St Andrews Church of Scotland Gibraltar
St Andrew’s Church Gibraltar, the rough rocky peninsula, which remains an overseas territory of Britain, is located southwest of Spain at the northeastern pillar of Hercules that guard where the Mediterranean Sea and the Atlantic Ocean meet. The British have had a fortress here since 1704. Gibraltar was ceded to them by Spain in the Treaty of Utrecht, in 1713.
The British stationed soldiers from Great Britain, Ireland and Scotland, with the Scottish soldiers being an important part of the defense of the Rock of Gibraltar.
In the mid 1840’s, the soldiers from Scotland started to gather funds for a church of Saint Andrew. The cornerstone was laid in 1853 and Saint Andrew’s Church of Gibraltar consecrated in 1854 and built of limestone. The tower looks down near the south end of the Governor’s Parade, near the main street.
The church of Saint Andrews is part of the Presbytery of Europe under the Church of Scotland.
The historical aspect of Saint Andrew’s is evident in the furnishings, memorabilia and artifacts from the different militia that have been stationed here provides an interesting highlight to the architecture of the building itself.
The stained glass windows were installed in the middle of nineteen hundred fifty-three in the chancel area, decking the area where the sacraments are kept with multicolored, soft light.
Tourism is very important to Gibraltar, and to the church of Saint Andrews. Residents and visitors alike are able to see what the blending of church and history that is exemplified within this building and grounds.
Saint Andrews is unusual in offering a choice to the visitor, either guided tours or self guided tours that allow the visitor to see and experience the sense of Saint Andrews on his or her own terms and timing.
Many churches have strict expectations and distinctions of class and culture, Saint Andrews prefers to concentrate on more important matters, such as treating all types and classes of people equally. The country of Spain has long contested the British territory as belonging to itself, yet every time the referendum comes before the residents of Gibraltar, they chose to remain a British territory.
During the last quarter of a century, the border between Spain and Gibraltar was closed, necessitating in a change of military personal. This allowed more work to be accomplished in areas that needed it, primarily the northwestern areas of Gibraltar.
These incidents were instrumental in comprising the uniqueness of the congregation that worships at Saint Andrews.
Most members are expatriates who hold membership, others are temporary British servicemen. Members from Spain also are part, as are settlers and retirees from the military. Tourists add their special flavor to the congregation and all of these comprise a unique church that offers a place for many diverse ages and occupations.
Saint Andrew’s Church is unique in how it is administered because it shares ministers with the church in Costa del Sol; this came about because of financial reasons.
Encouraged by the Kirk Session, the minister serves Saint Andrew’s for seventy five percent of the time and the rest of the services are conducted by guest ministers, usually during less visited times. The financial approval was for a part time position but Saint Andrew’s needed a full time minister, so a compromise was born. Bi-annual meetings of the Presbytery and the equal number of elders and ministers compose the administrative offices needed for administrative duties. This enables the church of Saint Andrews to be semi autonomous with the central church in Edinburgh.
Many activities of Saint Andrew’s church can be attended, offering greater opportunities to understand and experience the historical traditions of the church. The Roman Catholic Church is the largest religious organization in Gibraltar and Saint Andrew’s shares services and activities such as Holy Week, Week of Prayer for Christian Unity and Lent. There is also a local Ministers’ Fraternal that coordinates most of the joint activities.
Annual events such as Saint Andrew’s Day and the Carol Service are broadcast via radio and attended by the governor of Gibraltar, the Chief Minister and other political figures.
The services are held in English. Numerous charity events such as bazaars are held throughout the year with the Christmas Bazaar being the highlight of the year. These provide needed funds for projects and special outreaches.
In Gibraltar, an English marriage ceremony can be conducted within three days of a couple personally applying for a Governors Special Licenses. Many people choose this as a way to avoid the problems that bureaucracy causes.
Unlike other more traditional churches, Saint Andrews offers the chance for divorced couples and divorced individual can be married here, with the minister’s approval. Gibraltar offers much to visitor and resident alike and Saint Andrew’s Church of Gibraltar is one interesting place to visit and see an upcoming forward looking church with a solid history behind it.
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