St Laurence in Lanzarote, Puerto del Carmen, Lanzarote, Canary Islands

St Laurence, Puerto del Carmen, Lanzarote, Canary Islands


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Mystery Worshipper:
Church: St Laurence
Location: Puerto del Carmen, Lanzarote, Canary Islands
Date of visit: Sunday, 4 April 2010, 12:30pm

The building

A small unassuming whitewashed building topped by twin bells, at the end of a terrace of properties that wind their way up a steep street. Inside there is a small narthex, and access to the main body of the church is through a tall wrought iron gateway inscribed with the words "Ave Maria." The interior has cool whitewashed walls on which are mounted the stations of the cross. A large wooden crucifix is hung on the wall behind the altar, which consists of a small communion table on which is placed a silver cross together with two candles.

The church

The building hosts congregations of three denominations: Roman Catholic (under the name Nuestra Señora del Carmen), German Evangelical, and the Anglican church of St Laurence. The Canary Islands have a Roman Catholic tradition. However, with the advent of tourism, Anglican and German churches have established themselves to cater to the spiritual needs of residents and visitors, meeting primarily in Roman Catholic churches. I think this is a lovely example of fellow Christians working together. St Laurence in Lanzarote also meets at existing churches in Puerto del Carmen, Nazaret and Playa Blanca, and a meeting hall at Costa Teguise. There is a timetable of services of holy communion and morning prayer at all these locations. There appears to be a thriving resident ex-pat congregation with an active social calendar. They have a Bible study group and a Mothers Union.

The neighborhood

The Canary Islands are an archipelago off the northwest coast of Africa. Their name is thought to derive from the Latin meaning "island of the dogs" and may refer to large populations of monk seals ("sea dogs") that once flourished there. The islands are an autonomous community within the kingdom of Spain and are largely self-governing. Puerto del Carmen is a man-made tourist resort on the south coast of Lanzarote, the easternmost island and probably the first to be settled. A volcanic island, Lanzarote features some very dramatic landscapes. The church is situated in the old part of the original village, close to the fishing harbour. Bars and cafes of all descriptions now surround it.

The cast

The Revd Idris Vaughan, chaplain, and Mr David Dowdell, lay reader. Father Vaughan is the sole Anglican priest on the island and he has quite a tight timetable in ministering to the four churches.

What was the name of the service?

Holy Communion

How full was the building?

The small church was quite full I would say there were at least 80 people present, with a good mixture of ages. It was difficult to work out who were regulars and who were tourists.

Did anyone welcome you personally?

Several ladies greeted me and made me feel welcome.

Was your pew comfortable?

It was comfortable enough for a modern wooden pew. However, there were no hassocks and my poor knees shook at the prospect of kneeling on marble, so I didnt subject them to it!

How would you describe the pre-service atmosphere?

It was extremely quiet, with some whispered greetings and conversations. I was puzzled that there was no music on this Easter Sunday, and looked around for the organ. Was it hidden in an archway or was it at the back? I couldnt see one.

What were the exact opening words of the service?

"Alleluia. Christ is risen." "He is risen indeed. Alleluia."

What books did the congregation use during the service?

Common Worship Holy Communion Order 1, Complete Anglican Hymns Old and New, and a sheet containing the collect, readings and gospel.

What musical instruments were played?

None! The chaplain sang the opening line of each hymn, which the congregation then took up.

Did anything distract you?

I felt vaguely perturbed at the lack of music, even though the congregation sang valiantly. It somehow didnt feel quite right for Easter day.

Was the worship stiff-upper-lip, happy clappy, or what?

It was solemn and dignified with the minimum of ceremony. The celebrant was vested in a gold coloured chasuble and his reader wore a blue scarf over his alb. Bells were rung at the consecration. The language was a mixture of modern and traditional, which seemed appropriate since the ex-pat congregation and the visitors must have come from all sorts of traditions.

Exactly how long was the sermon?

8 minutes.

On a scale of 1-10, how good was the preacher?

9 – The chaplain involved children in his sermon by inviting them to the front, where they were given the task of illustrating the risen Christ. The congregation had to sing "We are the king who rides a donkey" to the tune of "What shall we do with the drunken sailor." At the refrain "Jesus the king is risen" the children had to leap into the air.

In a nutshell, what was the sermon about?

In a nutshell, it was about the surprise of Easter. Surprises come in all forms: delightful, joyous, shocking. Everyone had seen Jesus crucified on the cross, yet his tomb was empty. This brought about mixed emotions of confusion and fear to Mary Magdalene and the other women who had brought spices to embalm his body. It is the same for us when we lose our loved ones. This is where God gives us a new direction and brings light out of darkness. We rejoice that Jesus has risen today.

Which part of the service was like being in heaven?

The peacefulness of the much used little church seemed like an oasis of calm amidst the bustle of the outside secular world.

And which part was like being in... er... the other place?

The lack of an organ meant everyone had to sing in tune. Some didnt manage it! A groaner somewhere behind me would have been better miming the words!

What happened when you hung around after the service looking lost?

A couple approached me; apparently we had boarded the same bus in Costa Teguise, some 10 miles away. Others made friendly conversation and I had a pleasant chat with the chaplain.

How would you describe the after-service coffee?

We were all presented with a small bag of mini Easter eggs. I dont think they had the facilities for offering liquid refreshments.

How would you feel about making another visit (where 10 = ecstatic, 0 = terminal)?

8 – People were friendly and convivial, and I departed thinking I would like to visit this church again. The opportunity presented itself sooner than I had anticipated! I found myself unable to return home and was stranded on Lanzarote because of the volcanic ash from an Icelandic volcano that caused all northern European airspace to close down. Fortunately my airline put me up at a luxury hotel, and so I had another chance to worship at the church again.

Did the service make you feel glad to be a Christian?

Undoubtedly. I always enjoy seeking out an Anglican service when I am on holiday, and I left this church feeling warm and contented.

What one thing will you remember about all this in seven days' time ?

The peace and the calm soothing feeling one experiences when visiting this church.

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