Torrevieja is a cosmopolitan city with one of the largest diasporas of modern times in Spain, the British Diaspora. British culture is quite complex and multifaceted. “British Spain” is a Christian “country”, and so you may find that many people live in a way you find surprising. In an interview with “BOMOND Magazine” Father Christopher Scargill, the
priest-in-charge of a parish in Torrevieja, Chaplain Revd, talks about the British believers, about his impressions of the country and other cultures of Torrevieja, and much more.
Father Skargill, thank you very much for giving us the opportunity for a meeting with you, and it is a big pleasure to talk to you. How did you come to Spain? How did you become a priest?
Christianity was always a part of my life growing up. I’ve been a priest for almost 25 years in various parts of England, and suddenly one thought occurred to me: it’s time to do something else somewhere else. The Church of England has dominated the religious scene for British believers in many countries. In Paris, Benidorm, Madrid, one in Rome, even in Moscow and St. Petersburg. I received an offer to move to Torrevieja as a priest. I decided to see what would happen… And everything is brilliant now!
Have you decided to move with your family?
Of course, yes. Or rather with my wife, who taught Spanish before and had lived in Spain. She was glad to be back, our youngest son also came with us. Two adult sons and my parents stayed in England. I go to visit them 3-4 times a year. By the way, there is one funny thing in the English clergy families. There are two types of children: those who almost from birth believe that will become priests, and those who from an early age are certain they don’t want to be! My sons work in another field, and I respect their choice. The same can be said about other families.
Tell us, please, your first impression of Spain, of Torrevieja.
Torrevieja is a good and interesting part of Spain. If I am not mistaken, a lot of English people moved here in 1995. And the Church of England has been developed here recently. I have noticed that there are many Russian people. It’s a pity, but I don’t know much about Russian culture, except Dostoyevsky, Tchaikovsky and Solzhenitsyn, that’s where my knowledge ends. I always wanted to see Moscow and St. Petersburg from a historical point of view. I would like to take a trip in the near future, but my wife is against it, she is afraid that we’ll freeze out there (smiling. – Ed.). By the way, our churches are very similar. For example, I apply theories in practice of many Orthodox theologians. Here is a great climate, and culture. I still continue to learn the Spanish language and Spanish mentality.
Have you noticed any differences between the British people, including the parishioners, living in England and Spain?
There is a big difference between the believers, but this difference was already in England. This is not the Catholic Church in Rome with one vision. There is a lot of different theories in England. You see, the Church of England is not just another Protestant Church. Some people in England are more Catholic than the Italians, some Protestants. We also have those who are very close to the Orthodox Church. We are neither Roman Catholic nor Protestant. So who are we? For a long time we were studying this issue. We realized that it is important to develop.
Tell us about your congregation. Who are they? What are the most common problems?
As I know, there are 50,000 of British people in Torrevieja. Of course, all 50,000 will not come to church. In my churches every Sunday there are about 140-180 people. Most of them – the people who have lived in other countries. They are used to a certain climate, and it would be difficult to go back to England, so the choice fell on Spain (a couple of hours flight from England). Of course, a few years ago, the property was very cheap compared to England. British people are active and responsive. When there was an exercise to plan in case of an earthquake in Torrevieja, among the volunteers were many Englishmen: former police officers, former soldiers, former nurses. There are many lonely people. Many of those who just need to talk.
Tell us about the complexities of the spiritual life of the English diaspora?
The main difficulty is that many of the parishioners arrive for 2-3 months, and many of them go back to England in august, because it is too hot. Our centres are not so big, but we try to celebrate all holidays, and organize large meetings as often as possible.
What can you say about the relationship between the English church in Torrevieja and the authorities of Spain?
We have a good relationship with authorities. The mayor of Torrevieja and other local mayors often come to the meeting with the British diaspora, to official events and concerts. There is a British Consul in Alicante, but he is responsible for all Costa Blanca, and he can not be everywhere. About the government in England… I do not think that they are particularly concerned about what is happening here. Too far.
How many English churches are there in Torrevieja?
If I’m not mistaken, there are seven such religious centers in Torrevieja. They located in the following areas: La Siesta, Los Balcones, Lago Jardin, La Marina, Campoverde, La Manga, Cristo Resucitado, Hondón de las Nieves. We meet almost every week. Unfortunately, there are not a lot of parishioners, but we try to do the best. There are also three or four other English churches which are not part of the Church of England.
Is there a place in Torrevieja, where you can meet only English people?
Of course, there are such places. There are many English pubs and restaurants. There is English-speaking Diaspora Association, there is Royal British Legion. Many people are involved in the theatrical life, my wife sang in choirs in English. Unfortunately, some English people in Spain are trying to create a bad imitation of England. My opinion is subjective, but I believe that if I live in Spain, I have to be in Spain. I prefer visiting Spanish places and raise the level of proficiency. After all, it is important not to forget international relations. Some Englishmen are not even trying to learn Spanish, partly from the fact of the fear. But I think, that the main thing is to try.
Will there be any event this autumn?
The Harvest festival will begin in late September. This is to give thanks to God for our food, and for the beauty of the world and to pray for both food producers and those who do not have enough food. A service will be held in each of the churches. At the beginning of November there will be a memorial service for those who died in the past year. This is a long-standing tradition. The service is scheduled for November 2, but it is not yet sure. On November 11there will be a service in which we give a tribute to all those who died in wars and to victims of terrorism. After all, the victims were not only soldiers, many civilians died as well. This tradition brings together the Spanish and the English. We invite everyone to the service.
What would you like to add or say to our readers?
Light, and yet more light! I would say the following: let’s come together, get ready, take part. We are not that strange, really! We can say that with us you will find England with a Spanish accent. We are open not just on Sundays, we are ready to help in any day of the week at any time of the day. One has only to call. Whether it’s a problem with the kids, or mental discomfort – we welcome everyone.
1. Unfortunately, many English people in Spain are trying to create a bad imitation of England. My opinion is subjective, but I believe that if I live in Spain, I have to be in Spain.
2. British are active and responsive people. When there was an earthquake in Spain, many Englishmen were among the volunteers: retired police officers, retired soldiers, retired nurses.
3. Lago Jardin Church is a beautiful little Church, set in lovely gardens within the Urbanisation of Lago Jardin 1. There is a service of Holy Communion every Saturday evening at 6.00pm (except during August, when no services are held). Everyone is assured of a warm welcome when visiting Lago Jardin Church. It is a wonderful setting for Wedding Blessings and Baptisms.