WELCOME...

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.



Sunday, 28 February 2010

Madeira Update

Last Friday, the Revd Neil Dawson, priest-in-charge of Holy Trinity Madeira, wrote with an update on the situation on the island that was devastated by floods a week ago. Fr Neil writes ...

…Though the centre was certainly an awful mess of mud and debris, with assistance of soldiers from the mainland and many volunteers and workers from here, ladies in head scarves and muddy aprons, lines of scouts looking muddy but stoic, with buckets and brushes, most of the mess has been cleared up and the town is getting back to normal. Shops, restaurants and banks are back open - cash machines work! Hopefully schools will open next week. Telephones and power is on in most places. One hears so many stories of sadness and near misses.

There are of course serious pockets of damage especially around the three rivers running down through the city which became such swollen torrents. Some of the roads near them have been badly damaged, a good knowledge of the back allies is useful when getting about. The member of our congregation we couldn't contact is OK.

Work is concentrated in Funchal and Ribiera Brava, a sea side town at the head of a long steep valley which was also badly affected. Apart from the tragic loss of life - it all happened so quickly - the long term problem is going to be rehousing people and replacing jobs and lively hoods. Many people rely on their plots of land on the hill side terracing for vegetables, and I fear many of these will have been washed away. Some of the mountain and coastal villages are in a serious state and were for a time cut off.

Our appeal at the church, which is now our Lent Project, has so far raised on the island, about €600 and more will be collected at the regular concerts, the Saturday Coffee mornings, and at Sunday and week day services. The "Friends of Holy Trinity" have all been informed and we are hoping that there will be collections in many of their churches in England and elsewhere: my old church in Knightsbridge is having a collection on Sunday. And of course there is the generous donation from the Diocese...

...We have already started to distribute aid through "Caritas" who are helping 300 hundred homeless people at the local army base. We have at their request, bought hair brushes, safety pins, vacuum cleaners, deodorants, umbrellas, and basic food, milk, bread etc. We are organizing at the Parish Centre, a collection point to be supervised by two members of the congregation, for any dry goods and tins, clothes.

...The message is to everyone, "don't stop coming," the island needs you and you will receive the usual warm welcome.

We have been invited to come to the Requiem Mass at the Cathedral on Sunday afternoon.

All best wishes (and rainbows) - Neil

Friday, 26 February 2010

Head of German Protestant Church Resigns

Some shockwaves have hit the European ecumenical scene this past week. Members of our diocese in Germany will be particularly aware of this situation, as it has been widely covered in the German media.

Bishop Margot Kässmann resigned her post as the head of the German Protestant Church, the EKD (Evangelische Kirche in Deutchland) on Wednesday 24 February. She was found driving with over 3 times the legal alcohol limit in her blood after she drove through a red light on the previous Saturday. The Council of the EKD laments her decision and felt that the incident in question should not be grounds for resignation, and that as a result the Church has lost a “fascinating religious personality”.

German public opinion is divided about her resignation. Some feel that the 51 year old former bishop of Hanover has made the right choice as a moral leader. Others feel that she should be forgiven according to Christian principles.

The EKD is a federation of 22 Lutheran, Reformed and United Protestant Churches, with about 25 million members. The Church of England has an agreement of Eucharistic hospitality with the EKD, through the Meissen Agreement. Bishop Kässmann was the first woman and the youngest person ever to head the EKD, and is regarded as one of the most prominent female Church leaders in the world.

Our diocese participates in the official instrument of the ecumenical relationship between the Church of England and the EKD: the Revd Simon Hobbs, Chaplain of All Saints Cologne and St Boniface Bonn is our Diocese in Europe representative on the Meissen Commission which oversees the relationship.Your prayers are encouraged for our ecumenical partners in the EKD during these upsetting times.

Thursday, 25 February 2010

Workshop for Readers and Readers in Training in Málaga

10 readers and readers in training from Costa del Sol East and West, Madrid, Lisbon, Monaco. Torrevieja, Aquitaine and Pau gathered at the Casa de Espiritualidad of the Diocese of Málaga from 24 to 26 February for a training course on bereavement and funeral ministry. The keynote speakers were the Revd Peter Moger, the Church of England’s national liturgy advisor and the Revd Canon Hugh Broad, the Area Dean of Gibraltar, supported by the Revd Ulla Monberg, the Diocesan Director of Training. The workshop covered many areas related to the pastoral and liturgical ministry around death, including:

• The history of Christian funeral rites, including developments in Anglicanism since the reformation
• The purpose of the funeral liturgy, and who funerals are for
• The grieving process
• The liturgical resources for funerals, authorised and commended for use in the Church of England
• Issues in hymnody and music
• Practical aspects to presiding at funeral services
• The newer provisions for the various moments surrounding death apart from the funeral itself
• Preaching at funerals
• Memorial services and the celebration of All Souls’ Tide

Daily morning, evening and night prayer and the eucharist undergirded the life of the workshop.

