St Andrew's Chaplaincy in Fuengirola has recently welcomed its new chaplain, Reverend Nigel Stimpson, a priest who encourages the ordination of women in the Anglican Church and someone who welcomed the definition of marriage to include gay and lesbian relationships.
The Archdeacon of Gibraltar presided at the licensing service which took place at St Andrew's Church in Los Boliches in April, when members of the congregation were able to meet the new priest as he officially took over responsibility for the ministry.
Originally from Cambridge, Father Nigel trained for ordination at the College of the Resurrection in West Yorkshire. He then served two curacies in the Blackburn Diocese on the Fylde coast, before becoming Team Rector of a large parish on the outskirts of Preston. His last appointment saw him in the Balearic Islands, where he spent five years serving in Mallorca.
The Anglican priest told SUR in English of his delight at taking up his new appointment on the Costa del Sol, where he says he is looking forward to new opportunities to serve the local community.
What do you think of the Costa del Sol so far?
I am enjoying getting to know the area very much and have already met some interesting and very friendly people. It's good to be here and I am beginning to feel settled and at home.
Were you sad to leave Mallorca?
In many ways I was rather sad to leave, but it seemed the right time after nearly five years serving that community. It was a lovely place to live and I felt part of the community in the north of the island, where I was based.
What are your aspirations for your new position?
The ministry and work of most clergy is about building up the Church family in each congregation and encouraging them to be active in their wider communities. It's about priest and people working creatively in what we do.
What do you intend to do at St Andrew's: will you make any changes?
The Chaplaincy Council drew up quite a detailed 'Job Description' for their new Chaplain, so in part it's working within that framework, which is very much about building up the four different communities where our congregations are based. Changes will naturally happen as we work together.
Why is St Andrew's necessary on the Costa del Sol?
Anglican chaplaincies in this part of Spain are not something new - there's been an Anglican presence in Malaga since 1850. The demand for an English-speaking church in this part of the Costa del Sol grew as expats and others started to live and work in the area, and while that has changed quite a bit over the years, the demand is still there.
What community activities do you offer?
The Church Centre at Los Boliches is used by a variety of groups from the wider community, offering a space for choirs to rehearse, bridge classes and yoga to name a few, which is good. The church has an ongoing programme of study and prayer groups, which changes as the year moves, and I hope these can be developed.
Does St Andrew's attract the younger generation, or just the elderly?
There is a mix of ages in each of the congregations, with some families attending. They tend to be rather fluid gatherings as people come and go, so you could say that they very much reflect the demographics of the communities we serve.
We live in very difficult times (wars, terrorism etc.), do you think that religion can give people hope?
Religion is sadly often cited as causing problems - or rather the extreme interpretations of them. But in most faiths there is a strong message of peace, love and hope. But there also has to be a sense of mutual respect for those whose religious practices may be a bit different from our own. It's encouraging to find a really positive ecumenical attitude on the Costa del Sol, helped through the work of Lux Mundi.
People's attitudes have changed over the years; has the Anglican Church changed with the times?
Churches can seem to take a very long time to catch up with social changes - basically because we want to think these things through theologically - and the Anglican Church is no exception. Not least because we're a broad church with quite a wide range of views on most things and we want to keep everybody together.
Do you think that the Anglican Church does enough to encourage the ordination of women?
I think it was a struggle in the beginning but there seems to be a good number coming forward for selection these days and more senior posts being filled by women too.
Do you support same-sex marriage?
This is probably the most contentious question facing the worldwide Anglican Church at the moment (and other churches too), and I'd imagine that members of my congregations will be representative of those views of total support or being totally against. I personally welcomed the expansion of the definition of marriage to include gay and lesbian relationships, when it came into law.