to Bishop David's blog. Here you can find news, information, articles and pictures about the Church of England Diocese in Europe. We have over 300 congregations or worship centres serving Anglican and (mostly) English-speaking people in Europe, Morocco, Turkey, Russia and some central Asian countries.

For official diocesan information please click the diocesan logo on the right.

Saturday, 20 July 2019

Deacons make history in the Diocese in Europe

The ministry of deacon in the Church of England is still not well known nor understood.. Most people assume that being a deacon is simply a stepping stone on the way to the priesthood. It is true that priests must first be ordained deacon but the diaconate is also a distinctive ministry, to which people are called, and part of the three-fold ministry of bishop, priest and deacon that Anglicans teach as being characteristic of minstry in the Holy Catholic Church.

The Lambeth Conference as early as 1958 made an attempt to renew the understanding of the diaconate as a distinctive ministry and recommended that "each province of the Anglican Communion...consider whether the office of Deacon shall be restored to its primitive place as a distinctive order in the Church, instead of being regarded as a probationary period for the priesthood". The distinctive diaconate, in my view, still needs to be taken more seriously as a vocational opportnity, within the Church of England.

Deacon Giampaolo Pancetti (Florence)
In this Diocese in Europe we are blessed with having at present 4 distinctive deacons in various ministries (and two such deacons retired from active ministry).

Some ask what is the difference between a deacon and a (lay) Reader. Indeed deacons and Readers in the Church of England do many similar tasks - preaching, teaching and praying for instance. But a deacon is somethingnot simply someone who does certain things. Deacons are ordained to hold up before the Church and the world, diakonia, the distinctive ministry of Christ the Servant, as being central to all Christian ministry.

Some ask how a deacon is different from a priest; is a deacon not simply a junior priest? Well, no. A priest’s focus is on the parish community and sacrament. They are pastors/shepherds of the community, feeding them and leading them. The deacon’s focus is on outreach, service, and supporting the ministry of the faithful in the world.

Being an icon of Christ's servant ministry does not mean that a deacon is simply a servant, mind you. A 2001 Church of England report on the ministry of deacons, For Such A Time As This, emphasised that the deacon is a person on a mission, an ambassador or messenger, making connections, building bridges, faithfully delivering a mandate”.

I believe that it is the ambassadorial role which marks out the ministry of the deacon most clearly. And as an ambassador is sent as an envoy, so a deacon is an envoy between the Church and the world. This is manifest in the traditional role of the deacon in the liturgy (although the deacon's ministry is far from confined to the liturgy!). So the deacon travels from the sanctuary into the midst of the people to proclaim the Good News, and at the end of the mass sends the people out into the world to spread Christ's peace. The deacon as envoy also brings the the needs of the world into the assembled Church in the intercessions, and in the offertory presents the gifts of ordinary human life and labour, bread and wine, on the altar to be transformed in the Eucharistic prayer led by the priest.

Last 30 June was a historic occasion for this diocese. For the first time, in the same place, were to be found three distinctive deacons. Deacon Julia Bradshaw (above centre) was ordained to this order to serve in St Thomas' Church in Crete, in the Greater Athens Chaplaincy. The preacher for the ordination was Deacon Christine Saccali (above left), who is also licenced to Greater Athens. The Deacon of the mass was Frances Hiller.

If you would like to explore a possible vocation to the diaconate, have a conversation with your priest.

Friday, 19 July 2019

Ministry in Tangier

St Andrew's Tangier has a growing ministry among migrants and refugees from sub-saharan African countries. It is an oasis of calm and peace in the heart of the city, where a very international community finds their spiritual home.

St Andrew's Tangier
Fr Dennis Obidiegwu (pictured above with Archdeacon of Gibraltar, Geoff Johnston) is the Chaplain of St Andrew's and is himself a priest of Nigerian origin, who was trained and served in Ghana as well as worked in Togo. He is well experienced in the challenges that West Africans face, who seek to find a life with dignity. An increasing number are flee north towards the Mediterranean shores of Morocco, looking with desperation for a way to enter Europe. From certain vantage points in the city, Europe seems tantalisingly close. However the waters are treacherous, and many lose their lives attempting the crossing.

