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||1223: Christ Church Cathedral, Stanley, Falkland Islands
Mystery Worshipper: Mark Wuntoo.
The church: Christ Church Cathedral, Stanley, Falkland Islands.
Denomination: Church of England.
The building: Christ Church is the southernmost cathedral in the
world and is undoubtedly the most impressive and beautiful building in the
Falklands, surpassing even Government House. Consecrated in 1892, it is
quite basic in design but with some beautiful stained glass and an attractive
wooden chancel screen. The structure is of naturally coloured stone, red
brick and corrugated iron. There is a bell tower containing five bells which
are rung before each main Sunday service. Tall trees hide the main frontage;
although they might be trimmed to good effect, people are reluctant to cut
them down as the preservation of old trees is a high priority for the environmentally
conscious Falklanders. The interior bears a number of reminders, in the
form of plaques and flags, of the events of 1982 and of the "liberation"
of the Falklands from Argentina by British forces. The recently refurbished
parish hall adjoining the church building is an attractive facility used
by church and community alike.
The church: This is the parish church of the Falkland Islands, South
Georgia, South Sandwich Islands and the British Antarctic Territories. The
Christian community in Stanley is not strong. On a good day church attendance
might be a little higher than five percent of the population; for "official"
services it is higher. The sense of self-confidence in the wider community
was not noticeable to me either at the cathedral or the United Free Church
Tabernacle down the road. Sadly, it was almost exclusively in the churches
that I discovered the few people who showed irrational antagonism toward
ordinary Argentine people.
The neighbourhood: Stanley, the capital of the Falklands, sits on
the easternmost tip of the East Island. Formerly known as Port Stanley,
the city has undergone a major upheaval since the events of 1982. From a
community in decline almost to the point of extinction, Stanley has become
a major tourist attraction such that workers for the service industries
must be recruited from Chile and St Helena. Tourism is now the Falklands'
second main source of revenue next to the issuance of fishing licenses for
the exploitation of squid. Taxicab companies have sprung up to take visitors
to the nearby beaches, penguin rookeries and battle sites. The cathedral
itself is surrounded by cafes, restaurants, clothing and electronic boutiques,
etc. All in all, the Falklanders seem to cope extremely well with the two
major impacts on their lives, tourism and the issue of sovereignty. One
senses a strong sense of self-identity and pride, coupled with a healthy
scepticism toward Britain's declared intention of maintaining the current
level of support for the Islands, particularly the high cost of maintaining
The cast: The Rev. Kathy Biles was assisted by various lay members
who read the lessons and the intercessions.
The date & time: 26 February 2006, 10.00am.
What was the name of the service?
All age worship.
How full was the building?
There were a number of rows of empty pews, although the congregation was
dispersed and the building felt rather more comfortably full than the small
numbers might suggest.
Did anyone welcome you personally?
Mrs Wuntoo and I, along with a leading Argentine Baptist minister with whom
we have been friends for many years, were warmly welcomed at the door by
the clergy and two stewards.
Was your pew comfortable?
It was a pew so it did not mould the body! But it had a runner to soften the hardness of the wood on our rear parts.
How would you describe the pre-service
Quiet and peaceful.
What were the exact opening words of the
"Good morning and welcome to our service of all age worship."
What books did the congregation use during the
Service Book of Christ Church Cathedral, a hymnal entitled Sing
Glory, and the New Revised Standard version of the Bible.
What musical instruments were played?
A smallish pipe organ, quite sufficient to lead the singing.
Did anything distract you?
The walls were covered with plaques commemorating noteworthy Falklanders
of the past. I realise that for some people such memorials are an aid to
worship, but I do not approve of such veneration. I was pleased to see that
a few of the people honoured were Falklanders I had known and who would
not have described themselves as "special."
Was the worship stiff-upper-lip, happy clappy, or
It was relaxed yet fairly formal. At one point I observed a teenager clapping
quietly to the beat of a song, but the others did not take it up and she
Exactly how long was the sermon?
On a scale of 1-10, how good was the preacher?
7 Kathy got off to a poor beginning as she addressed the children.
I thought it was going to be a children's sermon, but she soon adopted a
more adult tone.
In a nutshell, what was the sermon
Just as a rainbow changes the light, so the disciples at the Transfiguration
saw Jesus in a different light. Peter did not have a digital camera at his
disposal, but he nevertheless captured something of the glorious light and
made it permanent. We cannot reach out and touch the glory of Jesus, but
we can catch something of it from Mark's gospel story and we can share it,
like we share experiences with others on the internet.
Which part of the service was like being in
To have returned to the Islands was such a delight, and to be worshipping
with a dear Argentine friend by our side was very special.
And which part was like being in... er... the other place?
The person who read the intercessions apparently did not know how to use
a microphone, and so the intecessions were almost completely inaudible.
What happened when you hung around after the service looking lost?
We were invited to the parish hall for coffee and biscuits. People were
friendly, and although the conversation was pleasurable it was a little
hard-going in that we sometimes had to initiate the discussion. I was reminded
of the shyness and reserve of Islanders pre-1982.
How would you describe the after-service
It was plain coffee served in a china cup, nothing special but adequate and refreshing.
How would you feel about making this church your regular (where 10 = ecstatic, 0 = terminal)?
6 Hard to say, as we aren't residents of the Falklands. If we were,
we might be drawn more toward the Free Church down the road, although the
fact that we chose not to write a Mystery Worship report on our experience
there would weigh against it.
Did the service make you feel glad to be a
Yes. We felt glad just to be back in the Falklands once again. On top of
that, the atmosphere at the cathedral was welcoming and warm and the service
was easy to follow, so it reinforced our Christian joy.
What one thing will you remember about all this in seven days' time?
The joy of sharing worship with an Argentine Christian who had returned after 40 years because he loves the Islands and the people.
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