Tuesday, February 20, 2018

Ellis holds on to her faith


Faithful: Selina Ellis at the store Selina’s Variety Store, East Side Plaza, Charlotte Street, Port of Spain. —Photos: Essiba Small

Mark Fraser

On the second day of Holy Week Selina Ellis is sitting in a corner of the East Side Plaza, Charlotte Street store she runs for her daughter, which also bears her name.

On her lap is a brown Bible, her hand marking the spot that she must have been reading before she drifted off to sleep. Not even the loud gospel music playing on her radio stirred her awake. It must have aided in putting her to sleep as well.

Since she sells straw hats and baskets of flowers, Ellis’s Selina’s Variety Store and Craft Shop was a busy place last Monday as shoppers got an early start on their Easter hat purchases. A customer who wanted to buy raised Ellis from her slumber. 

“Easter is not as it should be,” Ellis said. 

“If it is about Jesus Christ, it should be holy; not so? But it’s more tradition now; people just doing what they want.” 

There was a time in Ellis’s life when Easter celebrations in her home was much like Christmas.

“I used to change curtains and put away the place,” the 81-year-old recalled – her memory still sharp.

“I used to make hot cross buns, ginger beer and sorrel and cook a lot of food.

“On Easter Sunday morning I used to pray with my six children, just as I used to every morning, and we would just spend time with each other as a family.”

In years past, the Colonarie, St Vincent-born Ellis also made easter bonnets and baskets to sell to customers who requested it. She stopped with all the Easter trappings when she became a Christian and realised that, for many, Easter had become more about food and frivolous things like bunnies, bonnets and the like, rather than on God.

“Worshipping God should be a daily thing; not just on occasions like these,” said Ellis.

“And why do they have a man toting a cross like Jesus every year? Isn’t that ritual?”

Ellis was concerned that the young people who are looking on at their parents were getting the wrong idea on how to celebrate Holy festivals when the message parents really need to be sending to their young is about holiness and holy living.

“A lot of the young people will be going to church on Sunday; but what will they be wearing to church? Is all kind of clothes with a lot of their skin out; and Easter is supposed to be about Jesus Christ.”

At her church, she said, women dress modestly and cover their heads with hats or scarves. 

Ellis also feels there is a need for families to return to serving God in earnest; not just for Easter but on a daily basis.

“He is the only one who can really help us. 

“The story about that man who poison his children. These are the kind of things happening in the world today,” she said tapping the folded Express newspaper on her counter.

“I read that story this morning and I want to know how a human being could do that.”

 Growing up, Ellis said she didn’t know God as she does now.

She had relatives who were Baptists, she said, who used to take her and her siblings to church every now and then; but she never had a true understanding of who God was.

As a result, her household was void of any Easter celebration activities – which Ellis only adopted once she started having children – her eldest is now 64; her youngest is 46.

Now, she said: “I live my life for the Lord. I want to be a testimony to people to who He is. I want to be His light so I always talk about Him to people. That is more important to me than anything else.” 

Just then Ellis’s “sisters in Christ” Sister Marina and Sister Serrano came to see her to buy hats for a wedding. It didn’t take them too much time to tune into the conversation and agree with Ellis’s sentiments. 

“The young generation don’t have a clue about the sanctity of Easter,” Sister Marina said.

Like everyone else, Ellis would be in church on Sunday once there is a service scheduled; but it has nothing to do with Easter, but rather her Christian lifestyle.


Asked what she would be doing on Easter Sunday, Ellis said she would spend it just as she does any other day – cook, eat and of course, pray.