This is the third such event in the past 2 years. As in earlier workshops the participants expressed how much they value not only the learning, worship and exchange of experiences but the building of a community and network of mutual support for their minsitries. "Meetings like this are so valuable because we realise we are not alone in our ministry”, said one reader from Spain.

During a session chaired by the Director of Training, the participants reflected on more general matters concerning reader ministry in the diocese. Topics for future workshops were proposed as well as a residential conference for all readers and readers in training, perhaps in 2011. The possible change in terminology that the Church of England is considering was discussed and received a generally positive response, that the name of this ministry be changed from “reader” to “licensed lay minister”.

There are now over 100 licensed readers in the Diocese and about another 35 in training. The Diocese in Europe is grateful for the ministry of her readers, without which, the pastoral ministry in our over 270 congregations would be impossible to sustain.

Tuesday, 23 February 2010

30th International Old Catholic Congress


The 30th International Old Catholic Congress will be held in Zurich from 9 – 13 August this year. The theme is “You shall go out with joy”, taken from Isaiah 55.12. Through this theme, the participants will explore an intriguing question: "How can a zest for life and humour be of potential benefit to our faith, our spirituality and our community?"

It is clear that the congress organisers hope to inspire a joyful vision for the church, to stimulate one's personal spirituality as well the life of church communities. The programme for the 5 days includes lectures, workshops, worship, recreation and excursions. It is geared for laity and clergy, and for all ages. The following main speakers, and the topics they will address are confirmed:
  • Bishop Dr Dirk Schoon (Netherlands): “The church as a Place of Joy – Yesterday and Today”
  • Henriette Crüwell (Germany): Does God Have a Sense of Humour?”
  • Bishop Dr John Okoro (Austria): “How Seriously Should I Take Life?”
  • The Revd Dr Michael Bangert (Switzerland): “Humour and Humility as the Basis for Christian Spirituality”
Anglicans have been in full communion with the Old Catholic Churches of the Union of Utrecht since 1931, and are warmly invited to attend the Congress. I will be there as a member of our official Anglican-Old Catholic Co-ordinating Council. It would be very good to have a sizable group from our Diocese present so that we could share experiences of our fellowship with the Old Catholics. The Congress language is German, but translation is provided into English, French, Dutch, Polish, Czech and Italian.

There is a website for the Congress with full information here. A registration form can be completed online here.

Monday, 22 February 2010

Floods in Funchal

Messages of support from around the diocese are being received in Madeira, which has been hit by devastating floods and mudslides due to torrential rain last weekend. Many telephone lines are still not operating but I reached Tony Hughes-Lewis, one of the Churchwardens at Holy Trinity, Funchal, this morning for an update.

Tony confirmed that the situation has now been declared a national disaster by Portugal and three days of national mourning have been called for. The military are assisting with the clean-up, rescue and relief efforts. The official death toll is 44 (including one British visitor) but a further 250 persons are missing. There is concern for one member of the congregation who is still missing at time of writing.

Funchal is located geographically in a "bowl" and the water from the mountains literally poured in, and the storm drains simply could not cope. The centre of town is now in parts, “head deep” in mud and boulders. There is widespread fear that when underground car parks are cleared even more bodies will be found. Fr Neil Dawson (left), the Priest-in-Charge of Holy Trinity, Funchal has been out to view the stricken areas of town which are now "a mess of water, mud, boulders and debris". The populace of Madeira is very closely-knit. It is highly likely that almost everyone in the population of 240,000 will know someone who has been a casualty of this disaster.

Holy Trinity Church and parsonage have escaped damage. Fr Neil presided at the Sunday service as normal, although attendance was down to about 60 from the usual over 150 as people were advised by the authorities not to venture into Funchal unless absolutely necessary. The service began with a minute's silence to remember the victims of the disaster.

There is a note about the floods on the Diocesan website here. Holy Trinity has a page on its website about the disaster. Here is the link.

Please continue to pray for Madeira.
Gracious God, through your Son you have taught us that nothing in life or in death is able to separate us from your love. Look in mercy on all to whom great sorrow and distress has come through the floods in Madeira. Help those who are injured, support any who are dying. Strengthen the members of the emergency services and all who bring relief and comfort. Console and protect those who have lost loved ones. Give your light in darkness to all who are near to despair, and assure them that you hold all souls in life; through Jesus Christ our Risen Lord.

