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Trinity, Funchal, Madeira
Worshipper: Werburga of Chester.
Trinity, Funchal, Madeira.
of England, Diocese
It dates from 1822 and uses a design by Henry Veitch, British
consul at the time. Portuguese law prohibited Protestant places
of worship from assuming the external appearance of a church,
and so Veitch's building resembles a library or lecture hall
more than it does a house of worship. It has a modest exterior
in the neo-classical style. The main door is framed by simple
white pillars. The roof appears flat apart from a small red-painted
dome raised above fan window lights. Inside, the nave is circular,
with the altar in an alcove on the east side. The inside of
the dome is decorated in the style of the 18th century Scottish
interior designer Robert Adam. It is inset with a painting of
the all-seeing eye of God surrounded by a triangle representing
the Holy Trinity from which rays of light scatter outwards.
Around the church there is a peaceful and well-kept garden,
surrounded in its turn by a high wall. Within this garden are
included Stations of the Cross made from traditional hand-painted
The Anglican community of Madeira have been worshipping here
for nearly 200 years. Christians from all traditions are welcomed,
as are tourists arriving on cruise ships. Two communion services
are held on Sundays and there is also a mid-week communion service
on Wednesdays. Holy Trinity Church functions as a cultural resource
for the whole English speaking community in Madeira, and is
known locally as "the English church." The church
and garden are open during the day to all visitors. Adjacent
to the church is a suite of rooms that host a variety of social
groups, and they also offer a weekly programme of concerts.
The Região Autónoma da Madeira (Autonomous
Region of Madeira), a Portuguese territory since 1425, is the
largest of a small group of islands in the Atlantic several
hundred miles off the coast of Morocco. Madeira rapidly became
a regular port of call for sailing ships heading to the West
and East Indies. In 1478 Christopher Columbus stayed here for
a short time, but long enough to meet and marry the daughter
of the governor of the nearby island of Porto Santo. Funchal
is the islandís capital and port, and the only settlement of
any size on Madeira. The church is located in the centre of
Funchal, not far from the main street but down a narrow road
and quite hard to find. A short distance along the road is the
historic British cemetery, which has its own chapel.
The Revd Neil Dawson, chaplain, was the celebrant, assisted
by Michael Duckett, lay minister. The first lesson was read
by Martin Gannon and the second by Joy Menezes. Welcoming remarks
were offered at the start of the service by Jonathan Calvert,
church warden, who also led the intercessions. The organist
was Melvin Bird.
The date & time:
Feast of the Presentation of Christ in the Temple (Candlemas),
2 February 2014, 11.00am.
What was the name of the service?
How full was the building?
Full to the point that it was hard to count the congregation: well over 100 and possibly nearer 200.
Did anyone welcome you personally?
Lay Minister Michael Duckett stood halfway down the church path,
shaking hands with all comers. He welcomed me warmly with gentle
questions about where I was from, and directed me toward the
church doors. Here two friendly women smiled as they handed
out books and invited me to enter.
Was your pew comfortable?
My pew was comfortable, with deep padded cushions. Because the nave is wide rather than long, most seats have a good view of the main altar, as mine did.
How would you describe the pre-service
Quietly contemplative but friendly. The organist presented a
pre-service recital lasting an hour (during which the congregation
were invited to make a donation to church funds) and some people
were clearly there to listen. However, this did not stop many
present from greeting friends, especially those they had not
seen for some time. Thankfully they did this discreetly, so
the noise of conversation did not overcome the music.
What were the exact opening words of the
"Good morning, everyone!" to which most people promptly
responded, "Good morning!"
What books did the congregation use during the
The church has its own communion booklet and uses Complete
Anglican Hymns Old and New. These books were further supplemented
by a sheet of responses for the ceremony of candle-lighting
before the gospel reading, and also by a weekly news-sheet that
included the prayers for the day and a list of people for whom
prayer was requested.
What musical instruments
The church organ, played with panache! It is an opus of the
renowned 19th century organ builder August Gern. Born in Germany,
Gern first relocated to Paris, where he served as erecting foreman
in the Cavaille-Coll workshop, and later to London. The foremost
organ craftsman of his age, Gern's instruments at one time graced
numerous churches in England, Scotland and the Continent, but
few survive intact today. Thanks to a highly successful fundraising
appeal, the Holy Trinity organ was extensively restored in 2012.
Did anything distract
The circulation of personnel round the altar for the distribution
of communion. They had to walk in circles clockwise round the
altar, a procession further complicated by steps on the left-hand
and right-hand sides. However, there is very little space round
the altar, so the procession is sensible if distracting!
Was the worship stiff-upper-lip,
happy clappy, or what?
Traditional Anglican. Generally restrained but with some enthusiastic hymn-singing.
Exactly how long was the sermon?
On a scale of 1-10, how good was the preacher?
8 Clear and well-paced exposition of the gospel reading for the day.
In a nutshell, what was
the sermon about?
The chaplain began by saying that lighting candles (which the
congregation had done before the gospel reading) is something
we are all drawn to do, perhaps before the shrine of a saint
or when kneeling before the communion elements. When we depart
from these places, we leave behind our candles "dwindling
into light." Jesus is the Light of the World, and Simeon
recognised him as such (Luke 2: 22-40). Simeon gave thanks that
he could die in peace because he had seen Jesus. It is our duty
to keep the door of our lives open so that we can be ready when
Jesus calls us.
Which part of the service
was like being in heaven?
The warmth of the welcome, the sincere and very clear sermon,
and the enthusiastic congregational singing were all uplifting.
And which part was like being in... er... the other place?
The cold draught round my feet. Anyone planning to visit this church in the cooler months of the year might wish to consider wearing warm socks.
What happened when you hung around after the service looking lost?
It was impossible to hang around looking lost. The service booklet
mentioned the post-communion reception in the garden, the congregation
were reminded about this during the service. Everyone just headed
off out into the garden, sweeping up any stray persons into
How would you describe the after-service
The churchís tradition is to offer visitors a glass of Madeira
wine and a slice of bolo de mel (honey cake, a traditional
local delicacy) and I accepted this civilised offer enthusiastically.
The coffee looked and smelled good, though, and tea was also
available. Those present mingled in a very friendly manner,
and no one seemed to be in a hurry to leave.
How would you feel about making this church your regular (where 10 = ecstatic, 0 = terminal)?
8 One could not but be happy in this congregation. Their
tradition of welcoming all comers is clearly embedded, and everyone
was very friendly. Moreover, their obvious involvement in wider
social activities fit well with Christís call to serve others
the community practises what it preaches. However, what
stops me from giving it the perfect 10 is that I think I would
eventually miss the singing of a church choir, which they donít
seem to have here.
Did the service make you feel glad to be a
What one thing will you remember about all this in seven days' time?
The friendly welcome and the excellent sermon were both very memorable. But I suspect I may remember longest the wine and cake provided after the service, and consuming them in warm sunshine in the lovely garden.
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