On the horizon, Europe can be seen, from Tangier
In partnership with USPG Fr Dennis is building a ministry in St Andrew's that not only seeks to address immediate spiritual needs of the migrant population, but also to explore ways to encourage them not to take to the dangerous waters of the straits, but to consider other options, including returning to their homelands. He recently was a guest speaker at the USPG annual conference about the work in Tangier.

Some of the congregation of St Andrew's
The Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Tangier is a solid ecumenical partner for us, and provides many inspiring models of outreach and ways of bearing witness to the love of Christ for all persons. The Archdiocese has several projects serving both migrants and Moroccans who are themselves in grave need, through severe disability or through circumstances of their lives. 

The Archbishop of Tangier (centre) with some of his workers

Sunday, 23 June 2019

An historic day at St John the Evangelist, Casablanca

The Community Centre is opened by Fr Medhat, UK Ambassador Tom Reilly, Bishop David, HE Rachid Afirat, Governor of  Casablanca-Anfa, and Archbishop Cristobal Lopez
St John the Evangelist Church, Casablanca, is the oldest church in continuous use in the city. Consecrated in 1906, by the then Bishop of Sierra Leone, it has been the home to English speaking Christians in Morocco's largest city for over 100 years.

Fr Medhat greets HE Governor Rachid Afirat

In recent times, especially under the direction of its current Chaplain, the Revd Canon Dr Medhat Sabry, St John’s has grown significantly. Two packed church services are now held each Sunday. The community itself counts on people from at least 17 different nations around the world. St John's also hosts a Chinese congregation and a French speaking student congregation which both use the church each week.

Fr Medhat in 2016 began working with the parish in putting together an ambitious development project in two phases. Phase One included the construction of a community centre with facilities to serve the burgeoning migrant and refugee community in the city. The community centre includes classrooms where basic skills can be taught and training given, and a place for assistance with pastoral questions, counselling, documentation and other advice, and mutual support groups for the various sub-Saharan nationalities, as well as being a centre for the St John’s humanitarian outreach programme. It will also provide an office for the priest, new toilets, and space for the parish's own educational work with children and adults. 

On Friday 21 June, in a joyful civic occasion, the community centre was opened. Among the official guests were the Governor of Casablanca-Anfa, representing His Majesty King Mohammed VI, the UK Ambassador, the US Acting Head of Mission, a host of other diplomats, the Archbishop of Rabat, and several ecumenical dignitaries. Ribbon cutting, official speeches and a festive reception marked this, the conclusion of Phase One of the development project. 

Rebecca Boardman from USPG, (United Society Partners in the Gospel) which has been supporting the project, remarked on the significance of the community centre, in terms of the Church's ministry to those in need: "Within the perimeter walls of St John’s is a safe space for the many who are now finding themselves, either permanently displaced in Morocco, or among the thousands seeking a route eventually to Europe, to meet, and to have their needs addressed, in a country and city, where for many refugees and migrants, there are few such options".

The door to St John the Evangelist compound.

Mr Andrew MacDonald, US Acting Deputy Head of Mission signs the guest book
Fr Medhat greets the UK Ambassador, HE Thomas Reilly
Following the civic opening, a eucharist was celebrated in the church during which a procession was made to the community centre, (accompanied by African songs and drum), for it to be formally blessed. Archdeacon Geoff Johnston spoke of the vital witness of St John's and its impressive international and lively community. Canon Joanna Udal, who is currently serving as locum priest in Tangier, was also able to join us in Casablanca.


Phase Two, an expansion of the church building itself to double its seating capacity begins almost immediately. The total cost of the development project, (Phases One and Two) is about 5 million Moroccan Dirhams, (approximately £400,000) of which all but about 200,000 Dirhams remains to be raised. It has been an incredible cooperative effort by parishioners, partners such as USPG, and other individuals. But most of all it is due to the constant prayer and hard work on the ground by Fr Medhat and the parish lay leadership team which have brought us to this day. 

