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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Wednesday, 30 March 2016

A Gibraltar Easter

Our Lady of Europe
The Easter celebrations in the Cathedral in Gibraltar had a couple of significant ecumenical dimensions.

First of all, I was welcomed on Holy Saturday to the Shrine of Our Lady of Europe by Fr Charles Azzopardi, from the RC diocese of Gibraltar. I was accompanied by Fr Michael Wagstaff, the Naval Chaplain in Gibraltar.

Fr Azzopardi, Fr Wagstaff
The shrine has a fascinating history. In 711 General Tariq Ibn Ziyad led his Moorish troops across the straits which separate Africa from Iberia. (Gibraltar actually means in Arabic, "Mountain of Tariq" (jabal ṭāriq). He built a mosque at the southernmost part of the peninsula in thanksgiving. When Moorish occupation of Gibraltar ended in 1309, King Ferdinand IV of Castille converted the ancient mosque into a Christian shrine and dedicated the continent to the Mother of Our Lord, under the title, Our Lady of Europe. The present statue dates from 1462. The feast of Our Lady of Europe is observed on our Diocesan Calendar on 9 May. Interestingly, in recent years, with Saudi Arabian money, a new mosque has been built on this southernmost point of Europe. The photo below shows the minaret.

Later that night as we prepared for the Solemn Vigil of Easter, I learned that the Paschal Candle was a gift from the Roman Catholic Cathedral to ours. This is a long-standing custom, and a gracious ecumenical gesture on this most holy of feasts.

The Easter celebrations included baptism and confirmations. The question at the heart of the rite of Christian Initiation is always a moving one, but it seems to take on more power at Easter, when each candidate is asked individually, "Is this your faith?" To which they respond, "This is my faith!".

Music at the Cathedral is of a high standard and is an important dimension in the liturgy, as is the ceremonial of the Eucharist which is served by a very dedicated and skilled group of acolytes who clearly love their ministry.

The choir and servers, with the Dean and other clergy after the Easter Eucharist

Friday, 25 March 2016

The Church in Gibraltar welcomes those who pass by, on foot, or by sea


At the end of the Solemn Liturgy of Good Friday in the Cathedral in Gibraltar, the cross which was venerated by the congregation during the service is moved to in front of the altar which was stripped bare following the Maundy Thursday rites. The cross remains there throughout the day with candles lit on either side, providing a focal point for passers-by exploring the "Rock" who drop into the Cathedral (and there are many!) to ponder the mystery of our salvation.

A small gap between the liturgy and the evening's ecumenical Stations of the Cross through the Main Street of Gibraltar, gave me the opportunity to catch up on some aspects of the work of the Port Chaplain, the Revd Peter Ford OGS. Fr Peter is also the Assistant Priest at the Cathedral, working alongside Dean John Paddock.

Fr Peter Ford

Gibraltar is a busy port, particularly with increasing cruise ship traffic. Fr Peter is now well known around the port, by everyone from the security guards, to officials of the Port Authority, to those who staff the tourism office serving cruise passengers. He is on hand to welcome virtually every ship, and in particular to attend to the needs of the international seafaring crew. One welcome service offered by the Port Chaplaincy is a Wifi station. It is a popular venue for crew members, far from their home, needing to connect with their families and friends. This is such an important outreach of the Church in Gibraltar, supported by the Mediterranean Mission to Seamen fund administered by the Diocese.

An ecumenical Via Crucis through the Main Street of Gibraltar rounded off the Good Friday liturgies on the Rock. The Roman Catholic, Church of Scotland and our own Anglican communities (the Cathedral and the King's Chapel) came together to mark the 14 stations, with meditations and prayers led at each station by different parochial groups - a witness to Christian unity and to our walking together as disciples of our crucified and risen Lord.



Thursday, 24 March 2016

Triduum in Gibraltar Cathedral


The Sacred Triduum now well underway in Holy Trinity Cathedral, Gibraltar, inviting us to enter into the last steps of Jesus's way to the Father. These ancient rites draw us into the Passion itself. Tonight, following the Mass of the Lord's Supper with the washing of feet, the cathedral fell silent as the faithful gathered around the altar of repose, to watch with Jesus in Gethsemane. A solemn time of deep prayer for a world filled with pain, hostility and suffering. We remember our Lord's own words in that garden "My soul is very sorrowful".


