Wednesday, 26 February 2020

4. The King's Chapel, Gibraltar: February 2020

On Sunday 16th February 2020, during our half-term visit to Gibraltar, we attended the 10am Eucharist at The King’s Chapel, located next to the Governor’s Residence.

About twenty of us gathered, including one lady who travels in, across the border with Spain, every Sunday; a journey that takes her 45 minutes.

The King’s Chapel is a splendid building, complete with regimental flags and plaques commemorating various military commanders of the garrison since the 18th century.  We discovered, over coffee afterwards, that the Ministry of Defence pay for the running of the chapel.

Until recently three chaplains, one from each branch of the Services, served on Gibraltar.  Now there is just one, currently a Roman Catholic priest attached to the Royal Navy but serving military personnel in The Territory.

As the 10am service in The King’s Chapel was an Anglican Eucharist the officiant that morning was the acting Dean of the Cathedral, Holy Trinity, just around the corner.  A Roman Catholic Mass is held every Saturday evening presided over by the Chaplain.  Interestingly, 80% of the population of Gibraltar are Roman Catholic.

The preacher at the service, The Revd Ron Curtis, was a lovely, friendly man who told me, once he knew we were from Amersham, that he had trained for the ministry with The Revd Diana Glover, formerly of St Michael’s!  He is currently serving as Chaplain to the Port and spends his time visiting the ships.  Indeed, just as the service started we were joined by a captain of one of the vessels the Chaplain had visited that week; he popped in to light a candle and say a prayer.

The Revd Curtis preached with warmth and integrity and it was easy to see how he was a ‘people person’, a vital quality in any chaplaincy ministry.

We sang the hymns unaccompanied during the service as no organist was available, and it was great that quite a small congregation made such a hearty and enthusiastic sound.

We stayed for coffee afterwards and people were very friendly and welcoming.  It was good to see that three children having Junior Church were still in situ in the coffee room.

It was significant that both the clergy who officiated at The King’s Chapel, and later at the 11am service in the Cathedral, were retired.  Yet they continue to minister and offer their considerable gifts to the ongoing ministry of the Anglican parish of Gibraltar.

The Royal Naval Chaplain called in over the coffee time and chatted with us.  Much of his ministry is taken up at the naval dockyard in the north of The Territory.

Once again we found great integrity and faithfulness on a Sabbatical Sunday.  The King’s Chapel congregation were exemplary in their welcome.  The sermon was full of compassion and the clergy epitomise what it means to be ‘actively’ retired.

We came away encouraged to have experienced a real sense of community in this historic context.

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