The Anglican congregation of St Laurence worships in several borrowed locales around the area, including this church building, the Roman Catholic church of Nuestra Señora de Nazaret. It is a simple little church, painted white both outside and inside. There are no windows because it is designed to keep the congregation cool beneath the hot Canarian sunshine. Behind the communion table is a large statue of the Virgin Mary holding baby Jesus. A statue of Jesus and another of Mary cradling the crucified Jesus are placed on either side. Stations of the cross can be seen around the interior and several religious paintings adorn the walls. The altar and statues were decorated with fresh flowers, making the church look very attractive.
They minister to the quite considerable resident ex-pat community, providing services of holy communion and morning prayer as well as sponsoring a Mothers' Union, Bible study, a monthly Apostles' Lunch (an informal social occasion), and other events.
Lanzarote is the easternmost island in the Canary Islands, situated in the Atlantic Ocean off the coast of northwest Africa. It is about 40 miles long and 15 miles wide, and has an incredible volcanic interior, the most dramatic part being the Timanfaya national park. Nazaret is a small village in a mountainous area about eight miles from Arrecife, the capital of Lanzarote. The church is in quite a remote mountainous location and is surrounded by a lunar-like landscape of extinct volcanoes! Nearby is the home of the deceased artist Cesar Manrique, which is now open to the public. It is built partly within and above volcanic caves, and houses an art gallery of his own works as well as those of Picasso and Salvador Dali, who were his friends. Manriques influence in architecture can be seen all over this small island in the form of miradors, monuments and roadside sculptures. Very close to the church is El Campesino, a monument Manrique dedicated to farmers (see photo at end of this report).
The church is in an interregnum at the moment. The celebrant and preacher was their locum priest, the Venerable Geoffrey Arrand, who had served for 15 years as Archdeacon of Suffolk before retiring in 2009. He was assisted by Eiry Rees, the congregational worship leader. It was announced at this service that a new chaplain will assume his duties early next year.
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 30 adults of a mixture of ages, a baby, and four small children.
Did anyone welcome you personally?
I met Archdeacon Arrand as we were alighting from our cars. He told me he was standing in as a temporary measure, and was just beginning to know people. Several other people greeted me both outside and inside the church.
Was your pew comfortable?
The modern wooden pew was as comfortable as you could expect, but the fixed wooden kneeler was decidedly painful, as I discovered when I knelt to pray before the service. I wondered whether the locals provide cushioned kneelers or whether they just sit to pray. Anyway I did not subject my knees to any more discomfort during the service!
How would you describe the pre-service atmosphere?
There was some quiet chatter as people greeted each other.
What were the exact opening words of the service?
"In the name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit."
What books did the congregation use during the service?
An order of service, which was Common Worship order one, and a hymnbook, Complete Anglican Hymns, Old and New.
What musical instruments were played?
A portable electric keyboard.
Did anything distract you?
I was intrigued by the statues, two of which were obviously of the Virgin Mary holding Our Lord. I decided the statue on the left was Jesus as opposed to Joseph or any other saint.
Was the worship stiff-upper-lip, happy clappy, or what?
It was conducted in a formal manner with reverence and dignity, and traditional hymns were sung. Archdeacon Arrand, or Father Geoffrey, as he preferred to be called, was vested in a gold coloured chasuble and his assistant wore a cream cassock-alb. Sanctus bells were rung at the consecration.
Exactly how long was the sermon?
On a scale of 1-10, how good was the preacher?
9 – The archdeacon preached succinctly on the topic of seasonal interest, Christ the King. He mentioned that this last Sunday before the season of Advent, sometimes called "stir up Sunday", was often a reminder to people to start making their Christmas puddings!
In a nutshell, what was the sermon about?
Evil forces have always sought power. In our time there is a struggle for power in places like Afghanistan, Iraq, Libya and Egypt. Yet when we pray "for thine is the kingdom, the power and the glory", we are praying to Christ the King, or the servant king, who is the power of love, truth and justice. God is always on the side of the poor and the oppressed. The servant king gives us peace, grace, love and forgiveness.
Which part of the service was like being in heaven?
This is the kind of church where I always enjoy worshipping when away from home. The ex-pats who live here have obviously gone to great lengths over the years to build up this parish. Their responses were enthusiastic and everyone sang heartily, so I really was in heaven for the entire service. The singing of "Guide me O thou great redeemer" was particularly moving when quite a few people sang some lovely harmonies.
And which part was like being in... er... the other place?
It is always difficult to keep young children occupied and quiet. Ill say no more!
What happened when you hung around after the service looking lost?
Quite a few people spoke to me and asked where I was staying. They all seemed to be very friendly.
How would you describe the after-service coffee?
A lady offered me shortbread from a tin and apologised that there wasnt any sangria on offer! There were no facilities for offering normal refreshments because of the remote location.
How would you feel about making another visit (where 10 = ecstatic, 0 = terminal)?
10 – I would definitely want to be involved actively with this lovely parish if I lived on the island. Everyone had to drive their cars quite some distance to gather at this delightful little church, and the outcome was a most moving act of worship.
Did the service make you feel glad to be a Christian?
What one thing will you remember about all this in seven days' time ?
Well, I dont think I have ever attended a church surrounded by volcanoes before. Thankfully they are all inactive! However, the delight expressed by the congregation when they were told that a new chaplain had been appointed to the parish was a joy to behold. I hope this lovely island parish will flourish for many years to come.