Wednesday, 23 March 2016

The Chrism Mass in Holy Trinity Nice

Archdeacon Ian Naylor of France (rt) greeting some of his clergy
Clergy and Readers from France, Monaco and Spain gathered on Tuesday 22 March at Holy Trinity, Nice, for the Chrism Mass. Fr Peter Jackson, the Chaplain of Holy Trinity, was our host for this liturgy.  As always in this scattered diocese, it was a welcome moment for those engaged in ministry and working in relative isolation to connect with their brothers and sisters, to meet new faces, to encourage each other and to pray together.

As the Eucharist began, aware of the violent attacks that had taken place in Brussels that morning, the opening words prayed in penitence by the assembly were particularly powerful, and were uttered in solidarity with our brothers and sisters in the Belgian capital: "have mercy on us, bind up our wounds and revive us". The absolution contained these words "the Lord defend us in trouble and keep us from all evil".

Fr Peter Jackson proclaims the Gospel
The Gospel for the day (St Luke 4.16-21) was Christ's teaching in the synagogue, in which he applied the words of Isaiah to his own ministry, and thus to ours as his ministers. Again the words of the Chrism liturgy sum this up: "In your wisdom and love you call your church to serve the world, to share in Christ's suffering and to reveal his glory".

Mme Aucuturier addressed the bishop and the people
Although this particular liturgy has a focus on the renewal of the vows of sacred ministry of deacons, priests and bishops, and the renewal of the commitment of Readers, as all ordained or commissioned ministers serve God's people in their ministry in the world, it is fitting that a representative of the laity come before us to address us and remind us of our calling. Mme Valerie Aucouturier, Churchwarden at St John's Menton, was given this task.

But the heart of the liturgy is the blessing of the oils that will be used in the churches of the diocese throughout the year, the oil of catechumens, the oil of the sick and the holy chrism. The three oils are brought in solemn procession to the altar while an ancient hymn is sung, in which this verse, again in the light of the Brussels attacks, had much meaning:
Eternal King, look down and bless
The oil your servants offer here,
And may it be a lively sign
Which all the powers of darkness fear

Following the liturgy Deacon Frances took charge of decanting the oils into bottles to be taken by the clergy back to their parishes, to anoint those beginning their journey in faith, those who need healing in body, mind and spirit, and those who are baptised and become part of the royal priesthood of Christ.

Holy Trinity Church laid on a fine lunch for all, which rounded off the day with fellowship around another table.

Photos are courtesy of Fr Walter Raymond, Chaplain of St Paul's Monaco.

Monday, 21 March 2016

Diocesan Readers' Conference 2017: the planning is under way!

The planning is now under way for a diocesan-wide conference for Readers (Licensed Lay Ministers) and readers in training. The last conference was in 2012 and since then our Readers have been requesting another such event. Workshops are held once or twice a year, for specific topics, but a diocesan-wide celebration provides an opportunity to celebrate our ministry on a more significant scale.

The planning team working with the Director of Reader Ministry, the Revd Elaine Labourel, the Administrator, Debbie Cunningham and me, are Readers from across the diocese: Celia Paterson (Madrid), Angela Mirani (Varese), Victoria Wadsworth-Hansen (Copenhagen) and Richard Medcalf (Maisons-Laffitte).

The dates are booked: 19 - 22 May 2017, in Kardinal Schulte Haus, Cologne. The conference will provide spiritual input for Readers in their ministry, some cutting-edge biblical and theological reflection, time for considering the practical application of theology to lay ministry in the world, and opportunity for the Readers from across the diocese to strengthen their corporate life as a community of lay ministers. There are about 120 Readers and about another 30 in training at present. We anticipate a full gathering!

The design team is very much aware of the role of Readers in equipping God's people for participation in God's mission in the world. Thus the conference will have a strong outward-facing orientation. Before long, we hope to have a general description of the theme, along with confirmation of the keynote resource people for the conference.

Here are some scenes from 2012:

Thursday, 17 March 2016

Ecumenical agencies set out clear aims for a European response to refugees and migrants

Yesterday Church and Christian organisations in Europe called for concerted and ambitious action to be taken by the European Council in response to refugees and migrants. Among those Christian organisations are the Churches' Commission for Migrants in Europe (CCME) and the Conference of European Churches (CEC), both well known partners of the Church of England and this diocese, who work, in a certain sense on our behalf.

The letter presents an excellent summary of policies that the Churches would recommend to governments and EU bodies. Many people I encounter in the diocese ask what should be done in the face of the refugee situation. This letter sets out some real aims such as provision of safe and legal passage for refugees, appropriate support services once refugees reach Europe, and more effective resettlement and humanitarian admission programmes (including family reunion schemes). It also also raises questions about the EU-Turkey deal reached last week, particularly with regards to refugees from countries other than Syria, such as Afghanistan and Eritrea.

