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.

Friday, 24 December 2010

A ancient Christmas question: Who is Christ?

Christmas is not the most ancient of Christian feasts. There is little evidence of 25 December as a day to celebrate Christ’s birth before the mid 4th century. According to the Revd Dr Paul Bradshaw, an eminent liturgical scholar (and the Liturgical Advisor of this diocese in Europe) the earliest reference to 25 December as the Feast of the Nativity appeared around 354 in Rome. (However in other parts of the Church such as in Egypt, 6 January was observed from the late 2nd century as both the commemoration of the birth of Jesus as well as his baptism. The latter continues to be a theme of the 6 January feast of the Epiphany).

Why the slow start to dedicate a feast to the birth of Jesus? The hesitancy might stem from the Church’s theological debate with the Arians about the relationship of God the Father and his Son Jesus Christ. “Were they equal or not?” was the question. The Arians would be in favour of marking the Son’s beginning or birth in time as they were unsure about the equality of Father and Son. They argued that “there was a time when the Son was not”. On the other hand, the orthodox argued for the theological position which became enshrined in the Creed, that the Son was “God of God, light of Light, very God of very God” and “of one substance with the Father”.

Interestingly, traces of this early debate can be detected liturgically. For instance, although a feast of the birth of Jesus the oldest Gospel reading associated with Christmas is the start of St John’s Gospel which proclaims that “in the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God”. Even today in the Church of England, St Luke’s story of the birth in Bethlehem can be read at one of the Christmas services, (and is customary at Midnight Mass), but the Church states that the reading from the beginning of St John’s Gospel should be read at some celebration during the feast.

The mystery of Christmas is that the Eternal Word, the Son who is consubstantial with the Father, was made flesh and entered into the world, born as the babe of Bethlehem. A hymn from the Eastern Church enshrines this faith:

Today the Virgin gives birth to him who is above all being, and the earth offers the cave to him whom no one can approach; Angels with Shepherds give glory, while Magi journey with a star, for to us there has been born a little Child, God before the ages.
Happy Christmas to all readers of this blog!

Thursday, 23 December 2010

Things are winding down for Christmas in the London Office

As the Christmas feast approaches the "Tufton Street team" (the staff of the diocesan office and my own office) took a moment away from their labours on Wednesday to enjoy the traditional "Secret Santa" exchange, and to munch through a mince pie or two. The (demob?) happy gathering is pictured above. Left to right: Yours truly, Adrian Mumford, Deacon Frances Hiller, Sylvia Brantingham, Nick Wraight, Jeanne French and Bron Panter. What a splendid and jolly group of colleagues (and jolly hard-working too).

This year my Secret Santa gave me with an essential piece of kit for an ecumenical bishop: a Benedictaphone! According to the packet, this "pocket pontiff" voice recorder keyring will help me remember things and add a little inspiration to every day.

Earlier in the week, the Worth team from Bishop Geoffrey's office joined the London based team for our annual Christmas lunch. With the usual attention to detail, the party hats in the crackers were chosen  to be in the correct "canonical" colour for bishops. Bishop Geoffrey is sporting his below.

BBC broadcast from St Clement's, Prague ... on the feast of Stephen!

This Sunday  26 December BBC Radio 4 will broadcast a special service from St Clement's, our Diocese in Europe church in Prague. The Revd Ricky Yates will lead the service which will reflect on the lives and deaths of two saints: St Stephen, whose feast it is on Sunday, and St Wenceslas, the tenth century Duke of Bohemia. St Wenceslas later became known as St Vaclav and is the patron saint of the Czech Republic. The idea springs from the old Christmas carol, "Good King Wenceslas looked out, on the Feast of Stephen". St Clement's is not far from Wenceslas Square itself.

Fr Ricky will be joined in leading the service by the Revd Petra Elsmore, another priest of the Church of England, now based in Liverpool. Petra is Czech by birth and was an ordinand from St Clement's several years ago. Ricky and Petra are pictured below.

The service will be broadcast on BBC Radio 4 on Sunday 26 December at 08.10 GMT (that is 09.10 Central European Time).

For more information go to Ricky Yates personal website here. St Clement's website is here.  (Pictures of St Clement's and Petra are courtesy of Ricky Yates).

Monday, 20 December 2010

iPhone App for the Church of England!

Image representing iPhone 3G as depicted in Cr...Image via CrunchBase

Those who know me, know that I am a bit of a gadget lover so I was pleased to discover (as will other iPhone users in the diocese) that the Church of England has developed a new "app" in partnership with the Diocese of Guildford. It enables individual dioceses to put their news into the hands of iPhone and iPad users, and gives access to resources such as an online version of Common Worship: Daily Prayer.

The Diocese in Europe is not yet one of the participating dioceses, but I hope that we might in the future.

The app can be downloaded here.

