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Trinity, Funchal, Madeira
Trinity, Funchal, Madeira.
Church of England, Diocese
Built in 1822, the cream coloured square building in the neo-classical
style was the design of the British consul, Henry Veitch. It
is topped with a dome, and you would think you were approaching
a library rather than a church. It is not certain whether Veitch
designed it in the style of a round temple because he was a
freemason, or whether he was influenced by Portuguese law that
allowed only Roman Catholic churches to have a tower or spire.
Several steps between four stone columns lead up to the entrance.
Once inside there is a feeling of roundness about the church,
brought about mainly by the circular gallery supported by pillars.
The altar consists of a dressed communion table. The reredos
is a semicircular wooden screen with a brass cross fixed at
the centre, above which is a domed ceiling which has gold stars
painted on a blue background. A fresco of palm trees enhances
this image of a tropical setting. A wooden pulpit is on the
left of the altar and to its right is a wooden lectern. To the
south side is a small chapel also with a small starry domed
ceiling. In the baptistery is a statue of Philippa of Lancaster,
daughter of John of Gaunt and wife of King Joao I of Portugal
and mother of ten children, one of whom was Prince Henry the
Navigator. The statue was originally placed in the church gardens
on the 600th anniversary of the peace treaty of 1373 between
Portugal and England.
Holy Trinity has served as the centre for Anglican worship in
Madeira for nearly 200 years and is known locally as the Igreja
Inglesa (the English church). It has a small nucleus of
permanent local members, but the majority of the congregation
at the main Sunday service consists of visitors of many different
nationalities and Christian traditions. There are two eucharists
on a Sunday, one on a Wednesday, and daily morning prayer throughout
the week. A notice board gives details of daily, seasonal and
other services, study or devotional courses, and forthcoming
social activities. The church enjoys friendly relations with
the other Christian churches in Madeira, most of which are Roman
Catholic and Portuguese speaking. It frequently hosts concerts
of classical music.
Madeira, an autonomous region of Portugal, is a volcanic archipelago
in the Atlantic Ocean about 500 miles west of Lisbon. Only two
of the islands in the archipelago, Madeira and Porto Santo,
are inhabited. Funchal is the capital of Madeira and has many
graceful buildings and beautiful gardens, as well as a picturesque
promenade and harbour, where cruise ships frequently lie at
anchor. The church is quite close to the city centre, amongst
a myriad of narrow streets with tall buildings on either side.
Whilst most appear to be residential, small shops, bars and
cafes grow in number as you approach the city centre. Holy Trinity
cannot be seen from the street because it lies within a tall
walled garden, which also houses the parsonage. Luckily it is
The Revd Neil Dawson, chaplain, was the celebrant and preacher.
Melvin Bird presided at the organ.
The date & time:
Second Sunday after Trinity, 21 June 2009, 11.00am.
What was the name of the service?
Parish Communion (Common Worship).
How full was the building?
It was quite full and I would estimate there to be around 100 in the predominantly rather well turned out elderly congregation. I cannot recollect seeing a single child there!
Did anyone welcome you personally?
A friendly lady greeted me at the door with "Good morning"
and handed me all the literature for the service.
Was your pew comfortable?
It was a comfortable wooden pew topped with a cushion. When
I found that no one was sitting next to me, I used two hassocks
to kneel on.
How would you describe the pre-service
People gathered by some stalls near the entrance displaying
cards, books, preserves and various knick-knacks, and quite
a lot of chatter from this area drifted into the church. Inside,
though, it was reasonably quiet and reverential.
What were the exact opening words of the
"In the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy
What books did the congregation use during the
Complete Anglican Hymns Old and New, an order of service
booklet, and a pew sheet listing the gloria, the collect, the
readings and the gospel as well as people to be prayed for and
a list of future events.
What musical instruments
Pipe organ, played very competently by Mr Bird, who had composed
a new setting for the Agnus Dei. Built by the German organ maker
August Gern, the instrument is housed in a rather impressive
case on the north side.
