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Hispanic Mission given permanent home in Southwark

07 September 2018


Dr Rachel Koopmans, Associate Professor of History at York University, Tornoto, surveyes stained glass panels at Canterbury Cathedral, on Tuesday. The panels were thought to be the work of Victorian restorers, but have been found to date to the late 12th century. It is thought that this makes them the earliest known art works which depict pilgrims travelling to Canterbury

Dr Rachel Koopmans, Associate Professor of History at York University, Tornoto, surveyes stained glass panels at Canterbury Cathedral, on Tuesday. The...

WHEN the Latino members of the parish of Holy Trinity with St Matthew, Southwark (known as St Matthew’s at the Elephant) set out on a pilgrimage to Canterbury Cathedral this month, they will be taking another step in what the Priest-in-Charge, the Revd Dr Hugo Adán-Fernández, calls a “theological adventure”.

The Hispanic Mission, which Dr Adán-Fernández founded two years ago to serve Spanish-speaking Anglicans in the area (Features, 2 June 2017), has been given a permanent home at St Matthew’s at the Elephant.

There are plans to introduce two worship services each day: one in English and the other in Spanish. The PCC will contain members of both communities, and the whole community will gather at special events such as the patronal festival and Holy Week.”

The aim, Dr Adán-Fernández said last week, was to “explore together the identity of Anglicanism within the C of E, when you are not British”. How could Latino members be Anglican in a church that was sometimes “attached to Victorian times” and a history that wasn’t theirs? “How do we allow all those expressions within the C of E and value them equally?”

Among those who will help the congregation to explore this is Canon Anthony Guillén, director of ethnic ministries in the Episcopal Church in the United States, who is due to visit next month, and join the Peregrinación a la Catedral de Canterbury tomorrow.

Before the arrival of the Hispanic Mission, there were no Spanish-speaking worshippers at St Matthew’s, despite its being situated in the heart of an area with a large Latino population. Members had been “very happy” with the proposal put to them by the Bishop of Southwark, the Rt Revd Christopher Chessun, Dr Adán-Fernández said.

The next steps included the election of PCC members, including a Spanish-speaking church warden, and to “explore how we can use together the same space in different ways”. It would be “a challenge”, he acknowledged, as “normally everybody is very much attached to their own way of doing things”.

Members of the Hispanic Mission — most of whom come from a Pentecostal or unchurched/dechurched background — have already embarked on one pilgrimage: to Walsingham, last year. While the concept of pilgrimage was familiar, they were “becoming little by little more aware of the full meaning of Anglicanism”, Dr Adán-Fernández said. “Everyone is quite excited, because Canterbury is the spiritual centre of Anglicanism.”

He believes that this is the first time that mass will be celebrated in Spanish at Canterbury, for people of a Latino background.

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