Monday, April 8, 2013

Tristan da Cunha

It is the world's most remote group of islands, 6,173 miles from Britain, and has more birds and penguins than human residents.

But there is one thing missing from the lives of the Tristan da Cunha islanders - it cannot find a vicar to give them spiritual guidance.

The volcanic British territory in the South Atlantic has been without a parish priest since Father Chris Brown left in 2010.

The post has been advertised several times, according to the Church Times, but so far no one has agreed to make their home 1,750 miles from the nearest landmass of Africa.

Now the residents, who number 262, could have a woman as their next priest as the Cape Town diocese steps up its attempts to fill the vacancy.

Lorna Lavarello-Smith,  who was born on the island, is training in Peterborough to be a priest and is helping the search.

She is and is due to be ordained this summer before serving a curacy in Northamptonshire.

Ms Lavarello-Smith, the descendant of Italian Gaetano Lavarello, who was shipwrecked on the island in 1892, hopes to return to live on Tristan da Cunha 'one day', the Independent on Sunday reported,

She described the island as a 'very special' place in which to serve, adding: '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.

'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.'

According to Tristan da Cunha's website, the new vicar of St Mary's will ideally play a musical instrument and teach at the school.

The advert said: 'Applicants should be active and energetic. A keen interest in church music and the ability to play an instrument would be an asset.'

Tristan da Cunha is a close-knit community with just seven surnames among its inhabitants, but some of its priests have found life depressing and lonely there.

The Reverend Edwin H Dodgson, younger brother of writer Lewis Carroll, grew so unhappy at the 'unnatural state of isolation' he told of his despair four years after arriving as a teacher and missionary in 1880.  He wrote: 'It has been my daily prayer that God would open up some way for us all to leave ...There is not the slightest reason for this island to be inhabited at all.'

There was a 13-year time lapse between a vicar's appointment when the Rev Graham Barrow quit the island in 1909.

The archipelago, first sighted in 1506, consists of the main island of Tristan da Cunha itself, which measures about seven miles across. Settlers arrived in 1810. It has an area of 37.8 sq miles, along with the uninhabited Nightingale Islands and the wildlife reserves of Inaccessible Island and Gough Island.

There is no airport and only nine ships are scheduled to visit from Cape Town, the nearest major port. Television arrived only in 2001, but there are only two terrestrial channels.

During World War Two, It  was used as a listening post to monitor German ships while the entire population was evacuated from 1961-63 over a threatened volcano eruption.

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