Diocesan Digital Media Adviser, James Atkinson is part of the group currently visiting Peru.
Saturday 7 March
On Saturday we travelled from Cabanaconde to Juliaca. Another long drive, 200 miles through stunning scenery and up another 500 meters above sea level! Along the way we saw condors gracefully gliding through Colca Canyon, many more hundreds of llamas and alpacas and a couple of flying flamingos.
We arrived in Juliaca in time for a late lunch. It is a mass sprawl of a city, the largest city in the region, with cars, tuk-tuks and motor bikes congesting every street. The streets are dusty and polluted, so it was nice to escape the bustling city and trek to the top of the hill, where we found Jesus!
Sunday 8 March
The group spent Sunday with Luis Vizcarra, and throughout the day we had the privilege of worshipping at each of his three churches, which are spread out over the city.
Luis was ordained an Anglican deacon ten years ago and he was one of the first to be ordained in Arequipa, rather than Lima. He is also a teacher, and is always laughing and joking. He’s teaching himself English and enjoys repeating English phrases back at you.
Luis picked us up from the hotel and drove us to Tariachi. The city streets are a lot quieter on a Sunday and most of the shops are shut, and we soon reached un-tarmacked, bumpy roads, which Luis navigated with great skill.
Capilla Tariachi was built in 1971 by the Franciscans as a Roman Catholic chapel within a hacienda. The hacienda closed down, but the chapel remained, became Anglican and now serves the growing local community.
Luis tells us that over the last ten years the chapel and surrounding area have changed considerably. The chapel was quite run down, only had six pews, and services were only held on the Patronal festival. Now the chapel has weekly Sunday services at 11:30am and regularly brings in around 40 people. There were a few less this week as it’s school holidays. Baptisms, weddings and funerals also take place at the chapel, and it’s the only Anglican church in Peru that has carpet, or so Luis tells us!
Our next service was at the Church of the Most Holy Cross of Maravillas, across the other side of the city. The church is four years old, and though the diocese don’t own it, they are allowed to use it for free each week for a 3pm service.
The small chapel is built next to the river, where you can see people fishing and washing their clothes. Compared to Tariachi, Maravillas is quite deprived with the average wage of 10 soles a day (£2.50). Luis tells us that they are very friendly people and they were all very keen to have photos with the English visitors after the service!
The final service of the day is at 6:30pm, back in the city centre at Santa Maria Magdalena, which is also where Luis trained and lives. There was a small congregation for this shorter Eucharist service.
Each service was quite similar. A Eucharist service lasting about an hour, with liturgy recognisable even to the non-Spanish speakers. The congregation would grow throughout the service as people arrived at a time that suited them.
The music is led by a small group of young musicians and singers. A dozen short hymns are sung throughout the service. The Spanish guitar was particularly beautiful during the prayers. Some of the musicians also follow Luis from church to church. Danny, who plays the guitar and sings, also runs Christian youth groups. He told us that by the end of the day he’s very tired but happy!
The peace is given by a combination of a handshake, a kiss and a big hug and no one gets left out! At the end of the services Luis invited the group to introduce themselves, with each of us applauded in turn, followed by photos!
The services ended with Anne and Phil offering prayers and blessings, which everyone eagerly queued up for, sometimes more then were in the service itself! This is a very special moment and it would have been quite unusual for the locals to receive a blessing in English and from a female priest.
"It’s been a real blessing and a joy to be able to bless and pray for people here in Peru. Some of these people come to you with nothing but themselves and are very open, which is not something we encounter every day in our ministry. Phil prayed in Spanish and I prayed in English and it really showed that spirituality and prayer transcends language.
What struck me is how much more open and friendly people were outside of the main city.
These people had much less, but were full of joy and welcome. There is also a strong sense of family, and we prayed for and blessed whole families together. It’s been a tremendous privilege to have been on this really special trip, especially at this time when the topic of women priests will be discussed at Synod.
Not a single person I blessed and prayed for seemed bothered that I was a women, perhaps it was a novelty! But I’ve not felt any sense of hierarchy in the churches we’ve been in, Phil and I worked together as equals, like we are at home. I’ve learnt a lot and it has made me reflect on the importance of these links and I think both sides get a lot out of it. There may be cultural differences, but when we’re worshipping God, we do it the same way. We’re all Christians together."
Monday 9 March
Today was the start of the new school year after ten weeks holiday! (The only other holiday is two weeks in July.) Luis took us to visit Thomas Cranmer Anglican school (3-15 year olds), where he was leading a service to welcome pupils, staff and parents for the start of the new term.
Phil and Anne again offered blessings for everyone there, and we were presented with gifts by the children.
We’re grateful to Luis for looking after us over the weekend. By Monday evening we were back in Arequipa and we’re hugely grateful to Victor for driving us all these hundreds of miles, while also squeezing in his own duties at his church in Arequipa!