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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!

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