Tuesday, 10 July 2012

Visit to Bona Fe, El Perello

This morning, I drove out to El Perello, a hill village just off the N340 road north of L'Ampolla, where the local community worshipping in L'Ampolla has started a drop-in centre called 'Bona Fe'. It gave me a chance to meet members of the congregation, some of them involved with running the place. It provides a social meeting place for the considerable numbers of English speakers in the region, where people can bring their books, and decent unwanted clothes to benefit others in exchange for a donation. 

In all three centres of church activity in this chaplaincy, such a simple idea demands committed hard work and generates valuable income for sustaining the ministry of the Chaplain. I suspect this is how many expatriates first come into contact with a church they thought they'd left behind in Britain, either recently or ages ago. In a variety of shapes and forms, such social enterprise is happening, not only among ex-patriates all over Europe, but also in Britain now, where church-going is a minority activity, despite the talk and publicity the CofE gets in national media. It demonstrates the close connection that exists between pastoral care and social enterprise in a community. You can't achieve it by means of grand strategies, only by being present in a place, caring about people you identify with in that situation. It's a response unique to each place, even with many features in common between different initiatives. 

The CofE may struggle to accept the leadership of women in the Episcopate. I wish it would pay more attention to affirming the missionary entrepreneurism of churchwomen at the grass roots, whose vision and energy build communities for bishops to oversee - and maybe listen to them a bit more!

After lunch I was taken by Pru, one of L'Ampolla's local Wardens out into the countryside nearby to have lunch and some marvellous conversation with Isa and John in their house. It's set in a hilly landscape of dry stone wall terraced olive orchards, overlooking the sea, and the Ebro river delta natural park region. The Ebro is one of Spain's biggest rivers and where the N340 highway crosses, it must be about 300 metres wide. The river delta contains great rice growing areas, salt marshes and all the amazing wild life that flourishes in such an environment. Where river and sea meet, an interestingly shaped land mass  has formed. It's worth a look on Google Earth. Now I'm looking forward to ground level visit.

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