The letter is quite detailed, but for those seeking the latest perspective from an ecumenical point of view, this warrants close attention. I post the full text of the letter below:


16 March 2016

Presidency of the EU Council Prime Minister Mark Rutte
President of the European Council Mr Donald Tusk
Heads of EU governments
President of the European Parliament Mr Martin Schulz
President of the European Commission Mr Jean Claude Juncker

European Responses to Refugees and Migrants European Council 17-18 March 2016

Dear Presidents, Prime Ministers, Chancellors, Your Excellencies,

Our organisations bring together the greatest number of Anglican, Orthodox and Protestant Churches and Christian service, relief and development organizations active in Europe today. Based on our Christian faith and extensive experience of working with people in situations of extreme precariousness and vulnerability and with refugees inside and outside the European Union, we wish to call on you to develop more humane responses for refugee protection in full compliance with European obligations under international law and human rights so that the dignity of every person is respected and ensured.

Ensure safe passage
In April 2015, when a shipwreck off the coast of Lampedusa led to hundreds of people losing their lives, promises were made to address the situation. And indeed, thanks to the insistence of the Italian government, a wider search and rescue mandate was included also in the Frontex operation with Italy. However, in the first months of this year more than 400 persons have lost their lives in the Aegean Sea, among them many women and children.

While we call on the European Union to increase efforts for, preferably civilian, search and rescue operations, we also believe that the creation of safe passages is the only way to prevent refugees from risking their lives in dangerous journeys. To this end, - together with many other civil society and international organisations - we call on you to open up more safe and legal ways for refugees to travel to Europe – for example through refugee resettlement and humanitarian admission programmes, private sponsorships, family reunion, student scholarships and labour mobility schemes – so that refugees do not resort to smugglers to find safety.

Make relocation and resettlement work
Efforts to share the responsibility for refugee protection more evenly among EU member states remain still limited. Last year, European Union Member States agreed to relocate 160.000 refugees from Greece and in Italy. Until beginning of this week, less than 1000 persons have actually been relocated from Greece and Italy. Despite terrible weather conditions, refugees continue to arrive in Greece and seek to move on; the tragedy yesterday at the border to the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia is yet another wake-up call. Therefore we call on all European governments to fulfil their promises and swiftly relocate refugees to make this a viable and credible alternative. We wish to encourage you, too, to agree on further, more ambitious targets for relocation inside the European Union.

When it comes to resettlement, only 3.358 refugees have been resettled by the end of 2015 –out of the 22.504 refugees pledged to be resettled over the next two years. We are convinced that Europe can and must do more in this global refugee crisis. The UNHCR conference at the end of March 2016 provides an opportunity for European states to commit to resettling a meaningful number of refugees, and to open additional admission programmes. But only if pledges are turned into practice, they become a credible alternative for refugees.

Family Life
Among the persons who have entered EU territory through Greece and Italy are some who have family members in EU countries. Family life is very important particularly for refugees, family life can stabilize the persons who have undergone so much pain, and often loss of lives of loved ones already. We wish to urge that family reunification for refugees is not curbed but facilitated as a priority in meaningful ways. EU embassies and consulates could assist each other in the necessary paper work, if capacity of some is overstretched; consular delegations could undertake missions into the refugee camps in Lebanon, Jordan and Turkey to facilitate family reunification applications speedily. Waiting periods of more than a year are detrimental and can create serious psychological problems. This should be avoided by all possible means.

Family unity is also important for the integration of refugees in European societies. We believe we can and ought to afford a human approach to refugees and therefore lower some of the current barriers to family unity.

Social Measures
Persons who have entered the EU territory must also have their social needs met as soon as possible after entry, regardless as to which stage in the asylum process they have reached. The reception conditions for persons seeking protection need to be at least in line with agreed EU minimum standards, and access to asylum procedures has to be guaranteed. Barriers to adequate and quality health care services, education and training, social inclusion initiatives and the labour market should be removed where possible. Relevant and up to date information on how European funds such as the ESF, EFSI, FEAD and the new EU emergency support facility may be used by organisations such as ours to support social measures should be made available as widely as possible.

Cooperation with third countries
We are aware of, and appreciate, many initiatives over the last year to develop more solidarity, such as pledging more support for the countries most affected by the refugee crisis in the Middle East. Yet, the number of displaced persons, internally and externally, will require sustained and sufficient support, and we wish to urge that the necessary funding for refugees hosted by Lebanon, Jordan, and Syria, Iran and Iraq is not forgotten when support for Turkey is pledged. As around half of the refugee population is under age, education and specific programmes are urgently needed.

