Have Faith: A real community

The Rev. Renato Santos shares his thoughts on leading a faith community on the Island.

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The First Baptist Church in Vineyard Haven. —MV Times

We have such good news at the MV Times. We’ve spent the last few days talking to members of our Island’s Brazilian community — definitely our Island brothers and sisters — and we just launched a translation feature on our website, mvtimes.com, that offers Portuguese translation (among other languages) of all our stories. We realize the translations will not be perfect, but we are so glad to offer the option. My son-in-law Vukasin is Serbian and he appreciates the feature very much.

Anyway, my own introduction to the Brazilian faith community was a while ago, when I visited the First Baptist Church in Vineyard Haven for a musical evening. The Brazilian band that played was out of this world, and I was slightly envious of the liveliness and joyfulness of their worship. Church for me is usually a quiet affair, which is lovely too, but that whole concept of joyful noise is the way to go sometimes.

Just the other day, I had a conversation with Pastor Renato Santos, who leads the Brazilian services held at the First Baptist Church on Sundays at 6 pm, and the Bible school for all ages on Thursdays at 7 pm.

Rev. Santos went to seminary first in Brazil when he was 17, and then became a minister in 2012 while living here. He comes from Minas Gerais in Brazil, and told me what he loves about Martha’s Vineyard.

“I like it because it’s quiet, safe, and friendly, and especially for the type of work I do. I’m a general contractor and carpenter. I build houses. It’s what I like to do.”

He learned the building trades from his father, Rev. Santos said. “He comes to visit for about 30 days every other year,” he said. “I’m married and I have two sons, 17 and 23 — he’ll be 18 very soon, in April. They went to school here. The youngest one was born here and the other one came here when he was four years old. Both went to Tisbury School and then the high school. My oldest just finished getting his electrician license.”

Rev. Santos first came to live on the Island in August of 2002, and has led the service at First Baptist Church since 2020. Rev. Santos told me that he first felt his calling when he was just 15 or 16.

“I like the scriptures, I like the Gospels,” he said, “and I want to share the love of God with people.”

He does just that every week on Sunday with more than 100 members of the Brazilian community. Rev. Santos may have a lot to teach us all about gratitude.

“It’s very important for us to have this time together,” Rev. Santos said. “It’s a big family. One thing about the church … It is good for Martha’s Vineyard. All the people who go to the church talk all the time and become part of the community — and we pray for the community. We are part of this Island and every day we see more and more of this beautiful Island. Sometimes we take this Island for granted. This Island is a gift from God. So many people out there would like to have what we have.”

Among his blessings, Rev. Santos includes being able to gather for his service at the Vineyard Haven church.

“I think it is a blessing to be able to meet and to have our service,” he said. “And we have English and Portuguese. It’s good for the kids that we translate the service. The kids get more involved.”

Maybe Rev. Santos’ words will whet your appetite, and you might give that joyful Sunday celebration a try.