Sunday, 19 December 2010

New Congregation in St Vincent's, Algarve

St Vincent's Algarve has added a fourth regular congregation to the existing three at Luz, Almancil and GorjõesThe newest congregation is on the eastern edge of the parish, about 40 km from the Spanish border where the RC Bishop of the Algarve has given permission for the Church of England to use the Chapel of Our Lady of Carmel just outside the town of Tavira. 

St Vincent's is served by two full-time priests, the Revd Haynes Hubbard and the Revd Bob Bates. There are two readers in the parish, Mrs Fiona Mayes and Mr Eckart Floether.

On the 3rd Sunday in Advent, among the celebrations in St Vincent's was a service of Confirmation at Luz (pictured above), at which two of Fr Haynes own children, Sebastian and Gabriella were among the confirmands.

St Vincent's website is here.

Wednesday, 15 December 2010

Mary, Joseph and the pizza

Nativity plays are not uncommon in our churches this time of year. Christ Church in Lille, however, staged a unique presentation of the Nativity story on Saturday 4 December. David Bolton, one of the young adults in the parish, was the author and director of a production which included donkeys as narrators, a cast drawn from every age group in the parish, and some "non-traditional" characters, such as a pizza delivery man, who was one of the visitors to the Virgin Mary, in addition to the Archangel Gabriel! It was great fun, faithful to the ancient story, while filled with contemporary references. 

Christ Church Lille, whose priest is the Revd Canon Debbie Flach, is a lively international congregation, which offers worship and programmes reaching a wide range of people, including children, young professionals and the large international student population of the city.

There is probably not a single continent unrepresented in the membership of Christ Church. In my recent visit which included the celebration of baptisms and confirmations, I had conversations with members from India, Hong Kong, Ghana, Nigeria, Cameroon, France, Italy, the USA, Canada and, of course, England.

The website of Christ Church, Lille, is here.

Wednesday, 8 December 2010

St Andrew's Pau: A beautiful building is home to a vibrant international community

The town of Pau in the Pyrenees once had three Anglican Churches: Christ Church (sold to the French Reformed), Holy Trinity (now a cinema) and the beautiful St Andrew's (above), which continues to be a thriving parish, under the leadership of its priest the Revd Ian Naylor.

The building is a fine example of the architecture promoted by the Cambridge Camden Society, a consciously medieval design, which was thought by the leaders of the Oxford movement to be the most dignified style for the Church's worship. The Church is adorned with some beautiful ironwork, wood carvings, sanctuary paintings and a splendid reredos.

But the parish is more than its beautiful building. The community, once largely British, is now very international. Some are retired and live in Pau or the surrounding region. Some are living and working in Pau, including a large number of families from Nigeria, who are employed by the oil company, Total. The Sunday eucharist is the centre of the Church's life, and the hospitality and fellowship following is an essential part of building community when people travel sometimes up to 2 hours to attend the service. There is a Sunday Club for Children, run by the reader Mrs Irene Brindle, as well as house groups scattered about the region. In the past year or so, St Andrew's has founded a daughter congregation in Condom, where a service is held each Thursday. In addition St Andrew's takes a full part in the ecumenical life of the region.

On the First Sunday of Advent baptism and confirmations were celebrated. The candidates are pictured below. Fr Naylor, the parish priest is on the left.

The parish has an attractive website here.

Tuesday, 7 December 2010

Archbishop of Canterbury's visit to Athens

Abbot of Penteli, Archimandrite Ignatios from the Greek Church Office at the EU, and Archbishop Rowan

From 25 to 28 November the Archbishop of Canterbury paid a pastoral and fraternal visit to the (Greek Orthodox) Archdiocese of Athens, at the invitation of His Beatitude Ieronymos, the Archbishop of Greece and All Greece.

The visit was to strengthen the already profound friendship between the Church of England and the Church of Greece and to learn more about the witness and outreach programmes of the archdiocese. There is already a recognition of many common pastoral issues that the two Churches are facing. During his visit Archbishop Rowan spoke of the dedication of the Church to those in need, especially the poor, "In times of economic crisis and poverty our common witness is becoming increasingly important".

The Revd Canon Malcolm Bradshaw, Senior Chaplain of the Greater Athens Chaplaincy, is also the Archbishop of Canterbury's Apokrisiarios, or representative to the Greek Archbishop. Fr Malcolm was heavily involved, alongside his colleagues in the Greek Orthodox Church, in preparations for the visit, and accompanied the Archbishop throughout. Already there is close cooperation between St Paul's Anglican Church and some of the outreach projects of the Archdiocese, particularly the "Church in the Street" programme for migrants, a centre for those with Downs Syndrome, and the emerging hospice movement in Athens.

The itinerary included meetings with key politicians (the President, Prime Minister, Education and Religious Affairs Minister and Deputy Foreign Minister), as well as with Archbishop Ieronomos and members of his synod, and many projects of the Church. During his visit Archbishop Rowan was awarded an honorary doctorate by the University of Athens (photo below).

