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, 27 May 2016

Another new parish of the Diocese in Europe: St Alcuin of York in Touraine

The Revd John Neal is licensed as priest-in-charge
Another new parish has opened in the Diocese in Europe. The Church of St Alcuin of York in Touraine was formally inaugurated last Sunday, and its priest-in-charge, the Revd John Neal, licensed to this post. Churchwardens were admitted to their office, and significantly, two young acolytes received crosses as they began their own work of serving at the altar. The active involvement of youth in the services is a key strategy of Fr John.

The acolytes receive their crosses
It was a joyful occasion, celebrated in the Protestant Temple in Tours. The music was splendid from a largely francophone choir, and the organ music very fine indeed.

The new parish has two worship centres, one in the Protestant Temple in Tours and another in l’Eglise St. Michel in Savigny-en-Véron. Since both Roman Catholic and Protestant buildings are used by the parish, it was fitting that the Eucharist was attended by the Pastor of the Eglise Protestante and Vicar General of the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Tours, our two major Church partners in the area. A Baptist pastor, a good friend of St Alcuin's, from a nearby English speaking independent Church also attended, making the opening celebration truly ecumenical.

Fr John Neal is 2nd from the right
The first Anglican services in Tours were actually 200 years ago, but there has been no Church of England activity for close to a century. Under Fr Neal's leadership, the Church is now organised again, and poised to serve English speaking Christians in the Touraine. The vision of the parish is to be a serving community, as the parish website eloquently puts it :
A Church is a community which exists for others. So, when we come in through the door, it is expressly to go out again to our everyday lives and relationships. The proclamation of scripture, the consecration of bread and wine, our receiving Holy Communion, all lead to the climax of our worship—the Dismissal: “Go in peace to love and serve the Lord.”
Our service to Our Lord is by service to our neighbour. When we pray for others in the Eucharist, it is so that we may put our concern into action. We are God’s agents in helping to bring that abundant life which he wills for all people, especially to those so obviously without it: the poor, the lonely, the sick.
Need—lack of abundant life—can take many forms, physical, emotional, spiritual. We can be ready to respond to need, whatever it is, by action, by word or by the Christ-like character others look for in us.
It is wonderful to witness yet another new community in the Diocese. The service ended and the fellowship continued, in true French style, with the vin d'honneur!

Tours is the city of St Martin, and this year the city celebrates the 1700th anniversary of the saint's birth. He is one of the most popular saints in Europe. There are around 3,000 parishes dedicated to him, including the oldest Church in Canterbury (where St Augustine baptised King Æthelberht of Kent) and the famous St Martin-in-the-Fields in London.

St Alcuin of York, our new parish's patron, was an Englishman and scholar, who became one of Charlemagne's closest advisors, and who later lived at Marmoutier Abbey which was founded by St Martin. St Alcuin died in 804 in Tours.

The Archbishop of Tours
During the parish visit, the Archbishop of Tours Bernard-Nicolas Jean-Marie Aubertin and I had a meeting during which we discussed how our two Churches are linked back in history, holding both St Martin and St Alcuin in common.

Fr John also arranged for me to give a radio interview during which we discussed the role and the extent of the Church of England's work on the continent of Europe, and in particular our ecumenical vocation.

The Protestant Temple is home to a fine organ, but some rather scary organ pipes!

Thursday, 26 May 2016

French Synod life: bible study, liturgy, ministry and the occasional blind challenge!

Dr Richard Briggs leads Bible Study
Worship and bible study are integral to the life of the Synod of the French Archdeaconry. Yes, there is business to be done, finances to be agreed, and reports to be received. But there is also daily prayer, eucharist and engagement with scripture which under-girds its work.

This year, at the Synod in St Jacut de la Mer in Brittany, the Bible studies were led by the Revd Dr Richard Briggs. Dr Briggs is the Lecturer in Old Testament and Director of Biblical Studies at Cranmer Hall in Durham. He is a specialist on the Pentateuch and is about to publish a study of the Book of Numbers. His studies at the synod were stimulating explorations of the Book of Jonah and the Book of Daniel.

