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Thursday, 7 June 2012

In the Manche: an ancient church houses one of our newer congregations

The Ancient Church at Gratot Hommeel, home to the Anglican Congregation
Gratot Church
"So, Adrian", I asked, "which is the oldest church building of any congregation of our diocese?" The Diocesan Secretary had to think for a moment, and after suggesting several which came to mind, I had finally to let him know the correct answer. It is the ancient church which is now the home of our congregation in Gratot Hommeel, just north of Coutances, France. The building given over to our sole use by the Bishop of Coutances (with the consent of the local maire), is over 1000 years old. It may be that William the Conqueror passed by this Church when riding through this part of Normandy. He would be surprised that it is now the home to a thriving congregation of Anglais. 

The Church in Isigny le Buat
Through the hard work and prayers of the faithful, and the dedication of the priest-in-charge, the Revd Peter Hales, the Anglican parish of Christ Church in the Manche in Normandy is now a vibrant and growing pastoral area within the diocese. From a small start 10 years ago, there are now 2 centres of worship, Gratot Hommeel in the north and Isigny le Buat in the south. In Isigny the congregation has been granted use of yet another Church by the local Roman Catholic bishop, which is shown in the above photo. It is not so ancient, only about 400 years old! This ecumenical kindness is a tribute to the solid ecumenical links that the parish have forged with the Roman Catholic diocese of Coutances. Mike Brooke, a Reader, assists Fr Peter in the pastoral and liturgical life of the parish, and there is another reader-in-training.

Parish Centre, Gratot
The parishioners of Christ Church in the Manche have raised funds to purchase a presbytery and parish hall next to the Church in Gratot, providing a venue for gatherings, a parish office, and a future possible residence for a priest. The land purchased includes a tennis court! I was privileged to formally dedicate the new parish centre during my visit on Sunday 10 May. Local politicians and representatives of the Roman Catholic Church were present at both eucharists I celebrated, in Gratot and Isigny.

The website of Christ Church in the Manche is here.

Right: the Revd Peter Hales

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