CRYSTAL-BLUE seas, white sands, and sea turtles are among the stars of the next series of An Island Parish, due to be broadcast next month.
After series set on the Isles of Scilly, Barra, Sark, the Falklands, and the Shetlands, the 12th series will focus on Anguilla, a British overseas territory in the Caribbean, which has a population of just 14,000.
There are 19 churches representing 15 denominations, but the main parish is St Mary’s, overseen by the Bishop of the North Eastern Caribbean & Aruba, the Rt Revd Leroy Errol Brooks.
“This paradise is extremely fragile,” he says, in the first episode, which shows him island-hopping, visiting residents, and taking a daily “sea bath” prescribed by doctors.
The show also features a clinical psychologist, Dr Linda Banks, who is a Reader, and helps to run several activities, including the Guides. She also serves as a psychological consultant for the diocese, providing psychological evaluations and counselling support to priests. This week, she said that she was sensitive to what was being portrayed in the BBC programme: “I wanted to make sure that they did not feed into negative stereotypes about the Caribbean, and I think they accomplished that.”
She had been “amazed at all that goes on in Anguilla”, she said, including the conservation work of the National Trust.
The Church was “integral” to life on the island, she said. “People believe in God. There is a strong religious ethic here. They believe that prayer changes things. They believe that God has a hand in everything that happens.”
The Church was involved in tackling challenges, she said, and was committed to eradicating violence and reducing the incidence of HIV/AIDS. It was also aware of the need to reach out in a changing culture: “The Church has got to be contemporary, to keep its doors open.” The first episode shows a performance created for a Palm Sunday episode.
The production team — the show is made by Tiger Aspect — impressed Dr Banks. “Sometimes, people come to your island, and spend a couple of days or a week, then portray themselves as experts on the island. The team totally got themselves immersed in the community. They really got a feel for the life of the island.”
An Island Parish begins on BBC2 on 2 January at 8.30 p.m.