Saturday, 20 February 2010

The Ecumenical Patriarch Expresses Strong Support for Ecumenical Dialogue

This year Eastern and Western Christians celebrate the Lent-Easter cycle on the same dates. The first Sunday in Lent is observed by Orthodox Christians as "the Feast of Orthodoxy". It originally commemorated the end of iconoclasm in the 9th century, but has come to celebrate more generally the maintenance of the true faith.

The Ecumenical Patriarch (photo left), His All Holiness Bartholomew I, has published an encyclical letter on the occasion of the first Sunday of Lent which gives strong support to the ecumenical movement and dialogue. He writes, "It is not possible for the Lord to agonize over the unity of His disciples and for us to remain indifferent about the unity of all Christians". The Patriarch is addressing those, particularly within his own Church, who oppose theological dialogue with other Christians because they feel it is a denial of the truths of the faith. He states in the encyclical, "The truth does not fear dialogue, because truth has never been endangered by dialogue".

Patriarch Bartholomew reminds Christians of our task to influence and transform the world, to provide a witness to the world of the life-giving breath of our faith."Thus, we must first converse as Christians among ourselves in order to resolve our differences, in order that our witness to the outside world may be credible", he states in the encyclical. "Our endeavors for the union of all Christians is the will and command of our Lord, who before His Passion prayed to His Father “that all [namely, His disciples] may be one, so that the world may believe that You sent me.” (John 17.21)"

The Ecumenical Patriarch of Constantinople (the Byzantine name for modern day Istanbul) is the honorary and spiritual head of the Orthodox Church throughout the world. The full text of his encyclical can be found here. (Photo Credit: Nikolaos Manginas).

Priest to walk the length of Algarve

The Revd Bob Bates (left), chaplain at St Vincent’s Anglican parish in Algarve, Portugal, is going to undertake a 260 km walk across the Algarve, from East to West, this May. The purpose of the walk is to raise funds for the St Vincent’s Home for mentally and physically disabled children and adults, a local charity which is in need of financial support. Fr Bob will set out on 28 April for a walk that will take about 7 days, following what is believed to be the original pilgrim trail of St Vincent, also known as the Moçarbe Way. He will finish at Cape St Vincent on the westernmost fringe of Europe. The Anglican Church in Algarve has St Vincent as its patron, so there is a natural link with the Portuguese charity, and Fr Bob hopes that the walk will also be a good way to highlight the presence of the Church of England in this part of Portugal.

Fr Bob is an experienced walker having completed the final 220 miles of the Camino de Santiago from the city of León to Santiago de Compostella last year.

If you are interested in helping to sponsor the fund-raising walk, you can make contact through this link. Please hold Fr Bob in our prayers. St Vincent’s website is here.

Thursday, 18 February 2010

A Word About the Clergy Discipline Measure


There is widespread misunderstanding and considerable anxiety about the Clergy Discipline Measure (CDM), particularly among clergy. On Wednesday 27th January, I attended an Ecclesiastical Law Society lecture on the CDM. It was given by the Lord Justice of Appeal, Sir John Mummery, who is the “President of Tribunals” under the Measure.  Sir John spoke of his experience which gave me renewed trust in the way the Measure is being observed throughout the Church.

For one thing he shared a statistic which helps to keep things in perspective. The number of complaints brought under CDM are few: 22,000 clergy are subject to the measure yet in 2008 (the latest year for which we have statistics) there were only about 70 formal complaints in total, including some against bishops and archbishops. Of these only 3 complaints ended up being referred to tribunal. To date, there have been no complaints under CDM in the Diocese in Europe at all.

What does the CDM deal with?
The CDM is NOT about:
  • Doctrine, liturgy or ceremonial. At some point in the future, the Church will need to decide how to address these matters.
  • Grumpy complaints by parishioners or lay leaders who want to bully clergy. Of course there are always some who try to abuse legal systems, but general grumpiness is dealt with outside the measure, usually by conciliation.
  • Moving times of services, staring at a member of the congregation from the pulpit or sunbathing in scanty clothing in the vicarage garden. (All these were real complaints; as to the latter the complainant had to stand on tip-toe to peer over a high fence in order to observe the alleged offence!)
  • Ability of the clergy to do their job properly. There will be ways to address capability under the forthcoming Clergy Terms and Conditions of Service legislation
  • Addressing the problem of people not getting on. Pastoral breakdown between clergy and people is serious, but it is not a matter for the CDM to deal with.
  • Taking away pastoral responsibility from bishops. Many complaints, after preliminary scrutiny, end up being dismissed by the bishop for insufficient evidence, or for not being a disciplinary matter at all. Complainants can appeal against the bishop’s dismissal, but if the bishop’s decision is “reasonable” and within the law, the appeal would not have much success.
The CDM is about addressing serious misconduct. It is concerned with blameworthy behaviour that is addressed by examination of fact and evidence, and with a view to the degree of the misconduct. So clearly it is about such things as inappropriate relationships, misuse of church funds, not following child protection procedures, and damaging the welfare of a minor. At times, it is necessary to steer CDM in the midst of complex parallel proceedings of a civil or criminal jurisdiction.

