The Anglican Parish of Nerja and Almuñécar started as an offshoot of St George’s Málaga, some 44 years ago, when a group of Anglicans met in the home of Eleanor Payne. The venue moved to the Pepe Rico Restaurant, then to the apartment of Robert and Kathy Holder. In 1992 the congregation in Nerja began to use the Roman Catholic church of San Miguel (St Michael’s).
In 1982 the Revd Horace Bedlow, the Chaplain of Málaga, conducted 14 services during the year, as well as undertaking some pastoral visiting. Local arrangements were made by Tony Palmer.
The Revd David Cherry took over at Malaga the following year, 1983, and from then two Holy Communion services were held each month in Nerja. He bought a house in Nerja, and the congregations grew much larger than those in Malaga as there were more English speaking residents here.
It was not until 1992 that we became an independent Parish within the Archdeaconry of Gibraltar, when David retired. After a couple of false starts, the Revd John Vellacott arrived in October 1993. At Easter 1994, the Almuñecar congregation was formed, largely due to the effort of churchwarden Col Alan Holifield; sadly, he died shortly after the first service at the Fishermen’s Chapel, where services are now held each Sunday.
John Vellacott received a diocesan grant of £6,000 towards a half-stipend. This reduced annually and disappeared after four years. By this time the Parish was self-supporting, despite suffering the trauma of the death, after a year, of John Vellacott’s successor, the Revd Peter Letford and another year with locums. The Parish was established under Spanish law during Peter’s tenure, in 1997, with the Parish Priest officially being given the title of Rector, which remains so when dealing with Spanish law. In the Diocese in Europe the title Priest-in-Charge is used.
The Revd Osmond Aisbitt, a retired priest who was on holiday in Spain, offered to help out without any payment after Peter’s sudden death, and this arrangement continued for two years, enabling the Parish to re-establish itself financially, after bearing the huge costs for repatriating its sick priest. “Ossy” and his wife, Margaret, organised trips for members of the congregation and visitors which helped to raise much needed funds.
Church Shop, in Calle Malaga was purchased by James Moorhead and Alan Butt who then sold it on to the Parish in instalments. Win Purkiss and Ada Dyde had started the church’s business venture in second-hand goods, using various short-term available premises for some time, and this was a great leap forward. It was now also possible to hold a weekly Holy Communion service on Wednesdays at 9.30am in Church Shop before start of business.
In June 2003, the Revd Kenneth Reeves succeeded “Ossy”, and was instrumental in producing a booklet of the Eucharist to be used in the parish, with various alternatives following the introduction of “Common Worship” in 2000. (This has just been updated (2011) and reproduced in a new format.)
He was also responsible for building our first website. The Parish obtained a mortgage and bought its own house for use of the clergy and their families instead of renting a property, and furnished it to a high standard.
Sadly Ken retired due to ill health after eighteen months and almost a year was spent with locums, who varied their service from 9 days to three months, and the Parish was most grateful that the Bishop managed to find so many wonderful priests!
In November 2005 the Revd Dr Ronald Saunders took over as Priest-in-Charge and he served for two years.
In June 2008, the Revd Geoff Johnston was Licensed as Priest-in-Charge and in January 2009 he married Carol, celebrating a blessing in St Michael’s Church, conducted by the Archdeacon, the Venerable David Sutch.
The Lent Course in 2010 on the “Five Marks of Mission” challenged the Parish to make more effort to reach out into the English-speaking community. The outcome of this was the launching of a “Fresh Expression of Church” called “Messy Church” in October 2010. However, due to changing circumstances in the families and declining numbers this was closed in the summer of 2014.
In January 2013 Fr Geoff was made Area Dean and in November of the same year he was commissioned as Acting Archdeacon and collated as a Canon of Gibraltar Cathedral. In October 2014 he was Licensed as Interim Archdeacon as he retired from the parish and returned to England to live.
In September 2016 Fr NIgel Thomas was Licensed as our Priest in Charge and joined us with his wife Pilar.
Along with many fund raising events the Parish has steadily increased its income and along the way has been able to contribute to various charities, including the Roman Catholic Sisters of the Good Samaritan who help the poor of Nerja, and Caritas, a Roman Catholic charity working among those who are unemployed, the aged, and homeless in Almuñécar and Nerja. We also support Water Aid, Christian Aid and The Anglican Diocese of Peru.
In August, 2018, seven members of the parish ( 4 adults and 3 children) helped run an ‘albergue’ (hostal) on El Camino Francés of the Camino de Santiago. The team was there for a week cooking, cleaning and welcoming tired pilgrims to a cup of coffee/glass of juice and biscuits on their way. There wasn’t much time for sleep! The ‘albergue’ was some 72kms from Santiago itself in the remote hamlet of Ligonde. It was a wonderful experience for all concerned and marked an important moment in the life of the chaplaincy. Although we may have our roots in the Anglican tradition, our branches spread much wider. Of the seven of us in the group, only one was born in the UK!
The future points to a more international congregation. And although none of us are getting any younger, and several have moved back to the UK, we seem to be attracting a wider range of nationalities and languages. The congregation is changing and pray God it will start to grow once again.