Patrick Sturges (3rd from left) admitted as a Reader
During one of the daily Eucharists at the Synod, Mr Patrick Sturges was admitted to the office of Reader and authorised to carry out this ministry in the parish of Aquitaine. The theological, liturgical and pastoral formation of Readers (also called Licensed Lay Ministers) takes on average three years. The service was on the Feast of St Alcuin of York, a fitting day, as Alcuin, a deacon, was himself a theologian, preacher, teacher and scholar of the liturgy. To celebrate this joyous occasion, some of the Readers present at the Synod robed and accompanied Patrick as he was admitted.

The Synod reps enjoy being together "after hours" for fellowship and relaxation. This takes various forms from convivial conversation, to quieter one-on-one challenges!

The Revd Andrew Biggs (St George's Paris) challenges the Revd Olaf Eriksson (Holy Trinity Maisons-Laffitte) to blind chess! 

Wednesday, 25 May 2016

Archdeacon Ian Naylor announces his retirement to the French Synod

Archdeacon Ian Naylor opens the French Synod
The French Archdeaconry Synod is one of the largest in the diocese. There are over 60 congregations of the Church of England in France, grouped in approximately 30 parishes or chaplaincies, served by about 30 clergy and about 30 licensed lay ministers (Readers).

Archdeacon Ian Naylor has been the Archdeacon of France (and Monaco) for the past 4 years. In the past two years he has been working full-time (but without a stipend!) in this position, after he retired from his parochial duties at St Andrew's Pau. Archdeacon Ian announced to the Synod on the last evening that he would be stepping down on 30 September. The members of the Synod were very saddened indeed by this news. Several times the assembled clergy and laity broke into applause for Fr Ian, expressing their thanks for the support and leadership he has given to the churches of the Archdeaconry, and their appreciation for his pastoral care. Area Deans Debbie Flach and Andrew Hawken voiced the feelings of all present when they paid tribute to Ian for his Archidiaconal ministry. It is clear that Fr Ian will be sorely missed, and his successor will have very large shoes to fill indeed.

Pastor Christian Krieger of the Union of Protestant Churches in Alsace and Lorraine with Pauline Dif from St Alban's Strasbourg
Ecumenical life shared by our churches in France continues to be rich and fruitful. The Synod heard from ecumenical partners such as Fr Emmanuel Gougard (Ecumenical Secretary of the French RC Bishops' Conference), Pastor Jane Strantz of the French Protestant Federation, and Pastor Christian Krieger from the Union of Protestant Churches in Alsace and Lorraine. Reports were heard from the French Anglican-Roman Catholic dialogue and from the Reuilly Contact Group (which supports the ecumenical relations between the Anglican Churches in Britain and Ireland and the Protestant Churches in France and in Alsace-Lorraine). Our faithful in France and Monaco continue to be excellent ambassadors for our Anglican tradition and our ecumenical commitment.

Tuesday, 24 May 2016

French Synod focuses on migrants and refugees

Max McClellan introducing his work in Greece
The Synod of the Archdeaconry of France met from 18 to 21 May in St Jacut de la Mer in Brittany. The theme of the synod was "Migration and Refugees" which provided a focus for the clergy and lay representatives of our communities in France and Monaco to examine this global phenomenon and its impact in our continent and diocese, and to consider ways that the Church and Christians can respond.

Two main speakers to this topic were Mr Max McClellan and Ms Doris Peschke. Max has worked with our Anglican Church in Greece, seconded by Us (formerly USPG) to assist Fr Malcolm Bradshaw in Athens in efforts to address the needs of refugees in that country. Doris is the General Secretary of the Churches' Commission for Migrants in Europe (CCME), an ecumenical agency of the Churches in Europe, and a body which provides much needed advice and support to our own diocese.