Laus Deo 

Tuesday, 11 June 2019

Turning red in St Alban's Copenhagen

"Wear red for Pentecost" was the instruction given to the people of St Alban's Copenhagen by their priest the Revd Smitha Prasadam. And bold flashes of red - the colour of flame, the colour traditionally associated with the Holy Spirit - were certainly on display in what is already a very colourful congregation.

During the festive eucharist on Sunday a member of the congregation was formally received into the communion of the Church of England. (He had been episcopally confirmed in another Church tradition). It gave an opportunity for the whole assembly to give thanks for the Spirit's movement in their lives and in the community, and to consider how that same Spirit imight be moving them forward in their congregational life and mission. As Mother Smitha said in the St Alban's Parish Magazine:  "...what if the Spirit's work is to create for us a new problem: that we have a story to tell, mercy to share, love to spread, and we just can't rest until we've done so?"

Some members of the Sunday School
St Alban's already has a reputation for being a lively, inclusive, forward-looking and welcoming congregation. One member who has been worshipping here while posted tto Copenhagen from his home in Tennessee said, "I thought that I would find some old musty church with ten people in attendance on a Sunday...How delighted we have been to discover an energetic, diverse congregation of all ages and backgrounds".

Thursday, 6 June 2019

St George's Berlin, a place of refreshment and life

A Church of England parish where songs are sung in Urdu, African heritage celebrated with a thanksgiving service, vocations are nurtured, and faith confirmed? St George's Berlin, of course! This congregation reflects the vibrancy and diversity of the German capital itself.

A notably multicultural parish, led by the Revd Canon Christopher Jage-Bowler, St George's is a microcosm of the world-wide Church. It seems that everyone, no matter their Church tradition, language spoken, or cultural background can find a welcome here. There are opportunities for all to celebrate and grow in their faith and in their service to their brothers and sisters. For instance, Canon Jage-Bowler is particularly moved by the commitment in St George's to their well-building projects, as a key part of their overseas outreach. So far, funding from St George's has enabled wells to be constructed in Uganda, Nigeria and Yemen. He notes that "wells attract people, as the Church itself should". "Wells are the opposite of walls; they are places of refeshment and life".

At a recent parish visit, baptism and confirmation were celebrated (including two candidates who were confirmed from the parish of Heidelberg). The Revd Fr Joachim Reich was licensed as assistant curate, and I had an opportunity to practise some rusty Urdu during the communion song. Many of the African members of the congregation proudly advertised the upcoming African Thanksgiving Service on 16 June.

Fr Joachim Reich (left) and Fr Christopher Jage-Bowler (right)

Tuesday, 14 May 2019

Malines Conversations Group: another instrument working towards a common future for Anglicans and Roman Catholics

Dr Ben Gordon-Taylor of Mirfield presents items related to Bp Walter Frere CR a participant in the origial Malines Conversations.
Many people know of the two official instruments of the international dialogue between the Anglican Communion and the Roman Catholic Church: ARCIC, (the theological dialogue) and IARCCUM (the episcopal commission on unity and mission, of which I am privileged to serve as the Anglican Co-chairman). 

There is another interesting and informal dimension to our international dialogue which takes its inspiration from a unique initiative in the 1920s, long before Vatican II, and not long after Pope Leo XIII declared in the 1896 Bull Apostolicae Curae that Anglican Orders were "absolutely null and utterly void" - the Malines Conversations, 1921 to 1926. 

Fr Thomas Pott presents a gift to Professor Gordon Lathrop. Fr David Richardson looks on.
In 2013 the Conversations began again with theologians from each Communion taking up the task began in the 1920s. The Malines Conversations Group continues to explore matters which the official theological dialogue is not mandated to do, including the difficult question of Anglican Orders. This year we met in York hosted by the Dean and Chapter of York Minster. 

The official communiqué is below:



The seventh international meeting of the Malines Conversations Group took place in York, UK, between Sunday 24th March and Thursday 28th March 2017. Under the patronage of The Right Reverend and Right Honourable The Lord Williams of Oystermouth (former Archbishop of Canterbury), this informal group comprises Anglican and Roman Catholic theologians from seven different countries and meets with the blessing and support of the Pontifical Council for the Promotion of Christian Unity and Lambeth Palace. It includes members of both ARCIC and IARCCUM.