This was the third such official visit by an Archbishop of Canterbury: (Dr Michael Ramsey visited in 1962, and Dr George Carey in 1996). The warmth of this visit was evident. I felt very proud at several moments when our Greek partners spoke enthusiastically of the effective ecumenical engagement of Canon Bradshaw, who is clearly an excellent ambassador for the C of E in Greece.

Canon Bradshaw is in the photo below in conversation with the Greek Deputy Foreign Minister, Mr Dimitris Dollis.

Monday, 6 December 2010

St Edward the Confessor Church, Lugano

Ticino is the Italian speaking Canton in the Swiss Federation and in the city of Lugano can be found a thriving Church of the diocese, St Edward the Confessor. The parish priest is the Revd Andy Horlock. The Reader, Mr Bob Gebhardt, is also one of the Churchwardens. Six young people were confirmed on Sunday 31 October, from left to right: Alessandro, Fiona, Camilla, Gabriela, Philip and Edo. A festive lunch followed which included the largest cake I have encountered in a while!

Anglican worship has been held in Lugano for over a century. The Church itself was consecrated in 1902. Among the features in the interior is a 12th century Venetian holy water stoup which is now the baptismal font. Worshippers on Sunday 31 October were delighted to find new seating when they arrived, a generous gift from a member of the parish.

Click here for the website of the Church of St Edward the Confessor, Lugano

Friday, 3 December 2010

Bishop's Advent Appeal

Clergy and people of this Diocese in Europe will already be aware that this year's Advent Appeal is to raise funds for two projects, one within the diocese, and one outside.

In the Diocese

Young members of the White Nile Community at Deanery Synod

The White Nile congregations in Oulu, Vaasa and Kokkola are made up of refugees from the Sudan who have been given asylum in Finland under UN auspices. They are now looking for the day when peace and stability returns to their homeland in Southern Sudan. The future of their country will be strengthened by educated Sudanese, now in exile, who hope to return to help rebuild their homeland. For this, a younger generation with English language skills will be vital. The young members of the White Nile congregations speak various Sudanese languages at home, use Arabic in worship, and, of course, are learning Finnish (and sometimes Swedish as well) in school! Funds from the Advent Appeal will support a project to enable them to improve their English, through tuition, books and other materials.

Their presence within our part of the Church of England has greatly enriched our lives, and the Church of England in turn can help, through this Appeal, to equip them to be leaders when they return to a new and peaceful land. I recently spent time with their priest, the Revd Amos Manga, in Oulu who shared with me the enthusiasm of his younger parishioners and the encouragement they feel from our support. (Please continue to hold Fr Amos in your prayers, as he is completing a final course of chemotherapy for cancer).

Outside the Diocese

Fr Chery (blue shirt) crossing the Artibonite River in Haiti

Our Lady of the Annunciation is one of the oldest parishes of the Anglican (Episcopal) Church in Haiti. It is located just outside the area of Port-au-Prince in one of the poorest zones in the country. The community faces so many difficulties (health care, accessibility, poverty) but remains a living community of faith. From this parish many vocations to the priesthood have been raised up. The Church and parish school were destroyed in the earthquake of last January 12th. The congregation and school have been meeting under tents since then.

The parish priest, Fr Jean Fils Chery, says the congregation has many young people. They are gifted with many talents. Our Appeal will support the rebuilding and re-equipping of the school. Also, as many of the youth who have finished secondary school cannot go on to college or university because of economic problems, the parish is embarking on a new programme to help prepare them for a trade or other profession.

The problems facing Haiti continue to be compounded. This past week I received an email from Canon Ogé Beauvoir, who is overseeing the reconstruction of Church properties in the country. He comments on the unrest following the elections held on Sunday 28 November.

Dear Friends:

After the earthquake, the cholera outbreak, and Tomas (the hurricane), Haiti is on the verge of serious political unrest following the violent and fraudulous election of today. Earlier last week, two of the nineteen candidates left the race. Earlier this afternoon, thirteen of the remaining seventeen candidates, including the leading one, Mirlande H. Manigat, asked the Electoral College and President Preval to void the election. Violence and fraud occurred in the today election were in favor of Jude Celestin, Mr. Preval’s candidate.
This afternoon, cities like Port-au-Prince, Petion-Ville, Petit-Goave, Gonaives, Saint-Marc, Cayes, Jacmel, Saint-Michel de l’Attalaye, and many other locations are dealing with big demonstrations. The days ahead will not be quiet.
Please continue to pray for Haiti as the country is facing another crisis.
Faithfully yours,

Please give generously to the Bishop's Advent Appeal to help us support these two outstanding projects. You can donate through your own Diocese in Europe congregation, or you can contact our Diocesan Finance Officer for advice.

The official Appeal information can be found by clicking the tab above called "Advent Appeal".