Overall, we should be fairly satisfied that the chaplaincy seems to be moving ahead in a positive and constructive manner. Looking through the register of services, it would appear that attendance at worship has actually picked up a little year-upon-year. The PCC meets regularly (8 meetings since the last APCM), and meetings are productive and respectful. The members of the PCC should be thanked for their willingness to serve, and for their efforts on behalf of the church. In particular, the wardens, John Yallop and Jane Sadler, have worked very hard for Santa Margarita; John’s retirement from this position after many years leaves quite a gap to fill. Many thanks are also due to Sandy Malhotra, who is most generous with her time serving as our voluntary treasurer.
When I came to Santa Margarita, it was evident that there would be two “seasons” of ministry. During the tourist season (which is, in effect, when I arrived), the congregation is swelled significantly by visitors, “swallows”, and so on — a characteristic shared by many of the chaplaincies in Spain. Our focus was then on helping me to become familiar with the island and the congregation (thanks to those who hosted social gatherings!) and on developing worship and social programmes to cater to the enlarged summer congregation. Wedding blessings compose an important component of this: not only are they a way of making contact with (mostly younger) people who otherwise have little contact with regular church life, they are also a useful source of income, especially when Gift Aid is applied. There were five of these during the summer of 2013, and seven are currently anticipated for 2014.
It may be worth noting that the church now has a revitalised web presence, brochures for Gift Aid and Pastoral Care (more to come), and a newsletter (Menorca Anglican) available in both print and e-mail forms.
Once the tourists had departed, and the flights to and from the island had been reduced to the minimal winter schedule, our focus was on tending to the needs of the permanent congregation. We reintroduced regular Bible study sessions. I have endeavoured to support Dianne Carter’s children’s programme, called JaFfA (Jesus a Friend for All), with its small, but regular group of children. With the support of the Roman Catholic diocese, we have been able to offer a service of Holy Communion once each month at Ciutadella, and at Christmas the annual carol service was held at the chapel of Our Lady of Carmel, thanks to the ladies of Ciutadella and the Carmelite sisters. I am hoping that during the summer, there will be additional opportunities to offer worship at different places in Menorca (e.g. Cala en Porter). On Ash Wednesday, we offered imposition of ashes to four different locations on the island, in addition to the church in Es Castell, which might establish a precedent.
I believe that it is important for congregations to have some sort of focus for their ministry outside the church. At Christmas, we started to collect food and financial contributions to offer Christmas packages to needy families in Es Castell. We requested names from the local Social Security department, and after some bureaucratic shenanigans, we were provided with exactly what we wanted: a list of about 30 families, or individuals, with a brief description of their composition. I am inclined to believe that our efforts were regarded with a certain degree of hesitation, or even suspicion, initially. Once we delivered, we were greatly appreciated, especially because we made it clear that we would not exclude anyone — not all churches will offer food or other aid to Islamic families. This was sufficiently successful to encourage us to do the same thing at Easter. The Social Security people are now very supportive. We could possibly have achieved more economies of scale by working with another agency on the island, such as the Red Cross, or Age Concern. But to take responsibility for working with the local Ajunamiento, and to respond to a local need, has given a strong sense of ownership and satisfaction. It also makes very personal the idea of seeing the face of Christ in those whom we are invited to serve.
I believe that one of the main responsibilities of the chaplain is to endeavour to maintain a reasonably visible profile in the local community, especially (but not exclusively) the expatriate, British community. With the support of one, or other, or both of the wardens and others in the congregation, and the Honorary British Consul, I have made effective connections with the Red Cross organisation, handling liaison with the hospital, the Ladies’ Lunch Club, and even the Menorca Cricket Club. The Menorca Branch of the Royal British Legion has invited me to be its chaplain, and I have accepted. Our churches have had several ecumenical activities, mutually supporting one another’s fund-raising efforts, and participating in shared worship. Kate and I have also been engaged in Spanish lessons since last June. We are making progress!
Ecumenically, we have reinforced relationships with the Es Castell New Life Church and its leaders, Geoff and Muriel Chad, and the local Roman Catholic Church and Father Alberto, the priest. A special highlight was the Women’s World Day of Prayer, organised by Dianne Carter and attended by English-speaking worshippers from a variety of backgrounds.
One of the biggest drains upon my own time and energy has been the process of establishing residency, which necessitated the preparation of a formal contract in Spanish, with social security contributions being made, and appropriate tax arrangements in place. Because the chaplaincy had not done any of this before, every step along the way seemed to reveal another unforeseen item of complication.
Thanks to several people, especially Jane Sadler and Clare Henderson (who have been generous with their time and expertise), Colin Guanaria, the very obliging Ernesto Quintana, and Valerie Artacho, the treasurer in Costa del Sol, we have finally navigated this successfully, and I received my Residencia in February. Kate is still waiting: because she is not an EU citizen (even though she is married to one), she has additional hurdles to surmount.
At this point, the chaplaincy is not fully financially self-sustaining, in that last year there was a deficit, although it was less than that for the previous year. Nevertheless, there are sufficient reserve funds to see it through a number of lean years. And the trend of deficit reduction continues; although we may face a slightly greater deficit in 2014 than in 2013, this is after social security payments that the chaplaincy has not paid in the past. Our expenses are well managed, and efforts to raise funds to supplement our offering income are constantly under review. For example, we plan to hold a golf tournament and raffle in early June that is expected to raise at least €6000. The efforts of the “informal social group” under the leadership of Colin Guanaria in this regard must be recognised and appreciated. On the positive side, those who live in Menorca, as well as those who are occasional visitors, seem to be generous (some extremely so) in donations, and under the oversight of David Green the response to requests for Gift Aid from UK taxpayers has been remarkably good. Fortunately, the parish has good reserves, and is not facing any imminent crisis.
The challenges of financial sustainability, demographics and youth are not much different from those facing many Anglican congregations in the UK and elsewhere around the western world. I suppose that they ought to be daunting, but this is a journey of faith. The people of Menorca, both within and outside the Anglican congregation have been welcoming, supportive and encouraging. Kate and I would particularly like to thank Margaret and Trevor Jones, who took care of us when we arrived several weeks before our shipment of goods and chattels. This island is a wonderful place to live; it is still a novelty to us; we like it here and have no plans to go anywhere else in the foreseeable future. To come here was a significant leap of faith for us; with God’s grace, we feel that we are in the right place at the right time. Thanks to all who have made us feel at home, and thanks be to God for leading us here!