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Priest wanted; sea view available

Madeleine Davies

by Madeleine Davies

Posted: 05 Apr 2013 @ 12:13

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. 


Click to enlarge

St Mary's


St Mary's

"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. 


Click to enlarge

The only village on the island


The only village on 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.

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