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Wednesday, 13 July 2011

The Revd David Phillips, Priest-in-charge, Vernet les Bains

Vernet-les-Bains, you say? If you have not heard of this particular parish in our diocese, it is because until a few years back, we forgot that we had a church there! Thanks to the work of Fr David Burton Evans, the then priest-in-charge of St Andrew's Pau, who was alerted to the existence of the building back in 1997, St George's has been recovered and an association formed so that Church life can resume.

And so, on Saturday 9 July, I was able to license the Reverend David Phillips, formerly Associate Priest in the Benefice of Elloughton Brough with Brantingham (York) as Priest-in-Charge of the Anglican Church of St George, Vernet les Bains. We welcome Fr David and his wife Lesley to this diocese.

The Revd David Phillips and Lesley Phillips
The celebration on Saturday was a joyful event with a Church packed with parishioners, friends, ecumenical guests and clergy and readers from the neighbouring parishes of Pau and across the Pyrenees in Madremanya and Barcelona. Mme la Maire was on hand with her deputy, as the reopening of the Church was very much a civic event as well. The Diocese has given the building to the municipality which intends to use it (when restoration is complete) to host cultural events throughout the year, with the agreement that it will be available to our congregation on Sundays and one day per week. Abbé Christophe Péricho, the parish priest (who looks after 30 churches in his secteur!) was also in attendance along with many of his own parishioners.

Abbé Christophe, Mme la Maire, the Deputy Maire, Fr David Phillips and Fr David Burton Evans
A team of bell ringers, with their own transportable bells, rung changes before and after the service. A new stained glass window, depicting the patron St George, was also dedicated during the service.

The village, once known as "the Paradise of the Pyrenees" is associated with Rudyard Kipling who spent time here a century ago. Co-incidentally, the Church itself is celebrating its 100th anniversary. One of the attenders at worship in the early days was Princess Beatrice, the youngest daughter of Queen Victoria.

While the municipality continues to seek funding for the necessary renovation to the building, St George's congregation uses a Roman Catholic Chapel in the village for Sunday services.

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