“When I was Dean of Gibraltar” is something I vowed I would never begin a St Clement’s sermon with. But there is nothing to stop me in my Blog. So I’ve done it!
I have not been surprised to find that the title means nothing to many people here in the States. One person asked me if it was a seminary in Boise, Idaho! I think they thought I was pulling their leg when I said, “No, it’s a British Rock at the southern end of Spain”.
But that, in effect, is what it is, and because it has been British since 1707, it was the place chosen for the Cathedral of the Anglican diocese which covered the English churches scattered round the Mediterranean. Hence, I became Dean of that Cathedral while I was also Vicar-General of the Diocese of Gibraltar in Europe, which now covers all 250 or so European Anglican churches, scattered from Norway to Turkey, and from Moscow to the Canary Islands.
Gibraltar is also an important Naval base, so my Cathedral was also linked to the Royal Navy. But most of the congregation are Gibraltarians. And the nice thing about living in a country which is three miles long, is that I could meet most of my flock by just walking the length of Main Street, Gibraltar. The street is about a mile long, but it could take me an hour or two to get to the other end, with so many people to talk to.
But when one does get to the end of it, one is faced by a phenomenon which must be almost unique in the world, namely a barrier which is lowered to stop the traffic while a plane lands! Yes, there is so little flat land in Gibraltar that they had to use the bit at the end of Main St for the airport. Once the plane has landed, you can carry on walking right across the runway. Then in another hundred yards or so, you reach the Spanish frontier. When I was in Gibraltar, this was not too difficult to cross on foot, but by car it could take a couple of hours. The Spanish thought they could pressure Britain into “returning” Gibraltar to them by closing the frontier (during Franco’s reign) or making it difficult to cross later on. I believe things are a lot better now.
I loved the Cathedral in Gibraltar, and I loved the people. They may be an anomaly as far as the UK, Spain and the European Union is concerned. But I say: God bless the anomaly.