I believe that the clergy of our Church can have a confidence in the CDM. Clergy discipline prior to the CDM coming into force in 2006 was not always handled uniformly or with transparency throughout the Church. I was greatly encouraged to hear Sir John Mummery (left), who holds great responsibility within the system and whose approach is humble, wise and thoroughly committed to fair procedures and "getting it right".

Wednesday, 17 February 2010

Summary of General Synod, February 2010

I realise that many of you might not thank me for this post, as you may be quite relieved not to be a member of General Synod! However, here is a potted summary of what happened last week, in case you are interested. Church House suggests this might be useful material for parish magazines. Of course, not all is relevant to our situation in this particular Church of England Diocese. It is a long post, so remember to follow the read more link.

The General Synod met in London from February 8th to 12th. Among other matters, it discussed:

Children and young people
Synod discussed Going for Growth, the Board of Education’s strategy for working alongside children and young people, which offers both a theological framework and priorities for practical action at diocesan and parish level.

Mission
Synod considered research from the Mission and Public Affairs Council into the growth of the ‘mixed-economy Church’, and carried a motion encouraging further development of pioneer ministers and the making of Bishops’ Mission Orders. The Rt Revd Graham Cray, Archbishops’ Missioner and Fresh Expressions Team Leader, gave a presentation on Fresh Expressions.

TV coverage of religion and ethics
The Synod carried a motion expressing appreciation of the vital role played by those engaged in communicating religious belief and practice through the media, while also articulating deep concern about the overall reduction in religious broadcasting across British television in recent years.

Tuesday, 16 February 2010

A Lenten Prayer from the East

As we begin our observance of Lent I share a prayer which expresses the spiritual discipline of the season. It is a prayer of St Ephrem the Syrian. St Ephrem was born around 306 in the city of Nisibis, which today is known as Nusaybin, in southeast Turkey, just on the border with Syria. therefore just within our diocese. The photo above is from the 5th century monastery of Mar Gabriel, not far from where Ephrem lived and ministered. He was a deacon and author of over 500 hymns. (Two of his compositions are included in Common Worship: Daily Prayer, on pages 49 and 637). The Church of England commemorates St Ephrem on 9 June. His prayer is said daily in Lent in the Eastern Churches (with a prostration after each sentence):

O Lord and Master of my life, give me not a spirit of sloth, despondency, lust for power and idle talk.
But a spirit of chastity, humility, patience and love give to me thy servant.
O Lord and King, grant me to see my own faults and not to judge my brother or sister for blessed art thou to the ages of ages.

Monday, 15 February 2010

February 2010 Book Selection

Here is February's book selection. The reviews are written by Dr Martin Davie, the Theological Secretary to the Bishops of the Church of England. They will be of interest to all who wish to keep up with current theology, including the clergy and Readers (lay ministers) of the Diocese in Europe. This month's selection covers a wide range of theology: interpretation of scripture, missiology, patristics, discipleship, ecology and apologetics. 8 reviews are below. Just click on the read more link.

Friday, 12 February 2010

Selection and Training of Minority Ethnic Priests and Deacons in Europe

The Director of Ordinands and the Director of Training convened a consultation on Friday 12 February on mapping the minority ethnic presence in the diocese, noting trends and challenges. The consultation began to grapple with the reality of the growing minority ethnic dimension in Europe and particularly the implications for discernment, selection, training and deployment of minority ethnic clergy. In the Diocese in Europe there are presently 4 licensed clergy, as well as a handful of clergy with Permission to Officiate, and another handful of postulants for Holy Orders who come from minority ethnic backgrounds. (Note: "minority ethnic" means visible minority in a British context).

Participants in the consultation were the Venerable Jonathan Boardman (Archdeacon of Italy and Malta), the Revd Philip Mounstephen (the chaplain of St Michael’s Paris), Ms Sonia Barron (Archbishops’ Advisor for Minority Ethnic Anglican Concerns), the Revd Dr Ian McIntosh (Eastern Regional Ministry Course, where many of our ordinands train), the Revd Julian Francis (National Training Co-ordinator for Minority Ethnic Anglicans), the Revd Ben Enwuchola (Nigerian Chaplain in London), and the Revd Deacon Frances Hiller and myself from the Ministry Team.

