominations that operate on the island.  Non-Christians account for a small minority and most are not religious.  There is a small Muslim community of 350, most of which are local converts.[2]

Religious Freedom

Persecution Index:

The constitution protects religious freedom which is upheld by the government and society.  The government maintains a secular position but has a close relationship with major Christian denominations.  In 2009, the government suspended applications for government recognition of some religious groups applying for official government recognition until the revision of the government's registration policy is completed.  Groups affected by this delay include Islam and the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.  There have been no recent reports of abuse of religious freedom, but some tension between Catholics and evangelical groups persists due to the latter's sporadic criticism of the Catholic Church.  Rastafarians report increasing tolerance from other religious groups, but some instances of discrimination continue.[3]

Largest Cities

Urban: 28%

Castries, Bexon, Babonneau, Ciceron, Dennery, Vieux Fort, La Clery, Morne du Don, Laborie, Micoud.

Settlements listed in bold have no LDS congregations.

Two of the ten largest settlements have an LDS congregation.  27% of the national population resides in the 10 largest settlements.  Castries and neighboring communities account for 24% of the national population.

LDS History

One of the first Latter-day Saint converts from Saint Lucia joined the Church in England in 1982 and returned to her homeland.  Missionary work began under the West Indies Mission in 1983 when four full-time missionaries were assigned to the island.  The first branch, the Castries Branch, was created in January 1984 and the first convert baptisms occurred the following September.  Anti-Mormon sentiment grew on the island as a result of negative media reports circulated in the mid-1980s.  This led to challenges for missionary visa renewal and full-time LDS missionaries were removed in 1986 at the request of immigration officials.  The Church discontinued the Castries Branch in 1994 and reorganized the branch in 2003.[4]  Seminary and institute began in the 1990s.  Since the reestablishment of an independent branch in 2003, local and area leadership has worked with government officials to allow the return of full-time missionaries and is currently in the process of obtaining official government recognition.  The West Indies Mission continues to administer Saint Lucia. 

Membership Growth

LDS Membership: 205 (2009)

The LDS Church did not report membership statistics for Saint Lucia until 2003 at which time there were 64 members.  Slight membership decline occurred for the following three years as in 2006, there were 55 members.  In 2007, membership doubled to 113 and has since grown by 50 members per year due to the large increase in the number of converts baptized.  50 converts were baptized in the Castries Branch from mid-2007 to the end of 2008.  In 2009, one in 782 was LDS. 

Congregational Growth

Wards: 0 Branches: 2

The Castries Branch was reorganized in 2003.  The Church created a second branch in Vieux-Fort in 2007.  Both branches are mission branches are not part of a stake or district.  

Activity and Retention

21 were enrolled in seminary during the 2008-2009 school year.  The Vieux Fort Branch in mid-2010 had 50 active members and the Castries Branch had around 100.  Total active membership is estimated at 150, or 70%.

Language Materials

Languages with LDS Scripture: English

All LDS scriptures and church materials are available in English.

Meetinghouses

The Church completed an expansion of the Castries Branch meetinghouse in late 2008 needed due to the recent large increase in the number of convert baptisms.  Over 120 can now assemble in the renovated meetinghouse. 

Humanitarian and Development Work

In late 2008, the local media filmed full-time missionaries serving in Castries which were performing service cleaning a Red Cross building.  Local members have also organized service projects in their communities. 

 

Opportunities, Challenges and Prospects

Religious Freedom

The LDS Church is still awaiting government recognition in order for the Church to receive special privileges entitled to registered groups, such as tax exemption status and the right for clergy to perform marriages.  Local members and full-time missionaries may assemble, proselyte, and worship freely.

Cultural Issues

Full-time missionaries report significant challenges baptizing families due the government requiring couples who wish to marry to pay a large fee unaffordable for most.  Many couples are not legally married and cannot be baptized until they are married legally.  Society has been more tolerant of Latter-day Saints in the past decade than during the 1980s.  Latter-day Saint proselytism approaches are tailored toward the needs of nations like Saint Lucia in which most the population has a Christian background.

National Outreach

Latter-day Saints currently operate mission outreach centers in two of the eleven administrative quarters (Castries and Vieux Fort), which together constitute 49% of the national population.  Some limited proselytism and mission outreach may occur in the most populous neighboring administrative quarters, like Gros Islet and Micoud, perhaps increasing the percentage of the population reached by Latter-day Saints to as high as 70%. 

Saint Lucia receives a large number of full-time missionaries despite the small size of the island and few inhabitants.  The missionary complement will likely not increase in the near future due to limited numbers of missionaries assigned to the West Indies Mission, which has many administrative and convert retention challenges in other areas.  Additional mission outreach centers will likely not be established until branches in Castries and Vieux Fort become more self-sustaining in administrative duties and their missionary programs, which once achieved may permit mission leaders to relocate some full-time missionaries to favorable areas to have prospective LDS congregations established. 

