Reverend Bill Boyce out on his bike in Puerto Pollensa. | Majorca Daily Bulletin reporter
Former civil Engineer, biker and heavy metal fan, the Reverend Bill Boyce, and his wife Eleanor, who was the first Organ Transplant Co-ordinator of Northern Ireland, strongly believe that they have spiritually found their feet in Puerto Pollensa.
Bill, who will shortly be celebrating 20 years since he was ordained to the curacy of Willowfield Parish, Down Diocese, N. Ireland, in 2003, and Eleanor, swapped the green hills of Glengormley for the sun and beaches of Puerto Pollensa in September of 2021 when Bill took over as the Chaplain at the Anglican Church of St. Andrew in the port.
“It should have been earlier but I suffered a heart attack after a spinning class,” Bill who is a dedicated cyclist, having hung up his biker boots many moons earlier, said.
And they both admit that they could not be happier in the port, although they are still getting to grips with things.
Prior to moving to Mallorca, Bill served two parishes in Belfast and Bangor before spending 14 years as rector of St. Brigid’s, Mallusk but during that time he had already fallen in love with Pollensa and Eleanor.
Bill sadly lost his first wife Sandra to cancer in 2009 and on an organised trip to see a famous passion play held every ten years, due to circumstance, he ended up being the only single person on the trip with 25 other couples. He says that this made him realise that perhaps it was time to move on. So, having heard of other colleagues’ experiences, he logged on to the dating agency Christian Connections and very quickly met Eleanor.
“I had always been single. I had tried the website for a while but nothing had ever happened and to be honest I had kind of given up. But for some reason the night Bill logged on I thought I would give it another chance and I think we both immediately knew we were meant to be together, so we exchanged a few emails, met and were married within six months,” Eleanor said.
And, it was Eleanor who introduced Bill to Pollensa.
“I had been out on holidays in my early 20s and because Pollensa is so safe, I quite often popped back for short visits on my own. But the first thing I did after we married was to bring Bill out to Pollensa and he fell in love with the place straightaway.
“So, being a ‘woman of property’ if you like, I sold my house and in 2013 we bought an apartment in the port, but we never thought we would be making it our permanent home,” she said.
“We used to come and go and attended the church in the port when we were in town, and over the years we got to know quite a few of the local people and the minister,” Bill said. “We thought that when we were coming up to retirement we might consider living there.
“Then, the minister of St. Andrew’s moved, but we didn’t think there was the money to replace him. Then, in one of the regular emails we received from the church community in the port, we saw that they were advertising for a part-time Chaplain in St. Andrew’s.
“That set things in motion, causing us to wonder if a move like this would be possible. Then that sense of call became clearer and stronger, and I mean that in a spiritual way. We felt a strong calling in ourselves and we also felt a strong calling from the congregation and our friends in Pollensa. It was a two-way spiritual bonding,” said Bill.
For Eleanor, she says the defining moment was in 2019 when they took part in the Songs of Praise held on the beach every September. We were singing ‘I am the Lord of Sea and Sky’, it was a very profound moment. Looking out over the sea and with the mountains behind us, we both felt a real sense that maybe this is where God wanted us to be,” she explained, and after a few bureaucratic delays, which were not helped by the pandemic, they finally made the move in September of 2021.
“We spent three months in the spring of 2018 on a sabbatical at the Anglican church with Rev Nigel Stimpson, who I assisted with a few services, so we had already made a number of friends in the port, knew how the Church worked and a little bit about the congregation, so that made the move easier, but obviously it’s had its challenges,” Bill said.
Despite having felt the calling for most of his 20 years in the public sector, it took Bill 12 years to pluck up the courage to apply because he said that he was very shy and didn’t like public speaking. However, he overcame those challenges and the couple are now a very active part of the local community, attending pub quizzes and events outside of the church - although Bill does admit that some people get a little shock when the vicar turns up wearing one of his many heavy metal T-shirts. His favourite bands are Led Zeppelin and Metallica!