The consultation identified many areas of challenge for further work in our diocese, including:
  •  Embracing more and more the reality of ethnic diversity which has been evolving over the past couple of decades
  • Taking into account the variety of situations that minority ethnic Anglicans in Europe find themselves, economically, in terms of residence status, family situations etc.
  • Making our congregations welcoming places for minority ethnic members
  • Incorporation of minority ethnic Anglicans to a greater degree in the councils and synods of the Church
  • Recruitment for the ministry of people whose second or third language is English, and sensitivity to the need to express the deep call or vocation in one’s mother tongue
  • Training clergy in cross-cultural skills
  • Discerning and setting free the natural leadership gifts among minority ethnic Anglicans in our congregations
  • Exploring partnerships with other dioceses for exchange and enrichment through cross-cultural training opportunities
It was a useful day, but just a beginning, recognising the scope for further reflection and avenues for possible action.

Thursday, 11 February 2010

Chrism Eucharists in the Diocese in Europe

Every year during Holy Week the oils that are used throughout the following year for ministry to the sick, for Christian initiation, and for ordination are solemnly blessed in an episcopal service. This is also the occasion at which the clergy and readers of the diocese are invited to reaffirm the promises and commitments they have made in their ministry, before the bishop.

As in recent years, in order to include more clergy and readers in this significant event, the Diocesan Bishop and the Suffragan Bishop will preside at Chrism Eucharists in different centres in the diocese.

BRUSSELS - Tuesday 30 March, 12.00
The Pro-Cathedral of the Holy Trinity, Brussels: Bishop Geoffrey presiding.

MADRID - Tuesday 30 March, 12.00 noon
St George’s Church, Madrid: Bishop David presiding. The preacher will be the Very Revd Dr John Paddock, the Dean of Gibraltar.

PARIS - Thursday 1 April, 12.00 noon
St George’s Church, Paris: Bishop David presiding. The preacher will be the Revd Philip Mounstephen chaplain of St Michael’s Paris.

A simple lunch will be provided after each service.

The laity are also invited to these services as they have a vital role in representing the whole body of the faithful of the diocese in praying for God’s gifts of faithfulness, zeal and commitment for all ministers, lay and ordained. We hope that those diocesan clergy and readers who, because of distance, are unable to be present at one of these services will associate themselves in prayer with these celebrations and take the opportunity, whether together or alone, to make an act of rededication in Holy Week.

Clergy and Readers attending the Eucharist in Brussels should inform the Chancellor, the Revd Canon Dr Robert Innes (chaplain@holytrinity.be). For directions to the Pro-Cathedral below.

Clergy and Readers attending the Eucharist in Madrid should inform the chaplain, the Revd Ian Hutchinson-Cervantes (chaplain@stgeorgesmadrid.com). For directions to St George’s, Madrid see below.

Clergy and Readers attending the Eucharist in Paris should inform the chaplain, the Revd Matthew Harrison (office@stgeorgesparis.com). For directions to St George’s, Paris see below.

Clergy should bring an alb (or cassock and surplice) and a white stole or preaching scarf, and readers a cassock and surplice or alb, and reader scarf and be at the church not less than 30 minutes before the service.

Oils will be available for distribution after the services. Clergy who cannot attend but who wish to receive supplies of newly-blessed oil for anointing the sick and candidates for baptism (the bishops bring Chrism oil with them for confirmations etc) should contact Mrs Bron Panter at the diocesan office before the end of March, on + 44 020 7898 1155 (or bron.panter@europe.c-of-e.org.uk), who will keep a list of requests.

+Geoffrey                                                                 +David

Wednesday, 10 February 2010

General Synod and the Anglican Church in North America (ACNA)


Photo: SHAUN CURRY/AFP/Getty Images

This afternoon I went to observe the debate on the private member's motion on ACNA. As a bishop who serves a diocese which overlaps with some work of the Episcopal Church USA (through the latter's Convocation of Episcopal Churches in Europe), I believed it would be useful to feel the pulse of the synod on this matter.

It was a long debate, not without some surprising moments. One member proposed the procedural motion to move to next business, which if passed would have been the end of discussion on this item for the life of the synod. The member's rationale was that there was not enough truth circulating about the issue and that the synod would be in danger of breaking the ninth commandment, "you shall not bear false witness". His procedural motion did not pass.

At another moment the new, state-of-the-art electronic voting system failed so the synod had to revert to the old system of division by walking through separate doors. But then the division bell also seemed to fail for a while! Divine intervention?

One member, the Revd Johannes Arens, from the diocese of Ripon and Leeds, known to some in our diocese as he was ordained in the German Old Catholic Church, spoke against the original motion, warning of the difficulty of meddling in the internal policy of another Church. In urging the Church of England to learn how to live together in communion with the Episcopal Church and the Anglican Church of Canada, Fr Johannes reminded the synod that the Bishop of Gibraltar in Europe, Geoffrey Rowell, is actually an honorary assistant bishop in the Episcopal Church, and that our relations with that Church continue, despite some difficulties.

