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2296: Holy Trinity, meeting in Ermita de San Fernando, Puerto de Mogán, Canary Islands
Holy Trinity, Gran Canaria
Mystery Worshipper: Galadriel.
The church: Holy Trinity, meeting in Ermita de San Fernando, Puerto de Mogán, Las Palmas de Gran Canaria, Canary Islands.
Denomination: Church of England, Diocese in Europe.
The building: This Anglican congregation has its own church building, but on Fridays they meet in the Roman Catholic Ermita de San Fernando Puerto de Mogán, a small chapel built by a local family in 1936. It is simply furnished, with wooden pews on either side of a central aisle. The altar stands in front of a wooden reredos that includes a statue of Mary, mother of Jesus, above a statue of her Son on the cross. Other statues include San Fernando, in 16th century Spanish costume. The décor also includes stations of the cross along the walls on either side.
The church: On their website they state that they are "the English speaking church for all Anglicans" and that "members of other Christian denominations are very welcome." They maintain close ties with other island churches. They sponsor a lunch club and an opera group as well as a mission in Peru.
The neighbourhood: Gran Canaria is one of the more central of the Canary Islands, situated in the Atlantic Ocean off the coast of northwest Africa. Puerto de Mogán is a former fishing village whose canals and bridges have earned it the sobriquet "the Venice of the Canaries." Its small village charm and volcanic mountain scenery make it a popular tourist attraction, as do its good local restaurants featuring fresh-caught seafood.
The cast: The Revd Peter Ford, chaplain.
The date & time: Friday, 2 December 2011, 12.00pm.

What was the name of the service?
Holy Communion.

How full was the building?
Nine in the congregation, including a lector from the Spanish Episcopal church, who also administered the chalice during communion.

Did anyone welcome you personally?
Everyone, including your Mystery Worshipper, was welcomed outside the church by the priest, who was clearly waiting there to greet his congregation. He acknowledged each individual or group as they arrived. Some were clearly well known to him but he was equally friendly to all.

Was your pew comfortable?
Hard, especially the kneeler built into the back of the pew in front. But no worse than many another I have experienced.

How would you describe the pre-service atmosphere?
Quiet and reverential, permeated by the noise of shoppers in the street market outside, but not to the point of distraction.

What were the exact opening words of the service?
"Welcome!" The priest then proceeded to say it was good to welcome newcomers and to welcome back those with previous connections to the church. He added that everyone should sit, kneel or stand as they felt most comfortable – there were no expectations about these things.

What books did the congregation use during the service?
The priest handed everyone a laminated service sheet with the outline of the service, including all congregational responses. At the end of the service he also handed out the Chaplaincy's December newsletter.

What musical instruments were played?
There was no music.

Did anything distract you?
The paschal candle, next to which was the church's fire extinguisher. I wondered whether this was serendipitous or good risk assessment! Immediately above the extinguisher there was a statue of Christ, which offered further distraction about risk assessment.

Was the worship stiff-upper-lip, happy clappy, or what?
It was a traditional Anglican said communion service, well ordered but at neither extreme of Anglican worship. The version of Common Worship that they followed is frequently used in the Diocese of Europe. It was a formal order of service with the usual elements of a communion service, where the congregation said the Gloria, the creed, and sundry responses.

Exactly how long was the sermon?
9 minutes.

On a scale of 1-10, how good was the preacher?
9 – Tremendously enthusiastic. He used notes but addressed the congregation directly most of the time. And he smiled frequently.

In a nutshell, what was the sermon about?
The theme of the day's gospel, which was the opening verses of St Mark. This cuts to the heart of the story of the Christian good news. Mark does not spend time on the early years of Christ's life but goes directly to the main theme of his ministry, that "Jesus Christ is good news." Christians tend to forget the good news and worry about peripheral things like the state of their church's roof. They can lack joy. People go into church looking like miserable sinners and come out looking like miserable sinners. Their lives do not reflect Jesus' challenge to carry the good news. Even if we cannot forget about financial worries, we should at least leave the service with smiles on our faces as we take the gospel message with us.

Which part of the service was like being in heaven?
The obvious enthusiasm of the preacher for the joy of the gospel message.

And which part was like being in... er... the other place?
The absence of music, apart from the distant strains of popular songs from the street market outside.

What happened when you hung around after the service looking lost?
So small a congregation does not admit of being overlooked! The priest and people chatted outside after the service in a very friendly way.

How would you describe the after-service coffee?
The church does not have facilities for providing its own coffee. Refreshments are taken in a local tapas bar and this information is printed at the end of the service sheet with an invitation to attend. Presumably one could spend the rest of the day there if one so chose!

How would you feel about making this church your regular (where 10 = ecstatic, 0 = terminal)?
6 – The welcome was friendly but I would miss singing hymns and the support of a larger congregation. Presumably if one lived in Puerto de Mogán, one could find transport up to the Chaplaincy's other churches in Maspalomas or Las Palmas, where there is a larger English-speaking population.

Did the service make you feel glad to be a Christian?
Yes. We may have been a small group, but everyone there was willing to find time on a weekday for worship despite the attractions of a holiday destination. It was good to be together.

What one thing will you remember about all this in seven days' time?
Two things. The friendliness of the congregation and the sincerity of the sermon.
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