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."

Life and Style
Small winemakers say the restriction makes it hard to sell overseas
food + drink
Arts and Entertainment
A comedy show alumni who has gone on to be a big star, Jon Stewart
tvRival television sketch shows vie for influential alumni
Arts and Entertainment
Jerry Hall (Hand out press photograph provided by jackstanley@theambassadors.com)
theatre
Arts and Entertainment
Carrie Hope Fletcher
booksFirst video bloggers conquered YouTube. Now they want us to buy their books
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
ebooksNow available in paperback
News
Clare Balding
peopleClare Balding on how women's football is shaking up sport
Sport
Lewis Hamtilon and pole-sitter Nico Rosberg
SportShould F1's most aggressive driver curb his instincts in title decider?
Arts and Entertainment
Damien Hirst
artCoalition's anti-culture policy and cuts in local authority spending to blame, says academic
Sport
premier leagueMatch report: Arsenal 1 Man United 2
Arts and Entertainment
Kirk Cameron is begging his Facebook fans to give him positive reviews
film
News
i100
Sport
Jonny May scores for England
rugby unionEngland 28 Samoa 9: Wing scores twice to help England record their first win in six
Life and Style
fashionThe Christmas jumper is in fashion, but should you wear your religion on your sleeve?
Arts and Entertainment
Jason goes on a special mission for the queen
tvReview: Everyone loves a CGI Cyclops and the BBC's Saturday night charmer is getting epic
Sport
Tony Bellew (left) and Nathan Cleverly clash at the Echo Arena in Liverpool
boxingLate surge sees Liverpudlian move into world title contention
Voices
Neil Findlay
voicesThe vilification of the potential Scottish Labour leader Neil Findlay shows how one-note politics is today, says DJ Taylor
Life and Style
food + drinkMeat-free recipes and food scandals help one growing sector
News
i100
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

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

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Reach Volunteering: Financial Trustee and Company Secretary

Voluntary Only - Expenses Reimbursed: Reach Volunteering: A trustee (company d...

Recruitment Genius: Senior Project Manager

£45000 - £65000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is a fantastic opportunity...

Recruitment Genius: Shopfitter

Negotiable: Recruitment Genius: This is an opportunity to join a successful an...

Recruitment Genius: Digital Sales Account Manager

£25000 - £30000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A Digital Sales Account Manager...

Day In a Page

Mau Mau uprising: Kenyans still waiting for justice join class action over Britain's role in the emergency

Kenyans still waiting for justice over Mau Mau uprising

Thousands join class action over Britain's role in the emergency
Isis in Iraq: The trauma of the last six months has overwhelmed the remaining Christians in the country

The last Christians in Iraq

After 2,000 years, a community will try anything – including pretending to convert to Islam – to avoid losing everything, says Patrick Cockburn
Black Friday: Helpful discounts for Christmas shoppers, or cynical marketing by desperate retailers?

Helpful discounts for Christmas shoppers, or cynical marketing by desperate retailers?

Britain braced for Black Friday
Bill Cosby's persona goes from America's dad to date-rape drugs

From America's dad to date-rape drugs

Stories of Bill Cosby's alleged sexual assaults may have circulated widely in Hollywood, but they came as a shock to fans, says Rupert Cornwell
Clare Balding: 'Women's sport is kicking off at last'

Clare Balding: 'Women's sport is kicking off at last'

As fans flock to see England women's Wembley debut against Germany, the TV presenter on an exciting 'sea change'
Oh come, all ye multi-faithful: The Christmas jumper is in fashion, but should you wear your religion on your sleeve?

Oh come, all ye multi-faithful

The Christmas jumper is in fashion, but should you wear your religion on your sleeve?
Dr Charles Heatley: The GP off to do battle in the war against Ebola

The GP off to do battle in the war against Ebola

Dr Charles Heatley on joining the NHS volunteers' team bound for Sierra Leone
Flogging vlogging: First video bloggers conquered YouTube. Now they want us to buy their books

Flogging vlogging

First video bloggers conquered YouTube. Now they want us to buy their books
Saturday Night Live vs The Daily Show: US channels wage comedy star wars

Saturday Night Live vs The Daily Show

US channels wage comedy star wars
When is a wine made in Piedmont not a Piemonte wine? When EU rules make Italian vineyards invisible

When is a wine made in Piedmont not a Piemonte wine?

When EU rules make Italian vineyards invisible
Look what's mushrooming now! Meat-free recipes and food scandals help one growing sector

Look what's mushrooming now!

Meat-free recipes and food scandals help one growing sector
Neil Findlay is more a pink shrimp than a red firebrand

More a pink shrimp than a red firebrand

The vilification of the potential Scottish Labour leader Neil Findlay shows how one-note politics is today, says DJ Taylor
Bill Granger recipes: Tenderstem broccoli omelette; Fried eggs with Mexican-style tomato and chilli sauce; Pan-fried cavolo nero with soft-boiled egg

Oeuf quake

Bill Granger's cracking egg recipes
Terry Venables: Wayne Rooney is roaring again and the world knows that England are back

Terry Venables column

Wayne Rooney is roaring again and the world knows that England are back
Michael Calvin: Abject leadership is allowing football’s age-old sores to fester

Abject leadership is allowing football’s age-old sores to fester

Those at the top are allowing the same issues to go unchallenged, says Michael Calvin