Thursday, December 07, 2006

The Southernmost Cathedral in the Anglican Communion

At 8 a.m. on Sunday morning The Order for Holy Communion from The Book of Common Prayer (1662) is used in Christ Church Cathedral, Port Stanley, Falkland Isles. It is used again for Evensong in the evening.

Christ Church has a massive parish - all the Falkland Islands, South Georgia, and the British Antarctic Territories. The Cathedral status is based upon the fact that here was the seat, cathedra, of the Bishop of the Falkland Islands, whose diocese also covered the south of South America. Today, there are Anglican Bishops of the Province of the Southern Cone in the south of South America, and since 1978 the Archbishop of Canterbury has held the office of both Bishop of the Falkland Islands and Dean of the Cathedral. In 2006 - 2007 the Bishop of Dover of the Diocese of Canterbury acts as the Commissary and visits by courtesy of the Royal Air Force.

The foundation of Christ Church was laid in 1890 and it was consecrated by the first Bishop, the Rt. Rev. Waite Hockin Stirling in 1892. It replaced Holy Trinity Church, destroyed in 1886 by a Peat slip -- peat on the hill moved as a black mass of liquid earth, destroying buildings in its path.

Christ Church has a tower, nave and chancel, excellent stained glass windows, and many memorial tablets on its walls. Facing East, it looks like an English late Victorian Church of stone and bricks but its roof, like others in the town, is of corrugated iron rather than of traditional English slate. In the Chancel is the pipe organ, choir stalls, the Holy Table - with cross and two Candlesticks - and the Bishop´s Cathedra. There is room for about 200 people in the pews.

The Cathedral has a priest-in-charge - currently vacant - and a non-stipendary minister, the Rev. K. Biles. The priest-in-charge is called Rector, because he is Rector of the Falkland Islands, South Georgia, and the British Antarctic Territories. Technically, the Archbishop of Canterbury is both Dean and Rector of the Cathedral.

Regrettably, as in Great Britain itself, church attendance in the Falklands is low. With a population of around 3000, with 2000 in Stanley itself, not more than one tenth is found in Christ Church and the other churches -- R C and Protestant Nonconformist -- on a regular Sunday. However, for Christmas Carol Services and Funerals the Churches are packed.

Outside the west end of Christ Church is the Whalebone Arch, four jawbones from blue whales, erected as an arch in 1933 to celebrate 100 years of continuous British rule. And, despite an invasion by Argentina in April 1982, the territory still remains British - but with no sea or air contacts with its neighbour, Argentina.

In daily worship in Christ Church the Queen is prayed for as the Head of State and Church.

(this is written not from the F.I. but from Ushuaia, the southernmonst city in the world, to where Anglican missionaries came in 1869 to evangelize the native peoples, who had lived in this area of Tierra del Fuego for 6,000 years or more. Dec 7, 2006)

A blessed Advent to all my readers from Cape Horn which I visited yesterday on a reasonably calm sea and bright sunshine!

Advent I, 2006

The Revd Dr. Peter Toon M.A., D.Phil (Oxford)

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