Max spoke of his work based in Athens during the time when hundreds of thousands of migrants and refugees were transiting through Greece, having crossed the Aegean in flimsy inflatable boats, journeying onwards through the Balkans to countries such as Germany and Sweden. This situation has now changed dramatically with the closure of the Balkan route and the EU-Turkey "deal" to attempt to halt the flow of refugees from Turkey via this route. He spoke movingly of the complexities of the new reality in Greece, with about 53,000 refugees now stuck in Greece, with the EU promises of processing their claims and relocation largely ineffective. (only 615 out of the promised figure of 60,000 refugees have been relocated in the past 6 months). Many in Greece are now in what constitute detention centres, in deplorable conditions. Many asylum seekers don't know what is going on or what their options are; there is a lack of information available to them, and some are enticed by the smugglers offering ever more expensive and dangerous routes, now that the Balkan route is closed. The Anglican Church in Greece is providing hundreds of meals each week to those who are detained. Max also urged the synod not to refer to people as "illegal", as this is to take away their humanity. It may be that some do not fit the "official refugee profile", and they may have arrived by "illegal" means, but they are still human beings with claims that need to be examined, needs to be met and legal options presented clearly to them.

Area Dean Canon Debbie Flach (left) introduces Doris Peschke and the CCME to the Synod
Doris pointed out to the synod some of the misinformation concerning the numbers of asylum seekers and the relative scale of what EU countries face in comparison with Turkey, Lebanon and Jordan, for example. She reminded the synod that the majority of refugees in the world are in the Middle East, Africa and Asia, not in Europe. 12.5 million Syrians are displaced from their homes, but 2/3 of them are still in Syria. She spoke of the alarming fact that international funding and support for those displaced, even though increased in recent years, still has not reached the scale of the need. We now face the deplorable and shameful situation where people in official refugee camps are starving because international funding is insufficient.

These two important presentations were an excellent stimulus for the delegates to the synod to share their own experiences, engagement and efforts on behalf of refugees and migrants. It was a rich exchange.

Max McClellan and Doris Peschke - our expert speakers on refugees and migrants in Europe

Thursday, 19 May 2016

Myth Busting: the Anglican Churches in Spain

Members of the Sunday School in El Campello

There is still some myth-busting to be done about the Diocese in Europe. For instance, I often find that people assume that congregations in the Archdeaconry of Gibraltar, and particularly in Spain, are rather sleepy places. It may be that this assumption comes from the fact that many of the members of our parishes in Spain are either retired or senior in years. First of all, it is not the case that our congregations consist only of retirees. And secondly, there is a great deal of activity and life in these congregations, even where there is a large sector who are retired.

Our congregations in Spain are outgoing in their mission, building links with other English-speaking institutions and bodies in the pastoral area, such as the British Legion, social clubs, and schools, to make sure that the Anglican Church is known. The local Anglican priest is generally seen by the many English speakers as "their Vicar", even though, like in England, they may not go to Church. But they know the priest is there at times of crisis and need. Furthermore, the Roman Catholic clergy also often relate to our own Church of England priests as "the other priests in the parish". Our congregations raise money and volunteer for local Spanish charities, such as Caritas, the Spanish Red Cross and others. And the church communities are committed to being warm and welcoming spiritual homes for all.

Our communities are also places where faith is explored and deepened. One example, which I noted during my recent visit to Holy Spirit Parish Costa Blanca, was a very pertinent study series which has been well attended on world religions. This series, led by one of the auxilliary priests with permission in the parish, the Revd Chris Cowell, has covered Islam, Judaism, Hinduism, Buddhism and is about to run a session on Sikhism. Fr Chris is responding to the current interest among Christians to understand the followers of the world's great religions. "What do different religions mean by 'God'?" is an important contemporary question. As the Cardinal Archbishop of Valencia said to me during my recent visit, we Christians must show to the world that religions do not need to divide humanity. Building understanding and knowledge is an important step.

And, of course, not all our members are retirees! There are young families too, and Sunday Schools, such as I saw recently in the congregation of El Campello, the most southerly congregation in the Holy Spirit, Costa Blanca Parish.

Parishioners of Costa Blanca at study session on other religions


Monday, 16 May 2016

Holy Spirit Parish, Costa Blanca: Mission flows from the Eucharist, the feast of the Kingdom.