Following close to 3 hours of debate, on amendments as well as on the motion itself, the following amended motion was carried overwhelmingly by the Synod. It was largely the one proposed by Bishop Mike Hill of Bristol, on behalf of the House of Bishops, with an preliminary paragraph added to express our concern from across the Atlantic:

'That this Synod
(a) aware of the distress caused by recent divisions within the Anglican churches of the United States of America and Canada;
(b) recognise and affirm the desire of those who have formed the Anglican Church in North America to remain within the Anglican family;
(c) acknowledge that this aspiration, in respect both of relations with the Church of England and membership of the Anglican Communion, raises issues which the relevant authorities of each need to explore further; and
(d) invite the Archbishops to report further to the Synod in 2011.'

Tuesday, 9 February 2010

Archbishop of Canterbury's Presidential Address to General Synod

The Archbishop of Canterbury delivered today, Tuesday 9 February, a wide-ranging and strong presidential address to the General Synod. Archbishop Rowan touched upon many subjects, of national and international interest. Nationally, he refers to the debate which continues in the British Parliament around the "Equality Bill", and the question of assisted suicide which is being widely discussed. With regard to the ordination of women as bishops, and the life and unity of the Anglican Communion internationally, the Archbishop urges a closer listening to each other, to refrain from demonising opponents. He went on to say that a freedom claimed in one part of the Church can have a "devastating impact" on the freedom of others elsewhere. The Archbishop urges us to strive for a discovery of  "an ecclesial fellowship in which we trust each other to act for our good". It is a difficult message provoking reaction from liberals and conservatives alike.

You can read the full text of the Archbishop's Presidential address (prefaced by a press release) here.

Weekend for Enquirers Exploring Priesthood in the Church of England

From 5 – 8 February nine young adults from across the diocese met at George Bell House in Chichester to explore some aspects of vocation to the priesthood. The Revd William Gulliford, the Diocesan Director of Ordinands, and the Revd Stephen Ferns of the Ministry Division of the Church of England, planned the weekend to provide an exposure for the enquirers, most of whom, although deeply committed members of congregations of our diocese and theologically trained, had had little direct experience of the Church of England in England. The participants came from Moscow, Turku, Bologna, Stockholm, Athens, Versailles, Berlin, Vienna and Trondheim. The Revd Deacon Frances Hiller and Ms Margaret Jeffery of the Diocesan Ministry Team assisted Frs Gulliford and Ferns in leading the weekend, along with a former ordinand of our diocese, the Revd Jan Nobel, now an assistant curate in Durham Diocese.

Over the course of the days the participants visited two contrasting local parish communities in Chichester, as well as the Cathedral, to observe the life of the congregations, and to question the clergy and members about various aspects of their ministry and mission. The group explored aspects of Anglican identity, the ecumenical relations and commitments of the Church of England, the discernment and selection process and some practical realities of stipendiary ministry.

The enquirers reported that they found the weekend to be insightful and stimulating. They appreciated the clarity of the presentations, and the stimulating and deeply spiritual group discussions, and valued the opportunity to peer through a window into the life of one part of the English Church, and sample the reality of her ministry in a context very different from our own diaspora diocese. They all returned to their home congregations better equipped to consider the next step in their vocational journey.

Saturday, 6 February 2010

General Synod and the Anglican Church in North America

At the sessions of the General Synod of the Church of England this week, a private member's motion will be debated: “That this Synod express the desire that the Church of England be in communion with the Anglican Church in North America”.

The proposer of the motion, Lorna Ashworth (Chichester Diocese) wishes to give the Synod a chance to hear of unfair treatment of loyal Anglicans in the Episcopal Church (USA) and the Anglican Church of Canada, which has led to the formation of a separate body, the Anglican Church in North America. Mrs Ashworth asks “Does not our fellowship and communion in the Lord require us both to be aware of these happenings, to express concern, and where appropriate to provide the support we can?”

There are many complex issues involved. Simon Sarmiento of Thinking Anglicans has brought together some background papers concerning these issues for ease of review (they are to be found in his February 5 entries in the Thinking Anglicans blog).

I am slightly uncomfortable that the General Synod will debate an issue that touches upon the unity of our part of the Church of God, resourced by papers, briefs and reports from both sides of the debate, but without any direct involvement or engagement of the Churches or people concerned. I wonder if we can really further our unity, or even seek a fair understanding of what is going on, in this way.