And he is out on his bike two to three times per week. During his sabbatical in Pollensa he competed in the Mallorca 312 cycle race, completing the 167k version of the event and will be taking part again this year for charity.
“So I’ve got to up my training and fitness levels, but I’m staying clear of any spinning classes,” he made clear.
But that is just one of many challenges he and Eleanor are having to tackle.
“It’s taken a while to get used to the church here, it’s very different to what I’ve been used to. We have three different congregations. We have the winter congregation of permanent residents which is rather small, then we have the swallows, who own holidays homes and come and go, then we have the holidaymakers, and it is the holidaymakers who come with the families and children. Fortunately, Eleanor plays the guitar and if we see some children in the congregation we quickly switch things around and she always plays a song for the children to sing to,” Bill said.
“And the congregation as a whole is growing. On Easter Sunday we had some 80 people, we needed extra chairs, and at the end of October the congregation was 70-strong - if this trend continues, in the long term, we’re going to have to move to a larger location,” he added. “That’s very exciting and encouraging, especially when the church is struggling in the UK.”
Bill said that everyone is currently facing some very tough challenges.
“We’re still coming out of the pandemic and it’s so nice to see the port gradually opening up again, but when I walk around, I see so many people looking down. As it says in the Gospels, like ‘sheep without a shepherd’. There is so much happening in the world and society around us right now that some people are felling a little lost, confused and concerned and our job, my job, is to be an agent of hope and faith and shine a light of happiness on peoples’ lives.
“People are feeling the pressures of the costs of living and other tragic events happening around the world, but our purpose is to give people some hope in their lives. At the church we hold regular events, every fourth Friday we have a film screening, it’s a good excuse to get together for coffee and cakes, plus we have regular quiz nights. We held a massive street parity for the Jubilee which was a huge success; we try and do as much as we can to engage with the local community. There are members who may not come to church but they come to us for help. Some people move here and it doesn’t quite turn out to be as easy as it seemed, so we’re always here to help in any way we can,” Bill said.
“But it’s not about numbers, it’s about the bigger picture, it’s about growing as a church, as a congregation and part of the community,” he added.
“I think the important thing is that there is nothing false about us. Yes, Bill can still be a bit shy while I’m more straight to the point,” Eleanor said.
“But the key is that we strongly believe, we’re open, welcoming and friendly and people can, and do, come and open up to us. People confide in us and that is a very important role for the church to play,” she added.
“I do my best to make the church, my services relative. It’s not all ritual, I want people to be able to relate to my services. It’s not all about church stuff because not everyone understands it and it can put them off, so I’m still getting to grips with the local congregation which changes with the seasons, but we’ve always got the grassroots members and they’ve all made us feel very welcome.
“Plus, we now have a good relationship with the Roman Catholic Church which is obviously very important living and working here in Spain. We’re also doing our best to learn the language. The problem is that, due to my work, I’m dealing with English speakers all of the time. But it’s easier in the winter when there are fewer English speakers about, plus we set ourselves challenges when we go out shopping and have at least one day a week when we go for a coffee and we’re not allowed to speak English to each other, so we’re getting there. We’re certainly doing all we can to get the very best out of this new journey God has sent us on and we’re extremely grateful for that. We just hope that our faith and belief will rub off on others and our congregation will continue to grow because this is a truly wonderful place to live and work.
“We’ve got the sun, the sea, the beaches, the mountains and great flat roads to cycle on, not to mention a very active local community and the scores of visitors who return year after year,” Bill said.
“We have also discovered that members of the church who feel tired, burnt out if you like, come out to Pollensa from the UK for a kind of retreat with some holiday fun and attend the church to refresh themselves so they can return to their parishes and carry on their good work,” Eleanor said.
“But we’re in no mad rush, I have an open contract, so we’re here for the long haul - this is where we’re meant to be,” Bill said.
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