We are particularly concerned by the proposals formulated by Turkey at the 7 March summit which will be discussed at the European Council on 17-18 March 2016. Filippo Grandi, the UN High Commissioner for Refugees already expressed deep concerns “about any arrangement that would involve the blanket return of anyone from one country to another without spelling out the refugee protection safeguards under international law”. Indeed, the legality of the proposals is very doubtful –especially the deal “one in-one out”. Collective expulsions are contrary to the European Convention on Human Rights and according to the case-law of the European Union Court of Justice and the European Court of Human Rights, anyone is entitled to seek asylum in the country of arrival or any other country if his or her demand cannot be treated in decent conditions in the latter country. While Turkey has agreed and is providing assistance to Syrian refugees, refugees from other countries, e.g. Afghanistan or Eritrea, would not find protection and support.

We hope that any future agreement with Turkey will comply with the EU Member States’ obligations under European and international law, and particularly the principles enshrined in the Geneva
Refugee Convention.

Towards conflict resolution
We welcome the role the European Union has played and continues to play in the establishment of the International Support Group for Syria including the efforts that lead to the UN Security Council Resolution setting the roadmap for the intra-Syrian talks and the political process.

The fragile ceasefire gives a glimpse of hope that the brutality against the people in Syria may come to an end and that negotiations for a peaceful solution to end the conflict may come into sight. Our sister churches in the region strive for maintaining the Christian presence in the region, and therefore, peace, justice and respect for religious and ethnic minorities will have to be priorities in any agreement for the future of Syria and the region as a whole. After five years of violent conflict, this will not be an easy path; yet, we hope the international community, the EU included, will maintain and enhance the efforts to end this conflict.

We are aware of the pressures and controversies in European societies about receiving refugees, and we share some of your concerns regarding the need to develop a more orderly reception of refugees. However, in many European countries, people in churches and non-governmental organisations are providing accommodation, food, counselling, and in our view most important, give signs of hope, friendship and humanity. We are aware of the opposition against refugees in European societies and observe the controversies in public debate with considerable concern. Yet, based on Christian and European values, we wish to encourage you to also consider the views of the many people across Europe who are tirelessly extending their hands and sharing their property and talents with refugees. They also deserve to be listened to, and their needs ought to be met. They are living the Europe of solidarity, and the policies could and should build on these examples more courageously.

Yours sincerely

Floris Faber
Director, ACT Alliance EU

Doris Peschke General Secretary
Churches’ Commission for Migrants in Europe

Fr Heikki Huttunen General Secretary
Conference of European Churches

Heather Roy Secretary General

Ruth Faber Director

From West Africa to the Diocese in Europe - 125 years of All Saints Tenerife is celebrated

Members and visitors at All Saints, Puerto de la Cruz, Tenerife celebrated 125 years of worship in the lovely Church on the north of the island on Sunday 13 March.

The parish has a fascinating history. When the Church was opened for worship in 1891 it was under the jurisdiction of the Bishop of Sierra Leone, who also looked after the Gold Coast, the Yoruba District of modern Nigeria and other territories in West Africa! Today it is very much part of the Diocese in Europe, but aware of its history in the Canary Islands, once a crossroad of the world in the 19th century.

Renovations in the building were completed just a day before my arrival for the anniversary celebration: new electrical wiring throughout, new flooring, and a new organ which was dedicated during the service. All of this was made possible by the generous donations of individuals in the congregation. The sun shone brightly in the morning, making the snow-capped Mount Teide a brilliant backdrop to the celebration. 

Prayers at the font
As the service got underway a procession around the building marked where Christ's presence is particularly made known in the life of the Church, and special prayers of thanksgiving were offered at at the font of Baptism, at the pulpit and at the altar. 

A delegation from St Francis parish in Tenerife South joined the packed congregation at All Saints. St Francis is now a distinct parish on the island, but is the a result of extension work from All Saints many years ago. Reader Marisha Carter from St Francis was my chaplain for the Eucharist, underlying the historic connection and links between the two parishes. Also members of the German Evangelical congregation who use the Church each week were present to share in the event with their Anglican sisters and brothers. 

All Saints has a very effective ministry of hospitality. The grounds of the Church form a congenial meeting space and this provides a place for those, not yet wishing to fully part of the worshipping life of the parish, still to gather on Sundays and be part of the community's "extended family". It is rather like the way a narthex worked in ancient times - a place for people to be part of the Church, even if one step removed. The conversations after the Sunday Eucharist, and the very warm fellowship shared with the extended family are an effective way that the members extend Christ's love and welcome to those who prefer to be more at the margin. It is an effective evangelistic strategy, in my view, based not on theological ability or discourse, or even on sharing knowledge of the Bible, but on being open, loving and welcoming of others wherever they may be on their journey through life. It is a witness to God's love and acceptance, which we know through his Son Jesus Christ. 