The Church does not maintain an Internet site for Saint Lucia.  Missionaries and members can utilize English materials on the Church's main website at present.  Internet outreach specific to the needs of Saint Lucians has yet to be explored.

Member Activity and Convert Retention

Some of the highest convert retention rates ever achieved in the Caribbean for Latter-day Saints have occurred in Saint Lucia in the late 2000s and 2010 as a result of adequate pre-baptismal preparation, emphasis on developing firm gospel habits, post-baptismal teaching of new converts, strong local member involvement in missionary activity, and emphasis placed on developing self-sustaining local leadership to head proselytism efforts.  The placement of a senior missionary couple in each branch has also significantly contributed to mentoring new converts in their ecclesiastical responsibilities.  LDS efforts in Saint Lucia demonstrate that high convert retention and real church growth are possible in areas with small, rapidly growing LDS populations as church membership quadrupled between the beginning of 2007 and year-end 2009.  High convert retention has also been manifest by the expansion of the Castries Branch meetinghouse due to large increases in church attendance.

Ethnic Issues and Integration

Blacks constitute the bulk of the population and LDS membership.  There are few ethnic integration challenges encountered by the Church in Saint Lucia due to the low ethnic diversity. 

Language Issues

Missionaries typically speak English.  Full-time missionaries have assisted members and others in developing stronger literacy skills.  There are no LDS proselytism materials in Saint Lucian Creole French, which are needed to develop greater gospel study and comprehension among the Creole-speaking population.    

Missionary Service

In April 2008, there were two senior couples and four young elder full-time missionaries assigned to the island.  In 2009, two additional missionaries were assigned.  The first sister missionaries assigned to the West Indies Mission began their service in Saint Lucia in August 2009.  The two missionaries were from Trinidad and Tobago and Guyana.  In the late 2000s, several local members were preparing to serve full-time missions in the near future.  As of late 2008, there had been no local members who have served full-time missions.

Leadership

Local members lead both branches on Saint Lucia.   Full-time missionaries serving in 2010 report that progress had been made with the branches being less reliant on full-time missionaries by local members officiating in priesthood ordinances and finding and baptizing new members.  Leadership and active membership remain too limited for the branches to be organized into a district.

Temple

Saint Lucia belongs to the Orlando Florida Temple district.  Several members hold temple recommends but only a handful have attended the temple, most prior to relocating to Saint Lucia after living abroad.  Local members do not travel to the temple regularly due to the high expense of travel.  Senior missionary couples have begun temple preparation classes.  Some members are saving funds to travel to the temple one day.

Comparative Growth

Since 2005, Saint Lucia has experienced the strongest membership growth and highest convert retention rates among Caribbean nations with fewer than 1,000 members. Dominica experienced the second most rapid membership growth during this period, yet convert retention has been poor and congregations were consolidated in 2010.  Other island nations in the Caribbean have recently experienced the discontinuation of branches or districts, including Aruba, Dominica, and Saint Kitts and Nevis.  St. Lucia has the third lowest percentage of Latter-day Saints in the population among Caribbean nations with an official Church presence after Martinique and Guadeloupe, largely due to the recent reestablishment of the Church on the island.  

Many Christian groups engaged in proselytism have a visible presence on Saint Lucia and achieve modest growth rates.  Most of these groups have had a long-term presence on the island and are self-sustaining.  Seventh Day Adventists are among the most successful denominations and now constitute 10% of the population.  Jehovah's Witnesses experience slow membership growth.    

Future Prospects

The outlook for church growth in the near future appears favorable due to good convert retention coupled with systematic large increases in convert baptisms.  Additional congregations may be organized in the most populous lesser reached areas as well as in Castries and its surroundings.  Once three or more branches operate, a district may be created.  Self-sustaining growth over the long term will depend on locals serving full-time missions, remaining in their home country, and increasing the number of active priesthood holders to fill leadership positions.


[1]  "Background Note: Saint Lucia," Bureau of Western Hemisphere Affairs, 23 July 2010.  http://www.state.gov/r/pa/ei/bgn/2344.htm

[2]  "St. Lucia," International Religious Freedom Report 2009, 26 October 2009.  http://www.state.gov/g/drl/rls/irf/2009/127403.htm

[3]  "St. Lucia," International Religious Freedom Report 2009, 26 October 2009.  http://www.state.gov/g/drl/rls/irf/2009/127403.htm

[4]  "Saint Lucia," Country Profile, retrieved 22 October 2010.  http://beta-newsroom.lds.org/country/saint-lucia