First impressions are important; so what would be the first impression(s) of a glance back over the past year? Probably three things stand out: wedding blessings (and plenty of them!), online worship (now with more than three years of recorded services, plus Friday Zooms, plus occasional other services), and the revitalisation of the social activities focused around Santa Margarita.
At second glance, we need to remind ourselves that we are very fortunate to have emerged from the pandemic with a gradual return to something that really is a ‘new normal,’ in terms of long term sustainability. This is not something that we should overlook, nor take for granted, nor should we set aside those four questions that the Bishop of Leeds set before us during the early stages of the pandemic, and which I reiterated last year at this time:
What did we lose that we need to regain? What did we lose that needs to remain lost? What did we gain that needs to be retained? What did we gain that now needs to be set aside? As the new PCC assembles within the next few months, it will be time to consider these questions as we examine the future direction of this chaplaincy. Of course, there is more to consider than just the repercussions and aftermath of the pandemic when considering the way ahead, whom we serve, and how we serve them.
Although many of the regular visitors to Menorca have begun to return to the island, and to the church, it is noticeable that Brexit and age have taken a toll on attendance. At one point during a PCC meeting it was suggested that once the number of online worshippers is exceeded by the number of people attending in church, it might be time to wind down the recording of worship. On Sundays, this has in fact only happened a few times during the past year; in fact the number of people watching the recorded services crept up during Lent and Easter. On Wednesdays, the online numbers declined to the point that recorded services were terminated at the beginning of May 2022. Recording services and sermons does take time and effort, of course, but for now it would seem that this will continue indefinitely. We also have a small group that gathers both in the church and on Zoom every Friday morning for a service of prayer with a focus on healing.
We have endeavoured to continue to support those in need in Menorca. Vouchers for Christmas meals were given to those identified by the Es Castell Social Services organisation, and we have given financial support to Ukrainians who have found themselves seeking refuge in Menorca. Several boxes of supplies were also passed to the Ukrainian Orthodox Church in Mallorca, to be sent to Ukraine. We have also contributed to the programme of the Rotary Club of Menorca that supports families with food and groceries.
It was refreshing to welcome the Choir of Gonville and Caius College, Cambridge, back to Menorca at the beginning of July. The choir once again graced us with a recital, giving a preview of a new album for which they were rehearsing. The Gwent Charity Brass Band returned to Santa Margarita in April.
In fact, it has been very encouraging that social activities, under the direction of Carole Brayford, have been resumed with monthly activities, many of which focus on sharing food (and there is nothing wrong with breaking bread together!). Carole’s monthly Social Events newsletter has been very favourably received by all.
It has been uplifting to begin 2023 with a freshly repainted church. Colin Guanaria coordinated the project, which was partly supported by voluntary donations. The carpets in the church have also been cleaned. It is part of our stewardship of what has been entrusted to us to take care of our worship space.
Colin will be stepping down as warden, as will Malcolm Ellis. As chaplain, I feel very blessed to have been able to rely upon the support of two reliable and collaborative people, who have been diligent in caring for the welfare of the chaplaincy.
Also caring for the chaplaincy – for 13 years as safeguarding officer – has been Margaret Jones. She has patiently and persistently encouraged us to appreciate that appropriate safeguarding measures are an integral part of our Christian faith, lived out in community, with responsibility for the wellbeing of all. She has now resigned from this position, meriting a well-deserved break; fortunately she has left things in such good order that it will take the pressure off seeking a replacement.
As Area Dean, I have been pleased to be able to gather with fellow clergy from across our area in Mallorca, last June, and in Ibiza, in November. Our next gathering will be in mid-June in Barcelona. At some point I might remind the Archdeacon and Bishop that I agreed to serve in this capacity for a couple of years. That was in September 2020!
There remain challenging times and questions ahead of us. What will be the future of the Anglican chaplaincy in Menorca? What can we do about the current lack of ministry for children and families? The safeguarding requirements for prospective leaders of this ministry are not trivial. The preparation of online worship, which has extended the reach of our chaplaincy community, eats up time that might be directed elsewhere, such as pastoral care. How do we balance priorities? While some of these questions rest on the chaplain, the members of the PCC, as representatives of the chaplaincy at large, have responsibility to consider them.
Meanwhile, we have some positive things to which we can look forward. Our Bishop, David Hamid, will be visiting Menorca at the end of July to share in the celebration of our patronal festival. Roqueta, Menorca’s English-language magazine, will reappear in mid-May after a long hiatus. The newly consecrated Bishop of Menorca, Monsignor Gerard Villalonga, has long been a friend of the Anglican Church, and we can anticipate continuing the warm relationship that we are blessed to enjoy with the Roman Catholic church in Menorca and its clergy. We share worship during the Week of Prayer for Christian Unity, and the fiesta of Santa Margarita; and I was again invited to participate in the Via Crucis (Way of the Cross) in Es Castell.
At the end of May, Kate and will have completed ten years at Santa Margarita. This is in fact the longest that I have ever lived in the same home! We continue to be thankful for the spirit of care and nurture that we have experienced. I know that we are fortunate, since this is not the case in all chaplaincies within the Diocese in Europe. Thanks be to all who contribute to our well-being in many different ways.