Sunday, 11 June 2017

Celebrating the Trinity in Malaga

What a delight it was to walk the three hundred metres along the Paseo de Reding to celebrate the Eucharist this morning, in fine bright warm weather. After all the many Sundays at home or abroad when I've had to drive to church, it was a real pleasure. There were thirty of us in the congregation to celebrate the Feast of the Holy Trinity, and I reminded everyone of how important a dedication this is in the history of European chaplaincies. Both the Gibraltar Cathedral and the pro-Cathedral in Brussels are dedicated to the Holy Trinity, so naturally we prayed for them.

St George's has a marvellously mixed congregation, Brits, Irish, Spanish, American, Iranian, Sierra Leonian and Nigerian among the regulars. It's impossible for me not to feel at home with this mix. After the service there was a little reception to welcome me on the church forecourt, with a glass of bubbly and some nibbles. It was most unexpected and prolonged the pleasure of fellowship longer than usual.

After lunch and a siesta, I walked to the port. All along the quay with the designer shops for almost half a kilometer there were market stalls selling hats, jewellery or summer dresses, there must have been fifty of them, that weren't there yesterday. I saw a new cruise ship was docked at terminal A. Yesterday's ship had already slipped away to another destination. The regular ferry to Melilla was also docked, and while I was watching a ferry arrived from the Balearic Islands up north. This must provide a quicker service for people and goods from way down south to Mallorca, Menorca or Ibiza, than a day's travel on the autovia, plus ferry from Valencia. Where there's a will, there's a way when it comes to economic efficiency, I guess.

Then I wandered down the Alameda, over the bridge as far as El Corte Ingles which was closed, but the point was to time the walk from the apartment. On the way back, the sound of bells from La Manquita drew me to the Cathedral in time for the Sunday evening Mass. Several hundred people attended, and a goodly number of the received Communion. Yet, the service, with homily and some singing too just forty minutes and didn't feel at all hurried. 

That's just over half the length of our Eucharist this morning with a fifth of the communicants. But, we had a longer set of readings, longer intercessions and sermon, four hymns and a sung setting of the Mass Ordinary. There's so much in common in the content of our liturgies, yet the culture that interprets how they are performed is remarkably different. The Anglican approach to timing and singing in worship is closer to Eastern Orthodoxy than it is to the Western Latin Church.

Co-incidental to this last thought, I learned from Facebook of the death of the previous Bishop of Gibraltar in Europe, Geoffrey Rowell, just three years after his retirement, taken by cancer. He came into post just as I was getting into difficulties with a rebellion against the diocese by certain people in the leadership of the chaplaincy in Monaco, when I had to step aside to allow him to make a formal troubleshooting Visitation and sort things out. I hated failure of this kind and having to quit the diocese, but it did lead to eight wonderful final years of public ministry at St John's City Parish Church. 

+Geoffrey was an outstanding scholar of Anglicanism, and enthusiast for ecumenical relations with Orthodox and Oriental Churches. Being Euro-bishop was a suitable platform for bridge-building in the territory he governed, but it's amazing to think how his ability to build friendships contributed to the development of a dimension of ecumenical relationships that couldn't have been foreseen, with the exodus of oriental Christians fleeing war and persecution from North East Africa, Iraq and Syria into Europe over the past decade. He will be missed by people of all Christian traditions. May he rest in peace and rise in glory.

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