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Brave new parish

23 May 2014

IT IS three miles long by half a mile wide - not so very unusual - but the resident population of the parish is only about 30. Lundy Island was created a new parish of the diocese of Exeter last December, but the celebration of its new status waited until 1 May, when MS Oldenburg could be back in service after its winter break.

More than half the 64 passengers on board the vessel were bound for the celebratory service, includingthe Bishop of Crediton, the Rt Revd Nicholas McKinnel; the Archdeacon of Barnstaple, the Ven. David Gunn-Johnson; the Vicar of Lundy, the Revd Shirley Henderson; members of the Lundy Society; and a band of bell-ringers.

It was a damp and choppy crossing - too misty to see the estuary scenery as they left Bideford, or the island itself as they approached, and most of the visitors made straight for hot tea and coffee at the Marisco Tavern, the only hostelry on the island.

Some of them were brave enough to explore the village, and to visit the site of the first Celtic church and ancient burial site on Lundy. Then, as locals had predicted, the mist rolled down over the cliffs and disappeared, leaving the island in bright sunshine.

The service, preceded by a peal of bells, was in the late-Victorian Church of St Helena, which has replaced a medieval chapel dedicated to St Elena.

It began with Miss Henderson's welcoming a congregation of about 70 people, and explaining about the new parish. Bishop McKinnel gave the address, and then five Lundy residents were invited to express their thoughts on what Lundy meant to them.

The church, consecrated in 1897, and battered as it is by Atlantic storms, has been in a poor state for years, although the interior has recently been greatly improved. Being a separate parish, I'm told, will help in making grant applications for its restoration fund.

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