A couple of years ago I was at an ecumenical meeting when the church leaders, all well versed in ecumenical theology, were asked to make an informal list of the qualities that would mark the life of a Church that was committed to unity. The list included these characteristics:

• Honest communication and conversation among the members, with real listening to each other
• Occasions to gather, meet, pray and celebrate as the Body of Christ
• An attitude of respect for one another other and of valuing each other
• Deep love for each other
• Looking always to what we have in common
• Appreciation and acknowledgement of differences
• Feeling at home in a variety of traditions
• A commitment to a common search and journey

These remarks were not intended to side-step any matters of faith and order which must be addressed in theological dialogue among Christians. But, sadly, I see in the list of qualities, some that seem to be missing in our approach to intra-Anglican disputes and divisions.

In the Diocese in Europe, unlike the rest of the Church of England, we experience life in communion with the Episcopal Church (USA) close at hand. In fact, in Germany, the Episcopal parishes and our own Church of England ones function as a joint deanery, the Council of Anglican Episcopal Churches in Germany (CAECG), and join together in "the performance of their missionary task...proclaiming the Word of God, administering the Sacraments, pastoral work, religious education, charitable activity and participation in ecumenical endeavours, according to the principles of the Anglican Church". The CAECG has not been untouched by the issues affecting the wider Anglican Communion, but the members are committed to journeying together and to face to face dialogue when differences occur (which they do). Its members seek to live the qualities articulated at my ecumenical meeting some years back. It is a precious grass-roots laboratory of intra-Anglican relations.

Friday, 5 February 2010

Ecumenical Welcome for New Priest-in-charge of Pas de Calais

The warmth of our ecumenical relations in France was underlined recently when the Roman Catholic Church website for the Calais area posted a prominent news item covering the licensing of the Revd Sara MacVane as Priest-in-Charge of Pas de Calais. The website reported very positively on the service led by Archdeacon Ken Letts on 30 January in St Mary Magdalene’s Roman Catholic Church, which included several clergy from the RC and Reformed Churches. The picture above shows the Archdeacon (in chasuble) with Sara in the middle, surrounded by Anglican and ecumenical clergy colleagues. The report (in French) can be found here.

Thursday, 4 February 2010

Gibraltar Archdeaconry Delegation Reports on "10 Extraordinary Days in Peru"

The members of the Archdeaconry of Gibraltar at its synod from 2 - 5 February, heard an inspiring report from members of “Team Peru” the group which paid a visit to the partner diocese last November, in response to an invitation from its Bishop Bill Godfrey.

There were 10 persons on the team, aging from 12 to 82. The youngest member, Sebastian Hubbard, (left) spoke movingly of his own encounter with “poor people, who know they are loved by our presence, not just by our money” and how the experience was one of “working, talking, learning, laughing and sharing of our lives”. Sebastian was impressed that the funds raised at just one event in his home parish (St Vincent’s Algarve) would pay for the feeding of 7000 children in Peru.

Others spoke of the partnership aspect to the visit, that they learned it was not about what they thought they should or would do, but what the local partners wanted them to do. “Here is a calling for us in the Archdeaconry – breaking out of our own little worlds, our own parishes and becoming open to God’s firm, gentle hands, putting our own hands into the mess of the world”.

The archdeaconry affirmed that this partnership, which has been facilitated by USPG, is more than a one-off visit: “We are a bigger archdeaconry because of this experience.”

Some members of "Team Peru" are pictured below, with Archdeacon of Gibraltar David Sutch (wearing the Peruvian stole")

Dying Abroad in Spain: An Article by Keith Brown


Keith Brown (above), a reader in training from our Diocese in Europe, serving in the parish of St Peter and St Paul, Torrevieja, Spain, has written an article for the newsletter of the International Anglican Family Network (IAFN). The IAFN is a forum for the exchange of information about the challenges facing families in different countries and cultures across the Anglican Communion.

The latest edition of the newsletter deals with the difficult subject of how the churches in different parts of the Anglican Communion seek to respond to death. Keith writes a moving account of how the chaplaincy in Torrevieja is responding pastorally to this challenge. I am grateful to Keith for his thoughtful contribution to this international Anglican resource. His contribution also helps to raise the profile of our own diocese within the Anglican Communion.

Keith's article is entitled, Dying Abroad in Spain. Follow the read more link for the text.

Wednesday, 3 February 2010

Young People Take the Lead in Gibraltar Archdeaconry Synod


Children from the St Vincent's Anglican Parish in the Algarve provided leadership in music, reading and prayers at the opening eucharist of the synod of the Archdeaconry of Gibraltar meeting in Vilamoura, Algarve, Portugal. It was a joyful celebration of the feast of the Presentation, Candlemas, at which the chaplain of St George's Madrid, the Revd Ian Hutchinson-Cervantes, presided. My own chaplain, the Revd Deacon Frances Hiller, was the preacher who reminded us of the gifts which more senior members bring to the community of faith, drawing on insights from the Gospel story of the role of "ancient Simeon and Anna". Deacon Frances also paid tribute to the Revd Deacon Dr Lindy Jordan, the Assistant Curate of St Andrew's, Costa del Sol East, whose sudden death on 23 January has touched so many in the Archdeaconry and Diocese.

