A Warm Welcome
As I write this piece I am enjoying the sunshine and the warmth of the sun in the south of Spain. Having been to church in Ahaurin el Grande on Sunday I was struck there by the warmth of welcome, not just to me, but other ‘swallows’ who have returned for a sojourn in the sun. I was also reminded of the similarities of the worship I enjoy both at home and out here.
The church in Alhaurin is one of 3 satellite churches that comes under the Chaplaincy of St Andrews, Fuengirola. The incumbent, Reverend Alaric Lewis, has been our chaplain for about 2 years, after an interregnum which saw numerous retired clergy coming to help us maintain worship. Sound familiar? We have Canon John Sutton, an associate minister who lives permanently on the Costa and who shares in the responsibility of ministering to the 4 churches. We also have a reader, Caroline, who leads at Morning Prayer services and All Age Worship in Alhaurin.
The churches have Communion services twice monthly, with each minister taking 2 services on the Sunday, involving hot-footing it from the coast up to Alhaurin, which meant the service there had to be re-scheduled to 11.30. (Again, does this sound familiar?) There was much grumbling at this, but as time has passed we are now settled into the pattern of services, and fellowship after church, over coffee, is enjoyed as much as ever. As in Blackrod, members of the laity accept the duties required to get the church ready for the service, to read the lessons set for the day and delivering the intercessions. The core congregation is small but is regularly swelled with visitors.
C of E worship in Alhaurin did not exist when I was first out in the area, and in 2009 it was decided to offer a service inland, initially in people’s homes. This was much appreciated, well attended and had a very special feel to it, someone commented that this was probably what it was like for the early church. Then one day, over coffee it was announced that there was a chance we would be allowed to use the Cemetery church in Alhaurin el Grande. The Chaplaincy wanted to have a more permanent worship centre inland for a growing congregation. We were warned though, that permissions had to be granted from the Mayor in Alhaurin and the path smoothed with the local Catholic priests. So as all things official seem to take an age in Spain we were asked to pray for the necessary permissions but not to raise our hopes that it would be very speedy! However, our prayers were answered and after 4 weeks of services in homes, we were given keys to the church where we now worship.
So, the uncertainty was addressed, as in Blackrod, and we now have a settled and thriving congregation. Working together ensured that the weekly services continued and prayers to resolve the appointment of a new incumbent were answered. I am blessed that I am able to share worship and fellowship in two such special places, and pray that they both can go from strength to strength in bringing God’s word to the community around them.
The services in Alhaurin always end with these words ‘Our worship is ended, our service now begins’. I commend them to you all.
Link to St Andrews’ Fuengirola’s web site http://www.st-andrewscofe-spain.org/