THE REVEREND Michael Bullock believes that Portugal is a much more positive place than it used to be. He feels that there is a real sense that the country has taken its place in the community of Western European nations during the past 15 years and that the people, especially the young, have a more positive outlook than the previous generation. “It’s a lot more hopeful than it once was, even though I’m aware there are other things that don’t work in the same way as they do in the UK for example,” he muses.
For one thing, he is acutely aware that many people still live wretched lives, under difficult economic circumstances, and that there is still a deeply entrenched inferiority complex. “However, there is a sense that things are getting better, especially for the younger generation who don’t necessarily feel or think the same way as their parents did,” he stresses.
Rev. Bullock believes other things have changed too in Portugal, not least the way that the British community is organised, or rather the way it isn’t as organised as it used to be a decade or more ago. “The British community is no longer the focus of attention in Portugal that it was once. The British tend to be much more able to integrate with the host population and it’s no longer true to level the old stereotype about the English living in enclaves and creating a little England where they don’t speak the language,” he says.
He adds that the younger Anglo-Portuguese are particularly cosmopolitan and people are generally more mobile than they were. “Nowadays it’s not unusual for the British to dart back and forth to Britain several times a year, whereas I know in the 60s and 70s many would return only every few years,” he comments.
He believes that these changes are positive in many ways, but as a consequence the traditional role of the Anglican Church abroad as the focus and centre of that community has weakened. “A lot of things the chaplain did in past years seem no longer current because of this and because of the increasing secularisation of British society both here and in the UK,” he ponders.
Today the Rev. Bullock sees his role as keeping alive “the rumour of God”, a far more pastoral one than purely spiritual one. “What I think has gone is the chaplain’s leadership role in the British community, if there is one at all in the true sense of community,” he adds. “That role was once expected, now the chaplain has to earn his way. I have been doing a lot of listening to discover the trends that go on in the British community here in Greater Lisbon.”
Today he divides his time in various activities, from helping out at the local international schools to ministering on Sundays in both Estoril and Lisbon, where he has a combined congregation of around 100 regular churchgoers.
Although Rev. Bullock sees the British community as very fragmented, he believes that secularisation came later here in Portugal because when you are living in a foreign country you still need a focus as outsiders. “I listen to what is going on and see in what ways I can help and serve the community, whether it is the for the young or old, sick, dying or bereaved,” he points out.
The Rev. Michael Bullock holds Sunday services at St. Paul’s Church, Estoril from 9.30am and St. George’s Church, Estrela, Lisbon, from 11.30am.