The Parish of the Holy Spirit, Costa Blanca, seemed a very fitting place to spend Pentecost weekend. This is likely the largest parish in the diocese covering about 7,500 sq km, and with the largest electoral roll. The Senior Chaplain is the Revd Marcus Ronchetti. He is assisted by the Revd Ray Andrews and there will soon be two other priests joining the team. Also on the team is a licensed Reader, Stephen Carden.

The parish visit included a service of confirmation for candidates from across the parish (there are 8 congregations in total) on the Eve of Pentecost. The sense of joy in the candidates and among the members of the congregation who gathered to support them was palpable. People were really happy to be in Church! The service was enhanced by the presence of the Basingstoke Ladies' Choir, who were in the parish to do a fund-raising concert that evening. They were suitably dressed in red, for Pentecost!

Like so many of our parishes across the diocese, the best of the Anglican tradition is lived and shared, making a congenial home for English speaking Christians from across the spectrum of denominations. Fr Marcus in describing the life of Holy Spirit, Costa Blanca, says,
"Mainly it revolves around the Eucharist – that great act of thanksgiving for everything that has happened, is happening and will happen in order to bring about God’s Kingdom. An act of thanksgiving for and on behalf of the whole world, during which we celebrate our freedom, and humbly accept Christ’s invitation to feast with him...something awesome happens. It is the most important thing that we do".

I sensed from my conversations over the weekend that this sacramental theology lived out in this thriving parish, really provides God's answer to the deep needs of the community, Sacraments help the faithful to see the divine in the human, and help us understand how God works through ordinary people and things. Certainly the commitment of the parish of the Holy Spirit to supporting the work of local Spanish charities, flows from this sacramental vision.

The musical event on Saturday evening, at which the Basingstoke Ladies' Choir performed along with the Costa Blanca Male Voice Choir was a fund-raiser for the parish's work, and the excellent and enjoyable programme raised over €3000.

Saturday, 14 May 2016

Rich dialogue with RC Bishops in whose dioceses our Costa Blanca congregations exist


The Cathedral in Valencia

The Revd Marcus Ronchetti is Senior Chaplain of what is likely the largest parish in our diocese. The parish of the Holy Spirit Costa Blanca in Spain includes 8 congregations and continues to grow numerically and in spiritual depth. The chaplaincy borrows Roman Catholic churches for their Eucharists, but these are in two different Roman Catholic dioceses. On a parish visit this Pentecost weekend, Fr Marcus arranged meetings with both Cardinal Antonio Cañizares Llovera of Valencia and Bishop Jesús Murgui Soriano of Orihuela-Alicante, to thank them for their hospitality and to hold discussions about collaboration in the future.

Cardinal Cañizares and Fr Marcus

Cardinal Cañizares has been back in his native Valencia for about 18 months now. He was previously the Prefect of the Congregation for Divine Worship in the Vatican. We had a very warm visit and shared insights into how to reach people today with the Good News. The Cardinal has noticed how young people respond better when he speaks of Jesus as a person than when he preaches about the moral values of the Church. He affirmed that Anglicans and Roman Catholics are very close and on a journey towards each other which he hopes will be realised in full communion in the not too distant future. The news that Pope Francis announced a commission to study the question of women deacons was also a topic of discussion. The Cardinal hoped that the experience of the Anglicans and the Armenians might be taken into account, as well as the discussions about this that have been held in the Orthodox Churches. The Cardinal was also interested in the election of Sadiq Khan as Mayor of London. A Muslim mayor of a major European capital city he believes to be a much needed positive sign to the world that religion need not divide humanity.

Bishop Mergui and Fr Marcus

Bishop Murgui and I had met previously many years ago when he was Bishop of Mallorca. We shared a rich discussion about the isolation of diaspora congregations. The Bishop has many Russians, Ukrainians, Germans, Norwegians as well as British in his diocese and knows of the need to overcome the distance between communities, cultures and languages - a most appropriate discussion for Pentecost weekend. He and I will continue to explore, through his ecumenical officer and Fr Marcus, how our two communities can deepen times of meeting and exchange beyond the regular annual Week of Prayer for Christian Unity events. There is scope for joint prayer, joint pilgrimages, joint service.