Over 120 people, clergy and lay representatives from the 70 Church of England congregations in Spain (including the Balearic and Canary Islands), Portugal, Andorra, Gibraltar, and Morocco are meeting for 3 1/2 days for synod business, prayer and worship, fellowship and shared learning and planning for the mission and ministry of the Archdeaconry. Daily Bible studies are being led by Reader Eckart Floether of St Vincent's. The theme of the synod is "Making a Difference" and much time will be spent focussing on pastoral care issues in the Archdeaconry, with some specific recommendations being presented on several topics:
  • the role of the laity
  • the appointments process
  • pastoral support to the clergy
  • communications
  • the role of the Archdeacon and Area Dean
A report will also be received from the partnership visit by members of the Archdeaconry to the Anglican Church of Peru at the end of 2009.

The Revds Haynes Hubbard and Bob Bates are the priests who serve the three congregations which presently make up St Vincent's, the host parish for this year's synod meeting. The sessions are chaired by Archdeacon of Gibraltar, the Venerable David Sutch. The good wishes and prayers of the synod were sent to Area Dean of Gibraltar, Canon Hugh Broad, who is recovering (well!) from some recent surgery.

Tuesday, 2 February 2010

Preparing for St Valentine's Day?

The Church of England is encouraging churches to consider celebrating marriage on St Valentine's Day (14 February) which this year falls on a Sunday. The co-incidence presents an opportunity to offer themed worship and foster connections made with those who have been married in church.

One suggestion is that churches offer a Valentine service with themed readings on Sunday 14th February, and the Archbishops’ Council’s Weddings Project has promoted the production of liturgical resources. These include a suggestion for a Special Service of Celebration for use with A Service of the Word, as well as thoughts on how the regular Sunday Worship might adopt a marriage/love theme. If you are interested, the liturgical resources are available here.

An aside: I am not a particularly romantic person so I take comfort that origin of the Church’s commemoration of St Valentine has nothing to do with lovers, but with martyrdom. There were several notable Christians called Valentine in the early Church, including one who was the bishop of Terni, a city near Rome, who was martyred in Rome in 273 (pictured above). I like to give this particular Valentine some prominence, as the present bishop of Terni, Vincenzo Paglia, St Valentine's successor, is a friend of mine. And yes, he is a very loving and beloved bishop!

Monday, 1 February 2010

Mystery Worshipper Rides into Copenhagen - Again

The Ship of Fools Mystery Worshipper has appeared again in St Alban's Copenhagen - this time on Christmas morning. It appears that he / she received a warm welcome in a full church, and again, rated our congregation favourably with a very respectable 8 out of 10! But who is this Mystery Worshipper? Read the review on the Ship of Fools site here. St Alban's website is here.

The Presentation of Christ in the Temple

The Feast of the Presentation of Christ in the Temple (2nd February) celebrates the events in the Gospel of St Luke when Mary and Joseph took the baby Jesus to the Temple in Jerusalem, 40 days after his birth, to fulfill the requirements of the law of Moses.

It is one of the most ancient feasts of the Church. Egeria, a Spanish nun on pilgrimage to Jerusalem around 381, describes the feast in her remarkable journal:
"On that day there is a procession into the Anastasis [the site of the Resurrection], and all assemble there for the liturgy; and everything is performed in the prescribed manner with the greatest solemnity, just as on Easter Sunday. All the priests give sermons, and the bishop, too; and all preach on the Gospel text describing how on the fortieth day Joseph and Mary took the Lord to the temple, and how Simeon and Anna the prophetess, the daughter of Phanuel, saw Him, and what words they spoke on seeing the Lord, and of the offering which his parents brought. Afterwards, when all the ceremonies have been performed in the prescribed manner, the Eucharist is then celebrated and the dismissal given".
The feast is rich in theological meaning. The obvious theme of light has been central, coming from the Song of Simeon, Nunc Dimittis “a light to lighten the Gentiles”. Although we now tend to think that the Presentation looks backwards concluding the 40 day period after the Nativity, as Egeria hinted in her diary, it also looks forward to the Easter mystery, when our "illumination" or rebirth in baptism is celebrated.

An Orthodox hymn for the feast captures this double theme:

Hail Virgin Theotókos full of Grace, for Christ our God, the Sun of Righteousness, has dawned from you, granting light to those in darkness. And you, O Righteous Elder, rejoice, taking in Your arms, the Deliverance of our souls, who grants us Resurrection.