The Group was hosted by the Dean and Chapter of York, and welcomed by the Dean, The Right Revd Dr Jonathan Frost. Celebrating the historic relationship between the Archdiocese of Malines and the Diocese of York, Cardinal Josef de Kesel was represented throughout the meeting by the Bishop of Liège, The Right Revd Dr Jean-Pierre Delville, who gave a paper entitled The Eucharist in the context of a divided Church

The Group visited the Community and College of the Resurrection, Mirfield, for a seminar, and joined with the Community for a celebration of the Eucharist having viewed items belonging to Bishop Walter Frere CR, a participant in the original conversations. On the final evening, the group attended Evening Prayer at the Parish Church of Kirby Underdale, where a window commemorates Cardinal Mercier and Viscount Halifax. The Group joined the Earl and Countess of Halifax for dinner, at which Lord Halifax spoke movingly about his ecumenically-pioneering great-Grandfather.

During seminars and conversations, the Group was once again guided in its thinking about scripture by The Revd Professor Gordon Lathrop, in considering issues around gender by Professor Joseph Selling of KU Leuven, and in exploring canonical questions by The Revd Professor Georges-Henri Ruyssen SJ, of the Pontifical Oriental Institute, Rome. The social entrepreneur and impact consultant Jurgen Mortier also led a working session on organisational strategy. This year’s gathering focussed in particular on issues of gender, orders and Eucharist, responding to the challenge laid down for our churches to find new yet faithful ways of considering old problems in the context of a communion ecclesiology.

The meeting took place within the context of daily prayer in York Minster, and concluded with a celebration of the Eucharist with the Mercier Chalice, in which is set the Episcopal Ring of Cardinal Mercier. In the week after his funeral, the Group prayed in particular for their former patron Cardinal Godfried Danneels who died on 14th March 2019. May the Lord grant him eternal rest.

The Malines Conversation Group is immensely grateful to all its sponsors and supporters, Anglican and Catholic alike. An eighth meeting is planned for next Spring, in Madeira, where Viscount Halifax first met the Abbé Portal. Preparations are also underway for the centenary of the Conversations in December 2021. 


Anglican members:

The Right Revd David Hamid, Suffragan Bishop of the Church of England Diocese in Europe; Co-chairman of IARCCUM 

The Most Revd David Moxon, Former Co-Chairman of ARCIC III and former representative of the Archbishop of Canterbury to the Holy See and director of the Anglican Centre in Rome

The Revd Canon Professor Emeritus Sarah Coakley, Norris-Hulse Professor of Divinity Emerita, University of Cambridge, UK

The Revd Dr Jennifer Cooper, Director of Initial Ministerial Eduction, Dioceses of Durham and Newcastle; Research Fellow, Campion Hall Oxford

The Revd Canon Dr James Hawkey, Canon Theologian of Westminster Abbey and Fellow of Clare College, Cambridge; member of the International Anglican-Reformed Dialogue.

The Revd Canon Dr Jeremy Morris, Master of Trinity Hall, Cambridge; Senior Associate of the Cambridge Theological Federation, Affiliated Lecturer at the Faculty of Divinity, Cambridge University, Fellow of the Royal Historical Society

The Very Revd Canon David Richardson, former representative of the Archbishop of Canterbury to the Holy See and director of the Anglican Centre in Rome 

The Revd Canon Professor Nicholas
Sagovsky, Former Canon Theologian at Westminster Abbey; Former member of the Anglican-Roman Catholic International Commission (ARCIC)

Catholic members:

His Eminence Joseph Cardinal Tobin, C.Ss.R, Archbishop of Newark

The Revd Canon Anthony Currer, Secretary to the Anglican and Methodist dialogues at the Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity, Rome

The Revd Professor Marc R. Francis, President of The Catholic Theological Union, Chicago, Illinois       

