This is the invitation and mantra of this week's ‘Humans of Majorca’. I took my place in the vicarage of Palma to come and see for myself what is going on here – right now. I have a love story and a series of events which brought my people to this place. Humans of Majorca in every sense of the word.
‘You always get two for the price of one with us’ is the introduction from Lesley Southern – Vicars wife. To tell the full story needs a little current background information on life in the Anglican Church in Majorca. Rev Paul and his wife Lesley arrived a couple of weeks ago to take over part of the interregnum of the Anglican Church in Palma. The previous Vicar was promoted and this left a vacancy in Palma. The Church of England have a detailed procedure in the appointment and allocation of Vicars and it is time consuming. It can take up to a year for the process to be worked through.
Caretaker vicars are sought to fill in the time and keep the church on track. Many newly retired vicars would jump at the chance of a parish in the sun for a few weeks, so applicants are many. This, of course, is not the point. The Anglican Churches in Majorca have a faithful membership slightly in decline as life changes for many on the island. Brexit has sent some away plus the advancing years of others who choose to go back to the UK as their health deteriorates. This is not the time for a replacement vicar to be anything other than energetic and fully dedicated to the life and growth of the parish. Interregnum or not the spiritual needs of the users of the Anglican Church still goes on as does the need to invite and welcome new members.
Visit to Palma
Paul and Lesley rocked up at the Anglican church in Palma in 2000. They were on holiday contemplating retirement from their long term ministry at St Nicholas Tolleshunt D’Arcy in Essex. They were keen to visit the Palma Church as they were avid watchers of the TV series ‘Parish in the Sun’. On screen Rev Robert Ellis seemed to be having a great time in his busy, buzzing church and Paul and Lesley wanted to see for themselves what a European outpost of the Anglican church was like.
That visit helped them make a decision as to what to do with their retirement. They offered themselves to the Church in Europe to become locum priests to cover holidays, sickness and longer interregnums. This began great adventures for them and they loved getting to know the communities and countries they worked in. Before much time passed they were in Majorca as locums for the Anglican Church in Pollensa. Then, when Robert Ellis retired they found themselves in Palma for months. Recently they have been doing locum work in Pollensa, as they too are looking for a new Vicar. Now they have landed again in Palma.
Paul and Lesley are cheerful, happy people who are just delighted to be in this place among people they know and like. They are in situ here until the beginning of May and have a full programme of work to attempt. Supposedly part time but you can’t hold these two back in their excitement of serving God in Majorca.
They have a sweet love story and Lesley knew when she first saw Paul that she would marry him. He was a confirmed bachelor, working for the Post Office on the South Coast of the UK. She was a chef at a Training College where the staff all went to Church on Sundays at St Lukes, Prestonville near Brighton. Paul also attended the church and that is how they met. An age difference made no difference to love and they married three months after the proposal.
Career in the Post Office
Paul was increasingly convinced that the Ministry was the path he should be pursuing. The career in the Post Office was paying the bills and enabling married life but the niggle in the brain was worth investigating. Three babies and domesticity was Lesley’s delight and then it was up sticks and a family move to Oak Hill Theological College to begin the training to be a C of E Vicar. This led to Paul’s ordination in Chelmsford Cathedral in 1987. Leyton was then the inner city, four year curacy learning curve for the whole family. In time a country parish was theirs in Essex and the work began as a fully fledged Vicar.
Village life and the churches place in it was the challenge they were happy to accept. Boys Brigade and all the children’s events around the Sunday School were a delight. The ministry to a second village church in Tolleshunt Major was part of the work and Paul and Lesley loved it all and saw themselves as encouragers of all that was good in their church community.
Their three children grew up there and one still lives in the same area. Essex is still their home when they are not preaching in one part of Europe or another. Paul and Lesley are a team who really want people to ‘Come and See’ what the Anglican Church in Palma believes and does. The smile and the welcome are the essential tools for ministry and they know that people come to church for many reasons. At the very least a smile and an acknowledgment that people are welcome is a good start.
“Come and See”
Life in Majorca is transient for many and to minister to a population on the move is not always easy. The balancing act of managing a group who have roots here and those who are on holiday or only home for the season is tricky. Every week in the time Paul and Lesley are here the outreach and welcome is the same and the words ‘Come and See’ are what they stand by. ‘Come and See’ if this church community is for you, come and experience the welcome. Come and have a cup of coffee or avail yourself of the English library. ‘Come and see’ what activities the building offers and see if anything appeals to you.
Paul and Lesley invite you and will constantly repeat the mantra wherever they are just ‘Come and See- - you are so very welcome...
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