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Thursday, 17 March 2016

From West Africa to the Diocese in Europe - 125 years of All Saints Tenerife is celebrated

Members and visitors at All Saints, Puerto de la Cruz, Tenerife celebrated 125 years of worship in the lovely Church on the north of the island on Sunday 13 March.

The parish has a fascinating history. When the Church was opened for worship in 1891 it was under the jurisdiction of the Bishop of Sierra Leone, who also looked after the Gold Coast, the Yoruba District of modern Nigeria and other territories in West Africa! Today it is very much part of the Diocese in Europe, but aware of its history in the Canary Islands, once a crossroad of the world in the 19th century.

Renovations in the building were completed just a day before my arrival for the anniversary celebration: new electrical wiring throughout, new flooring, and a new organ which was dedicated during the service. All of this was made possible by the generous donations of individuals in the congregation. The sun shone brightly in the morning, making the snow-capped Mount Teide a brilliant backdrop to the celebration. 

Prayers at the font
As the service got underway a procession around the building marked where Christ's presence is particularly made known in the life of the Church, and special prayers of thanksgiving were offered at at the font of Baptism, at the pulpit and at the altar. 

A delegation from St Francis parish in Tenerife South joined the packed congregation at All Saints. St Francis is now a distinct parish on the island, but is the a result of extension work from All Saints many years ago. Reader Marisha Carter from St Francis was my chaplain for the Eucharist, underlying the historic connection and links between the two parishes. Also members of the German Evangelical congregation who use the Church each week were present to share in the event with their Anglican sisters and brothers. 

All Saints has a very effective ministry of hospitality. The grounds of the Church form a congenial meeting space and this provides a place for those, not yet wishing to fully part of the worshipping life of the parish, still to gather on Sundays and be part of the community's "extended family". It is rather like the way a narthex worked in ancient times - a place for people to be part of the Church, even if one step removed. The conversations after the Sunday Eucharist, and the very warm fellowship shared with the extended family are an effective way that the members extend Christ's love and welcome to those who prefer to be more at the margin. It is an effective evangelistic strategy, in my view, based not on theological ability or discourse, or even on sharing knowledge of the Bible, but on being open, loving and welcoming of others wherever they may be on their journey through life. It is a witness to God's love and acceptance, which we know through his Son Jesus Christ. 

Also on the anniversary weekend another social event, a hog roast, was held at another of the historic English institutions in Puerto de la Cruz, the English Library, Many of the All Saints congregation are also members of the library and were working hard at this event as well.

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