Professor Joris Geldhof, Professor of liturgical studies and sacramental theology at the Katholieke Universiteit Leuven, Belgium; Chair of the Liturgical Institute Leuven; Editor-in-chief of the bilingual journal Questions Liturgiques/Studies in Liturgy; President of Societas Liturgica

Dr Maryana Hnyp, Coordinator of Inter-Religious Affairs, KU Leuven; Institutional Development Officer, Caritas Europa; Founding Chair KU Leuven Lifestance Network

Professor Dr Arnaud Join-Lambert, Université catholique de Louvain; Centre de théologie pratique

The Revd Professor Keith Pecklers, SJ, Professor of Liturgy at the Pontifical Gregorian University (Rome), Professor of Liturgical History at the Pontifical Liturgical Institute of Sant’Anselmo (Rome); Founding president of the International Jungmann Society

The Revd Professor Thomas Pott OSB, Monastery of Chevetogne (Belgium); Professor of Oriental Liturgy and Sacramentology at the Pontifical Atheneum Sant’Anselmo and at the Pontifical Oriental Institute (Rome); Consultor of the Sacred Congregation for the Eastern Churches and of the Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity

The Revd Cyrille Vael OSB, Monastery of Chevetogne (Belgium); Advisor of NNE (New Narrative for Europe) of the Department for Promotion and Protection of the Regional Cultural Heritage of Europe (European Commission).

Sunday, 12 May 2019

Archdeaconry retreat explores the Jesus Prayer, the Rosary and Martin Luther's teaching on prayer

From 3-5 May 2019 at the Salesian Centre in Barcelona over 25 people from parishes in the Archdeaconry of Gibraltar came together for a weekend to explore prayer and spirituality using insights and traditions from our ecumenical partners.

I gave three addresses outlining some forms of prayer that can enrich our own prayerlife, learning from ecumenical partners. From the Orthodox tradition, the Jesus Prayer; from the Roman Catholic tradition, the Rosary, and from the Lutheran tradition, Martin Luther's teaching on prayer using Scripture or the Creeds, which was a good launchng point for considering the Lectio Divina tradition in general.

There was much time for private prayer and contemplation in the beautiful setting of the Salesian Centre.

Saturday, 11 May 2019

St George’s Anglican Church Venice, joins in the 58th Art Biennale

Invited guests for the private viewing before the opening to the public. The tall gentleman dressed in blue is the curator of the Khankhalaev Gallery in Moscow who put together the exhibition.
St George’s Anglican Church in Venice is ideally situated on the main thoroughfare in 'Gallery/Museum Mile’ in Venice. Recently the Chaplaincy Council took the decision to remove the pews in the nave. On doing so an ideal space for exhibitions, concerts, lectures, workshops and the like became apparent. 

Through a Venetian agent an art exhibition has now been installed focused upon the work of the emerging and acclaimed Russian painter Zorikto Dorzhiev. He has exhibited his work in the Victoria and Albert Museum in London. Zorikto is from the Mongolian Steppe land around Lake Baikal. His art is focused upon the life of the nomadic people of that region but not specifically Christian. Yet it most aptly illustrates the language of journeying, pilgrimage, or that sentence from the Letter to the Hebrews, ‘They acknowledged themselves to be strangers and aliens without fixed abode on earth’ (Hebrews 11.13) - language which is so much part of Christian spirituality. Interestingly the Moscovite curator who designed the exhibition made a point of placing four models of horsemen, seated on horseback and dressed in traditional Mongolian attire, as the centre pieces of the exhibition and riding towards the sanctuary – ‘looking for a country of their own’ (Hebrews 11.14).

The British Ambassador to Italy, Jill Morris (with back to the camera, brown jacket), converses with the team responsible for the exhibition. The younger man to her left and slightly in the background is the artist, Zorikto Dorzhiev. Later, the Ambassador used the church for a Town Hall meeting for British nationals focused on the issue of Brexit.
Thus, St George’s is now contributing along with many other galleries, exhibition centres and churches to the 58th Venice Art Biennale and is part of the ‘buzz’. The theme for this year’s Art Biennale is ‘May you live in interesting times’. It is notable that many exhibits are focused upon the issue of dispersed and marginalized people. One exhibit is a craft that sunk off the island of Lampedusa with a great loss of life.