Also on the anniversary weekend another social event, a hog roast, was held at another of the historic English institutions in Puerto de la Cruz, the English Library, Many of the All Saints congregation are also members of the library and were working hard at this event as well.

Wednesday, 9 March 2016

Midi-Pyrénées and Aude: Eucharistic hospitality, growing community

11 young persons from the parish of Midi-Pyrénées and Aude in SW France were confirmed on 28 February. One other young adult, orphaned due to violence in his Nigerian homeland, was baptised and confirmed. It was a moving occasion, as always, to see such joy in the faces of the candidates as they take make their commitment as disciples, bearers of the light of Christ in the world, and to sense the support from their fellow members of the Christian community who surround them with their love in that sacred moment. 

The chaplaincy of Midi-Pyrénées and Aude continues to grow, numerically and in faith. It is a fine example of one of the strengths of the Anglican Church, that it can become a home to those from many different Christian backgrounds. The eucharistic worship in the 7 congregations in the parish is enhanced by a variety of hymns and music reflecting the richness of church traditions. Most members are native English-speakers, but others are members for whom English is a second or even a third language. 


Tuesday, 8 March 2016

St Paul's Monte Carlo hosts Monaco Christians for Lenten Ecumenical Service

Ecumenical life continues to be strong in the Principality of Monaco. The Monaco Christian community came out in good numbers to attend an ecumenical celebration of Anglican Evensong at Saint Paul's Church on Sunday 6th March. This annual service of ecumenical prayer in the season of Lent attracted a record number in the congregation. As a result Père Patrick Keppel, the Ecumenical Office for the Diocese of Monaco, was quick to suggest that the service of Lenten Prayer return to Saint Paul's in 2017. According to the Chaplain of St Paul's, the Very Revd Walter Raymond (pictured above with RC Archbishop Bernard Barsi), many attending the service commented not only on the beauty of the choral singing but on the much improved sound of the newly refurbished organ.

Pictured above, second left to right, Archpriest Michel Seliniotakis, Greek Orthodox; Pastor Didier Meyer, Monaco's Église Réformée; Archbishop Bernard Barsi of Monaco; Pastor Gaston Claudel, Église Réformée; Canon Patrick Keppel, Diocese of Monaco; Fr Marc Gherardi, St Charles RC Church; Fr Walter Raymond. Also present, but not pictured, Père Radu Totelecan, Romanian Orthodox.

Sunday, 6 March 2016

Two new Readers for Midi-Pyrénées and Aude

Canon Hawkin presents Clive and Janet to be admitted to the office of Reader
Some of our French "parishes" cover a geographic area that larger than Wales. One of those is the Chaplaincy of Midi-Pyrénées and Aude which serves Anglicans and English-speaking Christians in a vast area in the South West of France, from just below Limoges to the border with Spain and Andorra. The English-speaking population is well over 100,000. Regular services are held in 7 locations across the pastoral area.

The pastoral area of Midi-Pyrénées and Aude
The Chaplain is the Revd Canon Andrew Hawken and the Assistant Chaplain is the Revd June Hutchinson. They are assisted by a larger team of about 6 priests with Permission to Officiate. Essential to the ministry team, as in so many other places in the Diocese, are Licensed Lay Ministers commonly known as Readers.

Two new Readers were admitted to this office and licensed to serve in the parish during my recent pastoral visit on 28 February, Mrs Janet Varty and Mr Clive Billenness, This brings the number of Readers to 5 in  Midi-Pyrénées and Aude. Janet and Clive recently completed the thorough programme of theological, pastoral, liturgical and homiletic study which takes on average 3 years from the time of their selection for this ministry. It was a joy to admit them to this office and commission them to work with the parish team. This solemn moment of commitment was witnessed by over 130 members of the parish present for the celebration.

New Readers on admission receive a copy of the New Testament, a sign of their authorisation as preachers and teachers of the Faith
Readers are the "lay theologians" in the diocese, equipped and authorised to preach and teach the faith, to lead liturgies of the word, and to share in pastoral duties with the clergy. These Lay Ministers are an integral part of our diocesan life; we now have about 120 with about another 40 in training. Their ministry is often the envy of our ecumenical partners, who, by and large, do not have such an office of authorised lay ministry.

Janet and Clive with their blue "preaching scarves" a further a sign of their office