The Chapel of the Holy Grail, Valencia Cathedral

Two encouraging meetings with ecumenical partners, which demonstrate the esteem with which the Roman Catholic hierarchy of the area regard our Church of England parish of Holy Spirit, Costa Blanca. This is a tribute to the clergy and lay leaders of our Church who have worked steadily at building these friendships for many years.


Tuesday, 10 May 2016

Young people at St Paul's Monaco take the lead on Earth Sunday

Fr Walter Raymond, the Chaplain of St Paul's Monaco, has reported on Earth Sunday celebrations at Saint Paul's which took place on 8th May. These celebrations were organised and led by the Sunday Club.

Members of the Sunday Club gave a group reading of the story of the Creation in Genesis 1 and provided an "Eco Challenge" in the place of the sermon, with each child representing one important element in God's creation: trees, water, air and more. A colourful poster helped illustrate their message, and the message was quite clear: we have a responsibility and it is in our best interests to care for the beautiful world God has provided as our home.

During the service the children distributed seeded hyacinths in biodegradable pots to each of the households represented at the service. The Sunday Club children also served as greeters, helped take up the collection, and led the congregation in some very joyful singing!

The leadership of the young folk at St Paul's is inspiring. May we all take seriously their message.

(The photos are courtesy of St Paul's Monaco)


Saturday, 7 May 2016

Readers from across the diocese join in celebrating 150 years of Reader Ministry

150 years ago on Ascension Day at Lambeth Palace, 3 archbishops and 17 bishops (from Southern Africa, West Africa, England, Ireland, Wales and the Isle of Man) met to re-establish the ministry of Reader, These early Readers (all men in those days) worked on the boundaries between church and world as as a kid of lay order, extending the work of the traditional parochial system, as teachers of the faith and preachers. That ministry continues to flourish today, with over 10,000 serving the Church of England today.

To mark that great event in the life of the Church, Readers from all over the Churches of England and Wales came to All Souls, Langham Place in London last Thursday, Ascension Day, to celebrate in a festive Eucharist of Thanksgiving. 7 Readers from the Diocese in Europe attended, from Finland, Belgium, Italy, Spain, France, the Netherlands and Greece. HRH the Duke of Edinburgh, Patron of the Central Readers' Council, was in attendance. The Archbishop of York presided and the Bishop of Sodor and Man was the preacher.

In his sermon, the Rt Revd Robert Paterson, reminded the Readers that their ministry has "a distinct potential and a clear integrity, helping other people to hear and make sense of what God is saying to them in their unique place and time. You are trained in theology; God talk is your specialism, which is why the training is tough and demanding. It’s about being a person who can bring God into the conversation with people who are searching and with those who have lost their way. Being a theologian in a secular culture is, in the words of Archbishop Michael Ramsey, ‘to be exposed to the vision of heaven and to the tragedies of mankind.’"

The Eucharist included an act of dedication for the Readers present, during which they prayed, "Give us vision, give us courage, and give us joy".

We have over 100 licensed Readers serving the congregations of the Diocese. About 40 others are in the midst of the three-year theological training.

Wednesday, 4 May 2016

All Saints Milan confirmands: some lively young theological minds

All Saints Church in Milan, where Anglican worship has been offered since 1897, is a welcoming place for visitors as well as permanent and temporary residents from all over the world. The parish makes it a central feature of its life to be an inviting place for everyone, no matter their background or circumstances - all are invited into a loving relationship with God in a fellowship of unconditional acceptance.

That international welcome was evident last Sunday as the community gathered for a service of confirmation and reception for members of the parish. I met parishioners from places as far away as Chennai, Seychelles, and Tehran, as well as many native born Italians, all who find All Saints to be a warm home.

The younger confirmands certainly had an enquiring faith, according to Archdeacon Vickie Sims, the parish priest. She told me of some thought-provoking questions from these young minds which arose in the preparation classes. Here is one: "Was God being a bit selfish by making the first commandment about Him?" Good to have lively theological questions in confirmation class!