Did anything distract
The only source of distraction came from the chaplain when he
gave his sermon. Every time he pronounced a word beginning with
the letter "p", he delivered it with such force to
the microphone that it just made a loud cackle. No chance of
anyone falling asleep!
Was the worship stiff-upper-lip, happy clappy, or
The worship was solemn and reverential. The altar party consisted
of a crucifer robed in a cream coloured alb, a server in cassock,
surplice and blue scarf, and the president robed in cassock,
surplice and green chasuble. There were four lighted candles
on the communion table. Incense was not used and there was no
genuflection apart from the moments when the hosts were elevated.
So I would say it was middle-of-the-road worship designed to
accommodate worshippers from all sorts of different backgrounds.
Exactly how long was the sermon?
On a scale of 1-10, how good was the preacher?
8 The chaplain preached eloquently, reading from prepared notes.
In a nutshell, what was the sermon
The disciples were afraid when they were caught in a storm on
the Sea of Galilee. Jesus was asleep and was rather annoyed
when they wakened him because it appeared they had no faith
in him. We are the same in that we always wish that Jesus could
be next to us to solve our problems or that God could wave a
magic wand over us. But it doesn’t always work. Think of the
hurried whispered prayers that must have been said in the doomed
Air France plane or the prayers asking for cures for cancer.
In the storm Jesus casually rebukes the wind, just as in the
beginning God brought calm and order out of chaos when he made
the world. In the Old Testament we saw Job questioning God’s
morality and then later Paul wrote to the Corinthians about
the problems faced by the church at that time; we have similar
problems today. Who has not lain awake with worry? We face such
things as bereavement, illness, and betrayal because to be human
is to be vulnerable. We must put our faith in Jesus, who is
at the door of the sheepfold, and have no fear.
Which part of the service was like being in
The opening hymn, "Eternal Father, strong to save,"
which is a hymn for those at sea, had me really choked up, being
as this lovely church is on an island in the Atlantic. All the
hymns we sang were well known traditional ones and everyone
sang enthusiastically. The overall impression was that everyone
was there to participate and enjoy the service.
And which part was like being in... er... the other place?
I was sitting quite near to the front when, just before the service started, a very large gentleman sat in front of me. When we stood for the procession and opening prayers I couldn’t see a thing! Luckily I was able to move myself along the pew a little and managed to peer around him.
What happened when you hung around after the service looking lost?
I had a chat with the server, the chaplain and several other
people who live on the island. I have worshipped at this church
three times in the past when I have been in Madeira on holiday
and enquired why Philippa was no longer in the garden. It turned
out that a large diseased tree had to be uprooted and she had
to be moved out of the way, but there are plans to restore her
to her garden home in the near future.
How would you describe the after-service
There was a charge of 2.50 Euros for refreshments but there was a
good choice of tea, coffee, orange juice, Madeira wine, biscuits
and cake. I had an excellent glass of Madeira wine with a portion
of delicious bolo de mel, which is a rich Madeiran
cake made with honey – nothing like the pale sponge cake that
we call Madeira cake back in the UK!
How would you feel about making this church your regular (where 10 = ecstatic, 0 = terminal)?
9 If I were lucky enough to live in Madeira I would definitely worship here.
Did the service make you feel glad to be a
Yes. I enjoyed the whole service, but was saddened when the intercessor prayed for Egyptian Christian girls who were being abducted and forced to convert to Islam, all condoned by the Muslim police. It brought back to me the sad fact that we live in such a dangerous world and that there are places where Christians are persecuted because of their faith.
What one thing will you remember about all this in seven days' time?
I will remember leaving the church feeling happy and contented,
humming the tune of "Eternal Father" to myself, when
I turned a corner and heard hymn singing coming from a building.
I located its notice board and found out it was a German Lutheran
church. This confirmation that Christians of different traditions
were actively worshipping on this sunny island further enhanced
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