The main purpose of the Reformed Episcopal Church of Spain’s Anglican Centre planned for Santiago de Compostela is to give Anglicans and other pilgrims an opportunity to actually receive communion when they finish their pilgrimage, says the Rev. Spencer Reece, an Episcopal priest and national secretary to the bishop of Spain.
“A lot of people pulling into Santiago at the end of being on the Camino for months go immediately into a Catholic church where they swing the big incense and they have this wonderful experience, but if they are Anglican…they are not allowed to receive communion and they are not allowed to participate in the service—at all,” he says. “So we would like to change that.”
Helping raise funds for the centre is Trinity Church Wall Street, New York City, a member of The Episcopal Church.
The centre, Reece says, would be located in an existing building that would be renovated for the purpose. It would include worship space as well as perhaps 60 rooms for guests and a coffee bar. The funds the church is trying to raise, he says, would pay for the renovation and also provide an endowment to pay for the centre’s ongoing expenses.
Austin Cooke, a parishioner at St. Barnabas’s Anglican Church in Ottawa and former president of the Canadian Company of Pilgrims, an association for Canadians undertaking the pilgrimage, says he’s puzzled by the plan.
“One of the fascinating things about the Camino is, it’s actually one of the few authentically ecumenical places I’ve seen,” he says. Roman Catholic priests are generous and welcoming to Camino pilgrims regardless of their religion, he says, and several parishes along the route are served by English-speaking priests. It’s common to see people of all religious inclination, even those who say they don’t go to church, taking a few moments of silence at churches along the way, he says. There’s also already a welcome centre for Protestant and other pilgrims at Santiago de Compostela, he says, and the cathedral has offered a chapel for use by Anglican pilgrim groups.