It’s a great big beautiful world!
‘Can you come to preside at a Confirmation service in December at the Anglican Church in Palma, Majorca?’ asked my brother. ‘Certainly’ I said. So, with the kind permission of the Bishop in Europe- who mischievously answered my request for his goodwill to act in his Diocese with an e-mail headed ‘Winter Sun’-I found myself on that lovely island this last weekend. My brother has been its chaplain for some seven years now, and the church has flourished under his care. I was to baptise three people and confirm eight. More than half were Nigerians, representing a nation of people who now find themselves working on the island in order to earn far more money than they would at home. The Nigerians make up about a third of the Anglican congregation and the rest are British, with one or two Spaniards. As with my time at the Lambeth Conference, it is is good to be reminded at times that our Church is a worldwide one and is not the peculiarly English phenomenon we Brits tend to think it is. At least some of the tensions in the Communion at the moment are down to what is seen as British imperialism or hegemony in our Church. The Nigerians of Majorca, with their easy relaxed attitude and simple acceptance of our faith, were a reminder once more this year that Christ is a Christ for all. Top marks to the Anglican church of Majorca for integrating so well.
In the evening, I was off to give the salutation and final blessing in the magnificent Catholic Cathedral of Palma. It dominates the skyline, and is the first thing you see as you enter the bay: at night it is stupendously lit. Majorca was originally a Moorish country, and its architecture betrays Islamic roots: there is even a splendid little Arabian Garden. The Carol Service was attended by over a thousand people, and there were splendid items by the Cathedral choir and also by the Anglican Children’s Choir. All was lively and modern as we clapped and swayed our way through ‘When Jesus Walked’. The highlight for me was the Sibil la. Of Moorish origin, this cantata on the Last Judgement sounds Levantine as the soprano vocalist casts her winding voice into the cavernous interior of the shadowy Cathedral. Accompanied by booming and soaring organ, the singer is robed in Arabian flowing garments and carries before her a sword: no doubt the sword of judgement. Our version lasted about ten minutes, the full version, heard at Midnight Mass and banned everywhere in Spain except Majorca since Franco’s era, is about an hour. I’d love to hear it all. If you want to hear it, go to: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8aYV_Kqv44g Finally, I was made to feel very much at home as one of the Canons of the Cathedral, in response to my telling him the story of Lincoln’s St Hugh, pointed above the table in the vestry to a painting. And there, in pride of place in this most exotic and continental of places, was an oil rendering of the great man himself. Ok, this French Norman saint of the twelfth century was dressed in the priestly robes of a seventeenth century continental Catholic, but never mind: it made the place feel like home! Without wishing to make anyone jealous, the mixture of international faces and accents, an encounter with one of the great buildings of Europe and temperatures of 22 degrees Centigrade did serve to underline for me, as we wait for the birth of the Saviour of the World, that the season is so special not even a Credit Crunch can ruin it, for its meaning is well beyond all that. It’s a great big beautiful world!