Visitors to the private viewing. Note the statues of Mongolian horsemen. The title given them is ‘The Silk Way’. They are facing the sanctuary!
St George’s is already the focus of programmes other than worship such as the weekend concerts given by the Venice Music Project. This project makes a point of researching and performing early baroque music composed in Venice which has long been forgotten. The replacing of the pews with stackable but ergonomic chairs means that the use of the church can now be greatly widened for worship and cultural events. Such events are also a source of income which will help with the enhancement of the whole building. An appeal for a substantial renovation programme is about to be launched. The exhibition will remain open until 24th November 2019. 

An example of the art of  the artist Zorikto Dorzhiev now on display in the church. It is entitled, ’Elder Sister’s Fairytales’.

Tuesday, 30 April 2019

From Emmaus to Star Trek: Simone Yallop reports on a recent Diocesan Readers' Workshop

One of our Diocesan Readers, Simone Yallop (St Mary the Virgin, Twente), has written this report on a recent Readers' workshop.

In the weekend of 26 to 28 April 2019 a group of 11 Readers and 4 Readers-in-Training came together at St, Columba’s House in Woking, for a workshop on Discipleship. The facilitators were Dr Clare Amos (Director of Lay Discipleship), The Revd Canon Elaine Labourel (Director of Readers) and the Revd Deacon Frances Hiller (Bishop David’s Chaplain).

Clare Amos took us on an enthralling Biblical journey, looking at what the gospels tell us about Peter’s experiences as a disciple of Jesus. Discipleship is about following, learning and serving. It is a journey sometimes with two steps forward and one step backwards. We will not get it right the first time. Neither did Peter. It was interesting how Clare pointed out that in John’s gospel, Jesus does not say ‘follow me’ to Peter until (21:19) after he has both denied and affirmed Jesus three times. We were introduced to discipleship being a journey into the heart of God’s love, with its goal to grow evermore Christlike in every aspect of our lives, upwards towards God, inward to self, outward to the world and sideways to other Christians.

Discipleship is not only about following it is also about making new disciples. It is what Jesus tells us to do in Matthew 28:19-20. Jesus tells us to go and make disciples teaching them to obey everything he has commanded us. That includes loving God with all our hearts and loving our neighbours as ourselves. We are not alone because Jesus is with us to the end of the age.

‘Did not our hearts burn within us?’ said the disciples when they realized Jesus had been with them on the road to Emmaus (Luke 24:32). Clare used this example as she explained her ideas for a rule of life to help us on our journey in knowing God, growing in Christ, building community and living beyond ourselves.

Dr Clare Amos, Deacon Frances Hiller
As Readers we have a role in teaching to help build the Body of Christ. Deacon Frances spoke about tools that could help us. We looked together at the Pilgrim course and tried out one of the lessons.

Canon Elaine gave us two very useful sessions about the role of the teacher and various learning styles. Elaine did this in a novel way by illustrating the roles of the teacher using the characters from the science fiction series ‘Star Trek’, with Captain Kirk as the leader keeping the group together, Mr. Spock promoting logical learning, Scotty applying a wide range of skills, Dr. MacCoy maintaining a healthy environment, Uhura providing good communication and all of them on the bridge making it all happen. Elaine also showed us how to recognise different learning styles including imaginative, analytical, common sense and dynamic learners. Within these groups there are also those who prefer to learn by hearing, seeing or doing. Taking this into account will make our teaching more effective. In the final session Elaine showed us how to recognize the different stages of faith that people can be in when we meet them.

It was a fascinating workshop with a lot of very good material. At the end of the weekend we all wondered where the time had gone since it went so quickly. We shared some wonderful worship services together. In between the sessions and on the Saturday evening there was time to renew friendships and to make new ones. It was an excellent workshop. Thank you to all to worked to make it such a success.

Canon Elaine Labourel (left) and Lieutenant Uhura 

Photos courtesy of Simone Yallop