THE vicarage has stunning
views of the sea, lies at the heart of a close-knit community, and
has a garden that serves as a playground for penguins. It also lies
in the shadow of an active volcano, and takes a week to reach, by
ship, from Cape Town.
St Mary's, on Tristan de
Cunha, the world's remotest inhabited archipelago, has been without
a resident Anglican priest since 2010. This is believed to be the
longest interregnum since the arrival of the Revd Martin Rogers in
1922, after the Revd Graham Barrow's departure in 1909.
Lorna Lavarello-Smith, who
is leading the job search, said last month that applicants were
promised a "very special place" in which to serve.
"If you are looking for a
ministry where you want to be close to God and close to nature,
then Tristan da Cunha is the place for you," she said. "There is
something about being in the middle of the South Atlantic Ocean,
reliant on a community of people with whom you live. You hear the
sound of God's voice much more clearly."
In June, Mrs
Lavarello-Smith, an "islander to the backbone" who came to England
to study for her A levels, will become the first islander to be
ordained priest. At the ceremony, at Peterborough Cathedral, she
will wear an ordination stole designed by one of the children from
Tristan da Cunha, which features a picture of the island, kelp, a
longboat, and an albatross with an olive branch.
She will serve her curacy in
Great and Little Billing, Northampton, and hopes to return to
Tristan da Cunha and take church services there during a
forthcoming visit. She hopes to return to live there "one day".
Tristan da Cunha, a British
overseas territory, is home to 262 British citizens, who share
seven surnames. Mrs Lavarello-Smith is the descendent of an
Italian, Gaetano Lavarello, who was shipwrecked on the island in
1892. This year, just nine ships will make the 750-mile journey
from Cape Town to the island.
St Mary's, part of the
diocese of Cape Town, was completed in 1923, and is currently
served by three lay ministers. Former incumbents were sent out by
the Society for the Propagation of the Gospel (recently renamed
Us), including the Revd Edwin H. Dodgson, the younger brother of
Lewis Carroll, who was appointed as a missionary and schoolteacher
in 1880 - a post the Bishop of St Helena had been trying to fill
for some years.
Mr Dodgson's early optimism
faded, and, in 1884, he wrote of the "unnatural state of
isolation", concluding: "There is not the slightest reason for this
island to be inhabited at all. It has been my daily prayer that God
would open up some way for us all to leave the island." After
learning of the death of 15 men in a boat accident in 1885,
however, he returned to the island, and remained there until 1889,
for a time without any stipend.