World's most remote parish seeks vicar

Tristan da Cunha, a British territory stranded in the South Atlantic, is having trouble recruiting a new priest

With staggering sea views and a bird-filled garden, the vicarage should be a sought-after address. But when the birds are penguins and the views go on for thousands of miles, you begin to see why the island of Tristan da Cunha is failing to attract a new vicar.

The volcanic British territory stranded in the South Atlantic has been without a parish priest since 2010, according to a report in the Church Times. Tristan da Cunha is officially the world's remotest archipelago, lying 1,750 miles from the nearest landmass, Africa, and 2,088 miles from Argentina. The last incumbent, Father Chris Brown, left in 2010, and despite posting several adverts, the Diocese of Cape Town has been unable to fill the post. Now, a recruitment drive has been stepped up, and one day the priest could be a woman.

Lorna Lavarello-Smith was born on the island and has come to the UK to train to be a priest. She is currently based in Peterborough, and is due to be ordained this summer. She will then serve a curacy in Northamptonshire, but says she hopes to return to live on Tristan da Cunha "one day". In the meantime, Ms Lavarello-Smith is leading the search to find her home parish a priest. She describes the island, population 262, as a "very special place" in which to serve. "If you are looking for a ministry where you want to be close to God and close to nature, then Tristan da Cunha is the place for you," she said. "There is something about being in the middle of the South Atlantic Ocean, reliant on a community of people with whom you live. You hear the sound of God's voice much more clearly."

Indeed, so close-knit is the community that there are only seven surnames on the island. Ms Lavarello-Smith is the descendant of an Italian, Gaetano Lavarello, who was shipwrecked on the island in 1892.

Previous incumbents have included the Reverend Edwin H Dodgson, younger brother of Lewis Carroll. Though initially enthusiastic, he grew disenchanted with what he called the "unnatural state of isolation". He wrote: "It has been my daily prayer that God would open up some way for us all to leave...."

Though the islanders haven't had a vicar for almost three years, this isn't the longest they have been without. There was an interregnum of 13 years after the Rev Graham Barrow left in 1909; it took until 1922 before a replacement – the Rev Martin Rogers –could be persuaded to take the post.

So what is it about these unmolested specks of rock that puts people off? For one thing, there's no airport, and this year there are only nine ships scheduled to visit from Cape Town, the nearest major port. Television arrived only in 2001, and there are only two terrestrial channels.

The archipelago, which includes St Helena and Ascension Island, was first sighted in 1506, but has had permanent settlers only since 1810. It is of strategic military importance, and was used as a listening post to monitor German ships in the Second World War. Between 1961 and 1963 the entire population was evacuated when it was threatened by a volcano.

Anyone interested in applying for the vicar's post should expect to do more than just one service a week. Tristan da Cunha's website suggests the ideal candidate will play the organ and teach at the school. "Applicants should be active and energetic," it reads. "A keen interest in church music and the ability to play an instrument would be an asset."

The Rev Edwin Dodgson was appointed as schoolteacher and missionary in 1880. But by 1884, he had become depressed,and wrote: "There is not the slightest reason for this island to be inhabited at all."

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooksA celebration of British elections
Arts and Entertainment
Kanye West, performing in New York last week, has been the subject of controversy as rock's traditional headline slot at Glastonbury is lost once again
Arts and Entertainment
The Ridiculous Six has been produced by Adam Sandler, who also stars in it
filmNew controversy after nine Native American actors walked off set
Life and Style
Google celebrates Bartolomeo Cristofori's 360th birthday
techGoogle Doodle to the rescue
Life and Style
Drinking - often heavily - is a running theme throughout HBO's Game of Thrones adaptation
food + drink
  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Senior Digital Marketing Consultant

£28000 - £45000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A Senior Digital Marketing Cons...

Recruitment Genius: Assistant Stores Keeper

£16640 - £18500 per annum: Recruitment Genius: An Assistant Stores Keeper is r...

Recruitment Genius: Claims Administrator

£16000 - £18500 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is an excellent opportunit...

Recruitment Genius: Software Developer - C# / ASP.NET / SQL

£17000 - £30000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Developer required to join a bu...

Day In a Page

Fishing for votes with Nigel Farage: The Ukip leader shows how he can work an audience as he casts his line to the disaffected of Grimsby

Fishing is on Nigel Farage's mind

Ukip leader casts a line to the disaffected
Who is bombing whom in the Middle East? It's amazing they don't all hit each other

Who is bombing whom in the Middle East?

Robert Fisk untangles the countries and factions
China's influence on fashion: At the top of the game both creatively and commercially

China's influence on fashion

At the top of the game both creatively and commercially
Lord O’Donnell: Former cabinet secretary on the election and life away from the levers of power

The man known as GOD has a reputation for getting the job done

Lord O'Donnell's three principles of rule
Rainbow shades: It's all bright on the night

Rainbow shades

It's all bright on the night
'It was first time I had ever tasted chocolate. I kept a piece, and when Amsterdam was liberated, I gave it to the first Allied soldier I saw'

Bread from heaven

Dutch survivors thank RAF for World War II drop that saved millions
Britain will be 'run for the wealthy and powerful' if Tories retain power - Labour

How 'the Axe' helped Labour

UK will be 'run for the wealthy and powerful' if Tories retain power
Rare and exclusive video shows the horrific price paid by activists for challenging the rule of jihadist extremists in Syria

The price to be paid for challenging the rule of extremists

A revolution now 'consuming its own children'
Welcome to the world of Megagames

Welcome to the world of Megagames

300 players take part in Watch the Skies! board game in London
'Nymphomaniac' actress reveals what it was really like to star in one of the most explicit films ever

Charlotte Gainsbourg on 'Nymphomaniac'

Starring in one of the most explicit films ever
Robert Fisk in Abu Dhabi: The Emirates' out-of-sight migrant workers helping to build the dream projects of its rulers

Robert Fisk in Abu Dhabi

The Emirates' out-of-sight migrant workers helping to build the dream projects of its rulers
Vince Cable interview: Charging fees for employment tribunals was 'a very bad move'

Vince Cable exclusive interview

Charging fees for employment tribunals was 'a very bad move'
Iwan Rheon interview: Game of Thrones star returns to his Welsh roots to record debut album

Iwan Rheon is returning to his Welsh roots

Rheon is best known for his role as the Bastard of Bolton. It's gruelling playing a sadistic torturer, he tells Craig McLean, but it hasn't stopped him recording an album of Welsh psychedelia
Russell Brand's interview with Ed Miliband has got everyone talking about The Trews

Everyone is talking about The Trews

Russell Brand's 'true news' videos attract millions of viewers. But today's 'Milibrand' interview introduced his resolutely amateurish style to a whole new crowd
Morne Hardenberg interview: Cameraman for BBC's upcoming show Shark on filming the ocean's most dangerous predator

It's time for my close-up

Meet the man who films great whites for a living