|Members of the Sunday School in El Campello|
There is still some myth-busting to be done about the Diocese in Europe. For instance, I often find that people assume that congregations in the Archdeaconry of Gibraltar, and particularly in Spain, are rather sleepy places. It may be that this assumption comes from the fact that many of the members of our parishes in Spain are either retired or senior in years. First of all, it is not the case that our congregations consist only of retirees. And secondly, there is a great deal of activity and life in these congregations, even where there is a large sector who are retired.
Our congregations in Spain are outgoing in their mission, building links with other English-speaking institutions and bodies in the pastoral area, such as the British Legion, social clubs, and schools, to make sure that the Anglican Church is known. The local Anglican priest is generally seen by the many English speakers as "their Vicar", even though, like in England, they may not go to Church. But they know the priest is there at times of crisis and need. Furthermore, the Roman Catholic clergy also often relate to our own Church of England priests as "the other priests in the parish". Our congregations raise money and volunteer for local Spanish charities, such as Caritas, the Spanish Red Cross and others. And the church communities are committed to being warm and welcoming spiritual homes for all.
Our communities are also places where faith is explored and deepened. One example, which I noted during my recent visit to Holy Spirit Parish Costa Blanca, was a very pertinent study series which has been well attended on world religions. This series, led by one of the auxilliary priests with permission in the parish, the Revd Chris Cowell, has covered Islam, Judaism, Hinduism, Buddhism and is about to run a session on Sikhism. Fr Chris is responding to the current interest among Christians to understand the followers of the world's great religions. "What do different religions mean by 'God'?" is an important contemporary question. As the Cardinal Archbishop of Valencia said to me during my recent visit, we Christians must show to the world that religions do not need to divide humanity. Building understanding and knowledge is an important step.
And, of course, not all our members are retirees! There are young families too, and Sunday Schools, such as I saw recently in the congregation of El Campello, the most southerly congregation in the Holy Spirit, Costa Blanca Parish.
|Parishioners of Costa Blanca at study session on other religions|