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In Theory: How ready for isolation are you?

April 19, 2013

Do you like ocean views, peace, quiet and solitude, and a captive congregation? Then the island of Tristan da Cunha could be perfect. It's advertising for a new parish priest — the previous incumbent left in 2010.

There are some catches, though, which is possibly why the island has been without a religious leader for two years. Tristan da Cunha is officially the world's most remote island — positioned in the South Atlantic some 1,750 miles from Africa, 2,100 miles from South America —and has a population of 262. There are two television channels, no airport, and ships visit from South Africa nine times a year. Island native Lorna Lavarello-Smith is training to be a priest in Britain. She would like to return to Tristan de Cunha "one day" and describes the island as "a very special place.... 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." Not every island priest was so happy, however; the Rev. Edwin H. Dodgson, brother of author Lewis Carroll, wrote, "It has been my daily prayer that God would open up some way for us all to leave," after the "unnatural state of isolation" began to prey on his mind.

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Q: Does Tristan da Cunha sound like the place for you?

Thanks for the lighter-side topic. I think I would like to go to that island for one year max, or maybe two years. I would treat it like the Peace Corps. I would realize that I wouldn't be there forever, and since I could see the light at the end of the tunnel from the beginning, I think I might be able to handle the isolation.

One thing's for sure: The nine days those ships would arrive would be celebration days, really times to look forward to. Isn't there a song in "The Music Man" that sings, "oh, the Wells Fargo stage, she's a comin' down the line...." or something like that? In 19th-century America, a stage or a train coming through town was a big deal, and I think that's how those ship arrivals would feel. And just think, guys who like corny jokes would be able to say, "You know, pretty soon my ship is coming in!" B-dom-bomp.

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