Harvest Festival in Palma, Mallorca

At this time of the year, churches everywhere are celebrating Harvest Festival. I came to our chaplaincy of St. James and St. Philip Palma, Mallorca to join in their harvest celebrations. The church was beautifully decorated for the festival.

In my sermon I preached on the gospel text: ‘Therefore I tell you do not worry about your life, what you will eat or what you will drink…for is not life more important than food, and the body more important than clothing.’ I noted just how much there has been to worry about over the last 18 months – physically, psychologically and economically. I suggested that Harvest Festival reminds us of God’s fatherly care for us. I said that the proper response to this care is an attitude of gratitude and thanksgiving. I took, by way of example, the Pilgrim Fathers celebrating their first ‘Thanksgiving’ almost exactly 400 years ago, in October 1621, having survived their first winter in the New World. For us, although life has been hard, and although we are not yet out of the woods – with the island of Mallorca facing a difficult winter ahead – there is still much to celebrate and much for which we should give thanks. 

One of the things I particularly like about the building of St. James and St. Philip is this triptych which decorates the inside north wall. To left and right are the chaplaincy’s patron saints, and in the centre is a Madonna with a halo representing all the ethnic groups of humanity.

Looking out on the congregation it seemed to me that the vision of a chaplaincy that would be a place of international and intergenerational welcome was on the way to being fulfilled. This group of worshippers was keen to be photographed together with the bishop.

Churchwardens are key lay leaders in any chaplaincy. They are ‘officers of the bishop’, and we have just published a Guide to what it means to hold this important office in the Diocese in Europe. As bishop, I am very grateful to Nita de Petersen and Shirley Roberts (above) for their care for the Chaplaincy during its recent vacancy and for all they are doing to help the new chaplain and his family settle in.

I was delighted to meet for the first time The Reverend Bill Boyce and his wife Eleanor. They are newly arrived from Belfast in Northern Ireland. Bill is licensed as Assistant Chaplain and has responsibility for the congregation in Puerto Pollença in the north of the island.

And it was a particular pleasure to become acquainted with the new Chaplain of Palma de Mallorca: The Very Revd. Dr. Ishanesu Gusha, formerly Dean of Harare Cathedral. The picture shows Ishanesu, his wife Caroline and two of their three young sons.

Caroline is a trained chef. She not only prepared a delicious meal but also gave me a huge fruit cake that she had baked to say ‘thank you for coming’. Getting this wonderful cake home safely, in the hold of my Ryanair return flight, was a risky process, but I’m glad to say it survived the flight fully intact.

It was a long and complicated process for the chaplaincy to bring this delightful young family to Palma from Zimbabwe. Their arrival promises much in terms of strengthening the intergenerational and international nature of the community.

Collation of The Revd. Marcus Ronchetti as a Canon of the Cathedral Chapter

The historic seaside resort of Calpe lies roughly centrally along the coast of the Chaplaincy of Costa Blanca, and is home to the Senior Chaplain, The Revd. Marcus Ronchetti. The city’s dominant geographical feature is the great limestone rock of Calpe. Marcus had the idea of inviting the bishop to begin his visit by scaling the rock.

This is quite a challenging walk. The path is in two parts. A broad track goes as far as a tunnel. The path inside the tunnel is well polished and slippery. Beyond the tunnel, it is a case of climbing and scrambling to the summit.

This was the first time I had needed my mountain boots for a chaplaincy visit. Marcus told me that he had long had a fear of heights, but had rather recently managed to conquer it. If he had any such fear, it certainly was not in evidence on our walk, which gave new meaning to the diocesan motto “walking together in faith”.

At the summit, I was invited to bless the Chaplaincy which extends South as far as you can see (towards Alicante airport) and north as far as you can see (towards Valencia airport). I recalled how many significant biblical encounters with God took place on mountain tops. And I was glad to pronounce the Aaronic blessing over the people of the chaplaincy. 2021 happens to be the 50th anniversary of the founding of the Chaplaincy of Costa Blanca, and there was surely no better way to mark the occasion!

The view over the coastline on the way down was spectacular.

All of this made for an excellent ‘warm up act’ to the business of licensing and collating Marcus as a Canon of the Cathedral Chapter of the Diocese in Europe. This was done, safely back at ground level, in a different kind of attire, in a Eucharistic service in the beautiful Roman Catholic Church of Our Lady of Mercy, which is the Chaplaincy’s Calpe worship centre.

Marcus has been a priest for 40 years. He has given 10 years of ministry to this Chaplaincy. He loves his work, and the joy he finds in it is reflected by the huge appreciation that his people express for his ministry.

Costa Blanca is a large chaplaincy with multiple worship centres, and Marcus leads a big team of PtO clergy as well as talented and committed lay leaders.

Beyond the Chaplaincy itself, Marcus has a particular area of ministry as a presenter and DJ with the Pure Gold radio station, broadcasting to the Costas (and the world) on 94.1 FM. This is a great work of outreach bringing the gospel in an accessible way to many who do not attend church. It is a ministry that has been particularly important during times of lockdown. 

Costa Blanca is dedicated to the Holy Spirit, which makes it a Pentecostal Parish. In my sermon, I invited the congregation to reflect on the work of the Holy Spirit in animating our prayers, in guiding us through life, and in generating the fruit of a beautiful character. My hope and prayer for this Chaplaincy is that ‘Costa Blanca at 50’ will be a community where people are growing in Christian character as they open themselves to the purifying and nurturing activity of the Holy Spirit. St. Paul writes: ‘when one member is honoured, all rejoice together’. This ceremony of collation was indeed a real opportunity for rejoicing, after a long and anxious period of living with Covid-19. It was a great joy to be together, to worship together, and in the evening to party together.