Tuesday, 3 May 2016

Some changes in Bishop's Senior Staff

Archdeacon Potter (l) with Archdeacon of France Ian Naylor
There are some changes happening in membership of the Bishop's Staff Meeting. Before long Archdeacon Peter Potter will retire from his post as Chaplain of St Ursula's Berne and as Archdeacon of Switzerland. He is the longest serving Archdeacon in the diocese at present and also covered as Archdeacon of Germany and Northern Europe when that post was vacant for about a year. Last week's meeting of the Bishop's Staff was his final one. Meanwhile it was Archdeacon Vickie Sims's first such meeting. In February she took up her duties as Archdeacon of Italy and Malta, in addition to her responsibilities as Chaplain of All Saints, Milan.

The Bishop's Staff Meeting is not a synodical body like the diocesan synod or the Bishop's Council, but an operational committee, bringing together the senior staff who hold particular responsibilities sharing in the day to day oversight and care of the clergy and people. The members, besides the bishops, are the dean, the archdeacons, the registrar, the diocesan secretary, the appointments secretary, the Director of Ordinands and the Director of Ministerial Development and the bishops' respective chaplains.
Archdeacon Vickie Sims (r) with Canon Ulla Monberg, Director of Ministerial Formation

Monday, 2 May 2016

Ecumenical and Anglican life in Varese

It was a full and joyful congregation which turned out to support the candidates for confirmation at St John the Baptist Church in Varese last Saturday. The candidates came from Danish, English, Italian backgrounds, and had been prepared for this sacrament by Reader Angela Mirani, who serves this congregation which is linked to All Saints, Milan.

The candidates sign themselves with the cross, to remind them of their baptism

Angela is a member of the Executive Committee of the Central Readers' Council of the Church of England, and is also an Advisor for the Bishops's Advisory Panels of Ministry Division, which selects candidates for training for Holy Orders in the Church of England.

The newly confirmed lead the prayers of the people
In Varese our Anglican congregation is hosted by the German Evangelical Church who make us very welcome at their attractive facilities. Ecumenical life is flourishing in this northern Italian city. Reader Angela Mirani participates in the regular meetings of the pastors who come from Catholic, Orthodox, Baptist, Waldensian, Methodist and Independent Protestant backgrounds. A very significant ecumenical service was planned by Angela and her colleagues from the German Evangelical Church in 2014 when the outbreak of WWI was jointly commemorated in a bilingual liturgy. It was an important moment of reconciliation between Christians from countries that had been at war with each other.

Reader Angela Mirani
Interestingly, the Catholic parishes in the Varese Area, belonging to the Archdiocese of Milan, follow the Ambrosian Rite. This is a liturgical tradition distinct from the more widespread and familiar Roman Rite. The Rite is named after Saint Ambrose who was bishop of Milan in the fourth century. The liturgical year is different as well. Advent has 6 weeks not 4. There is no Ash Wednesday; Lent begins on the First Sunday in Lent. I wondered with Angela whether the distinct Ambrosian tradition helps local Catholics understand more easily the Church of England's claim to be a Church living the Catholic Faith but from an Anglican, not Roman tradition.

Sunday, 1 May 2016

Two new Canons of the Diocese

Canons Kelham and Dimmick take their oaths

The Cathedral Chapter of the Diocese has two new canons. On 27 April, the Revd Kenneth Dimmick, Priest-in-Charge of St Catherine's Stuttgart,and the Revd Adèle Kelham. Chaplain of Christ Church Lausanne, were "collated" during a Eucharist at a recent meeting of the Bishop's Staff in London. Canon Dimmick is also Area Dean of Germany and Canon Kelham who has been an Area Dean in Switzerland and Diocesan Advisor for Women's Ministty in the past is shortly to become the Archdeacon of Switzerland, so their wider ministry in the diocese is honoured by their canonries. The Very Revd Dr John Paddock, Dean of Gibraltar, received the formal mandate at that service to install the new canons in their stalls.

The canons of the diocese support the ministry of the bishop with prayer and counsel. As the occupant of the stall of St Andrew in the Chapter, I welcome the two new canon colleagues!