The island of Madeira is at the far South-West corner of the Diocese in Europe. It lies off the West Coast of Africa, and for part of its history was in the Diocese of Sierra Leone. It has a sub-tropical climate with warm weather all the year round. Work on the English Church in the island capital of Funchal was begun in 1817, so this being 2017 I was invited to help launch a bicentennial appeal as well as to confirm two adult candidates.
I was pleased to be joined on this trip by Archdeacon Geoff Johnston, pictured here in front of the distinctive neo-classical church building.
Holy Trinity church is set in a beautiful garden well stocked with flowers and shrubs, and elegant palm and banana trees. It is quite a large building and could seat 300 if the balconies were used. Though the local congregation is small, it attracts a good congregation from regular visitors to the island.
One of the particular features of Holy Trinity Funchal is the British Cemetery, which offered burials to Protestants of all nationalities. Many notable and interesting people have visited or lived in Madeira over the centuries. Some came for health reasons because of the warm climate and clean air. Those buried in the cemetery include a King of Bonny, an African goddaughter of Queen Victoria and Dr. Langerhans – the German doctor who discovered the ‘islets of Langerhans’ that produce insulin.
A neo-classical church, its surrounding gardens, and a sizeable cemetery all cost a lot of money to maintain. In days gone by, Holy Trinity had large congregations of wealthy residents, but that, sadly, is no longer the case, so a special appeal for funds is needed.
The main ‘launch event’ for the appeal was a magnificent banquet for over 100 people.
Holy Trinity’s two most senior members are Maureen Goncalves and Elizabeth Burca, whose history with the church goes back some 60 years. Elizabeth was a cordon bleu cook and her husband was the manager of Reid’s Palace, Madeira’s best-known hotel. Maureen worked in the British Consulate.
Holy Trinity Funchal is a little piece of English history. It is now a Portuguese trust. It hopes to be an international church, open to all nations, to be used for social and cultural events as well as worship. It looks forward to being fully embraced and understood as a special part of Madeira’s heritage and finding its place in Madeira’s future.
The visit concluded with a memorable traditional barbecue, kindly hosted by the churchwardens, at an off the beaten track restaurant in the mountains. Note the skewers of meat hanging from the ceiling!