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.

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Friday, 31 July 2015

Athens young adult is recognised for her leadership

In the confirmation service there is a very important line in the liturgy when the bishop asks the candidates "will you seek and serve Christ in all people, loving your neighbour as yourself?" One young member of St Peter's, the Anglican congregation in the Northern Athens suburbs, has been recognised for her leadership, which stems from her Christian commitment. Greater Athens Chaplain, Fr Malcolm Bradshaw has written this brief report:
At the end of this academic year Nefeli Stamatelatos received a unique certificate at the Moriatis School in Athens where she is pupil. Last October she was responsible for initiating a programme of voluntary community work for the senior pupils. Her focus was the ‘Church in the Street’ soup kitchen which the Chaplaincy in Athens has helped to provide for over the past six years. The certificate was in recognition of this. Nefeli with other pupils helped with the distribution of the meals. 
Nefeli was confirmed in 2012 after receiving instruction from the parish Reader Christine Saccali. 
Congratulations to Nefeli and thank you for inspiring us.

Reader Christine with Nefeli
Such good news stories are so welcome from Fr Malcolm who continues to seek our prayers and support for Greece's deteriorating economic and social situation. He says that "each day we are faced with something new".

Some of the challenges soon to come, indicated by Fr Malcolm:
  • Possible hunger on Athens streets by September when redundancies, further cuts in pensions, and increases in taxation take effect. 
  • Increasingly dire situations in residential care institutions as funding becomes even tighter. 
  • Imports (and Greece is heavily dependent on imports) becoming alarmingly scarce - everything from office supplies to specialist medicines. 
While such economic difficulties are being faced by the population, the situation is compounded with the great increase of migrants and refugees arriving in the country. Over 31,000 arrived in Greece last June and the flow continues. Bishops on the islands nearest to Turkey report that incidents of violence over food supplies have broken out. The NGO’s on the islands, limited in number, are feeling increasingly overwhelmed. In the very heart of Athens there has recently emerged an encampment of over 700 Afghans – largely families with children.
God of all the world, give us wisdom in troubled economic times. May we never forget the true victims of financial crisis: those who go to bed hungry, those in utter despair. Strengthen all those who seek to bring your comfort and support to those in any need. Lead us all towards a fairer and more just world. And may your Kingdom come. 

Wednesday, 29 July 2015

Dates in the life of St James's Porto: 1671 and 1815.

On Saturday 25th July a special service took place in St James's Church, Porto. It was both the patronal festival of the parish, the Feast of St James the Apostle, and the 200th anniversary of the commencement of the present church building.

200 years is a good stretch for a church, but the Anglican community in Porto in fact dates from long before 1815. The first priest to serve the British community was appointed in 1671. Porto, like several of our older Diocese in Europe parishes,and along with the likes of Bordeaux, Málaga, Madeira, Marsala, was founded in a place associated with wine! The British merchants who established the church in Porto were engaged in the exporting of wine to England and the importing of dried cod – the basis of the Portuguese specialty bacalhao –  from the seas off the British Colony of Newfoundland and Labrador. So it was from the start a very happy mutually beneficial arrangement for both Portugal and England.

Following the festive eucharist, the parish centre called "The Well House" was inaugurated and dedicated.

Fr Carlos, Fr Bob, Pastor José Manuel, Judith Murray
The Chaplain of St James's is the Revd Bob Bates who was joined at the service by the parish Reader, Judith Murray. Fr Bob is also the Area Dean of Portugal with Madeira. Bishop Jorge Pina Cabral of the Igreja Lusitana, Católica, Apostólica, Evangélica was represented by the Revd Carlos Duarte. The Revd José Manuel Cerqueira, a Methodist pastor, who has permission to preach in St James's under the provisions of the Ecumenical Canons of the Church of England, was also present, along with Capitão Filipe Gonçalves from the Salvation Army.

Friday, 3 July 2015

Signing off for some holiday

I am taking a couple of weeks leave, beginning Saturday 3 July, so there may be few blog posts during this time. Deacon Frances Hiller is able to reach me, if there are any urgent matters.

I am inspired by very wise words that the Revd Darren McCallig recently wrote to his parishioners: (Fr Darren is the Chaplain of St Alban's Copenhagen).
I think that taking time away from the incessant demands of phones, emails and social media might be one of the most counter-cultural things that people of faith can do in today’s world. The practice of “switching-off” is, when you think about it, a beautiful act of trust and witness. It testifies to the conviction that God is able to act in the world apart from our human efforts or achievements — it is not all up to us!
Thank you Fr Darren!

Wednesday, 1 July 2015

Prayer for Greece

Photo by Philly boy92, via Wikimedia Commons
Europe is the world's richest continent. Yet we in Europe cannot seem to find a creative way to assist the struggling members of our own family in their time of need. The policies of our institutions, as well as the prescriptions of the IMF seem, inadvertently, to be punishing the entire population of a country. I speak, of course, of Greece.

Yes, it seems clear that Greece cannot pay its debts. Yes, it was likely that in the past Greek governments were not entirely transparent about their financial situation. Yes, there was a huge degree of overspending when there was little in the coffers but borrowed money anyway. Yes, there was likely no culture or consistent enforcement of tax collection. A litany of mistakes could go on.

But it was not the hard-hit pensioners and workers (those that still have jobs) that negotiated huge bailout loans, for which there now seems to be a ruthless demand for repayment. Our priests, lay ministers and parishioners of our Anglican Churches in Greece certainly do not report that the people benefited from the loans. It is likely that the bulk of these funds were sent out of the country right away to pay off other creditors. On the other hand, austerity has increased the suffering of the people.

I am not an economist, and have a very limited understanding of all these things. I do recall that both economic prosperity AND social justice were central pillars of the EU vision. But it is not as an economist, merely as a pastor and bishop in this diocese that I urge us all to pray for those in the Greek government, the EU institutions, the European Central Bank and the IMF. There is no shortage of great minds, or economic and technical expertise, surely! Have we tried a creative, even a risky solution - perhaps one that has never been tried before for fear of overturning global economic principles? I can't help thinking about the NRSV translation of the Lord's prayer in St Matthew 6.12: And forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors. 

Churches, especially the Orthodox Church, with whom we Anglicans in our small way seek to work alongside, have limited resources to respond to the scale of need. Let us in this Diocese continue to pray for our sisters and brothers in Greece, and for the work of all volunteers, clergy and lay ministers who are seeking to respond to those whose lives have been so seriously impacted by the measures imposed. Let us pray earnestly for a just and fair solution that does not cause even greater hardship.
God of all the world, give us wisdom in troubled economic times. May we never forget the true victims of financial crisis: those who go to bed hungry, those in utter despair. Strengthen all those who seek to bring your comfort and support to those in any need. Lead us all towards a fairer and more just world. And may your Kingdom come. 
The Revd Canon Malcolm Bradshaw, Chaplain of Greater Athens