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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Monday, 28 November 2016

"We are not heroes; we just do what our Lord expects" - Patriarch Ignatius Aphrem II of Syria

It was a privilege on Sunday to join in a prayer service held at St Mark's Coptic Orthodox Church, led by His Holiness Patriarch Mor Ignatius Aphrem II. His Holiness is in London in these days for an apostolic visit. He is the 122nd successor to St Peter in the Apostolic See of Antioch and All the East, and the Patriarch of the Syriac Orthodox Church whose headquarters are in Damascus. His Holiness is accompanied on his visit by their Eminences Archbishop Mor Severius Hawa, Archbishop of Baghdad and Basra and Mor Theophilus George Saliba, Archbishop of Mount Lebanon and Tripoli.

The service was a joyful gathering of the bishops, clergy and people from three of the Oriental Orthodox Churches, the Syriac, the Coptic and the Armenian. His Eminence Archbishop Elisey of Sourozh, the Russian Orthodox Archbishop in London was also in attendance. 

His Holiness was born in Qamishli, a city on the border of Syria and Turkey, just about 70 kilometres from a monastery I stay in for retreat and prayer, Mor Gabriel, in the Tur Abdin area of Turkey. He spoke of the tragedy of the war, violence and terrorism in his country and in neighbouring countries of the Middle East. Probably close to 500,000 Syrians, of all religions and confessions, have been killed in the conflict. (We know of the close to 5 million Syrians who have fled the country, and over 6 million internally displaced).

There are many Christian martyrs and many disappeared. I continue to pray daily for two bishops, Syriac Metropolitan Yohanna Ibrahim of Aleppo and Antiochian Orthodox Metropolitan Paul Yazigi, also of Aleppo, abducted on 22 April 2013. There has been no word of them since. Metropolitan Yohanna Ibrahim is an old friend of mine.

Metropolitans Yohanna Ibrahim and Paul Yazigi
Despite the high price Christians pay for remaining in their ancient homelands in the Middle East, the Patriarch in his address spoke movingly of their faith. He said, "We have been here for 2000 years as Christians, and even longer as the indigenous people of these lands. We remain here because the people need a sign of hope when so much has been destroyed, so much lost, even lives. We stay, not because we are heroes, but because this is what our Lord expect." He quoted our Lord in St John's Gospel, (15.20) "Remember what I told you: ‘A servant is not greater than his master.’If they persecuted me, they will persecute you also'".

"So", His Holiness said,  "the Church stays, because we do not abandon the sheep. We are a permanent presence among them". Fittingly the host for the evening, His Grace Bishop Angaelos of the Coptic Church, presented His Holiness with an icon of Christ the Good Shepherd.

Our sisters and brothers of the Syriac Orthodox Church have much to teach us about the cost of discipleship.

HG Bishop Angaelos presenting His Holiness with the Good Shepherd icon

Tuesday, 22 November 2016

Faith, hospitality and service to the needy: central to the life of Anglicans on the Costa del Sol

Anglicans continue to grow in faith and commitment on the Costa del Sol. On 30th October, the parish of Costa del Sol East hosted a joint confirmation service for their parish and the neighbouring parish of Costa del Sol West. It was an All Saints Day celebration and was held at St Andrew's Church in Fuengirola. 6 persons were confirmed that day.

The Revds Adrian Low (left) and Alaric Lewis
I was assisted by the priests of the two parishes, Fr Alaric Lewis (Costa del Sol East) and Fr Adrian Low (Costa del Sol West), as well as by Reader Caroline MacFarlane, also from the East. During the service two of the confirmands gave moving testimonies as to why they were taking this step in their Christian lives, to become active disciples of our Lord. The faith of all the candidates was inspiring.

Hospitality is a large element in the mission strategy of St Andrew's, Costa del Sol East. It seemed natural that following the Confirmation the Church was converted into a banquet hall for those attending.

The parish has a clear statement of its vision to be a welcoming spiritual home for English-speakers on the coast:
"As members of the Church of England, we seek first and foremost to offer praise to God through Jesus Christ, and fulfil Christ's commands to love one another, especially the poor. We have a vibrant worship life, and and are quite proud that we offer opportunities to praise God nine to ten times each week. Our services are rich and varied, and encompass the diversity that makes the Church of England so appealing. Whether one feels at home with the 1662 Book of Common Prayer, or whether more contemporary praise is more to one's liking, Saint Andrew's offers something for everyone.
We are mindful that not all of our worshippers are Anglicans, and so we strive to make sure that Christians of all denominations find a warm welcome and a message based on the Gospels."
That warm welcome appears to be working. A letter from a recent visitor, far from her home, was published in the recent parish newsletter, in which she said:
"One of the curiosities of Christian hospitality is that we have to accept people as they come.... At St. Andrew's, I was loved for who I am. I was not told to stop waving my arms around when I talk, or ignored because of my endless questions. I was accepted as a person, And when I arrived in Canada (in a snow storm), I felt nurtured and accepted by the Christian hospitality at St. Andrew's, Los Boliches, Costa del Sol, sunny Spain." 
It is good to know that a parish vision at times seems to deliver! Well done, St Andrew's.

Although the service was in the Costa del Sol East parish, many parishioners from the West parish came to support their sisters and brothers being confirmed. Among those visiting was Paul Carr, a member of Costa del Sol West. who was just about to leave for another period in Greece helping to care for the refugees there, with a charity, "Collective Calling" which he founded. Here is a brief interview about his work, which is rooted in his Christian commitment:

All Saints Anglican Church: a vital and growing international Christian community in the heart of Rome

The Feast of Christ the King was celebrated with great joy in All Saints Rome with four people receiving the sacrament of Confirmation and the Revd Dana English receiving a new licence as Assistant Chaplain. This past year, Dana completed the Church of England's mandatory "post-ordination training" period. Thus her status changes from being an Assistant Curate, which indicates the training phase, to Assistant Chaplain.

The Revd Dana English is licensed as Assistant Chaplain; while Churchwarden James Hadley (right) looks on
One of the features of this congregation is its thriving ministry to families and young persons, through Sunday School, confirmation classes, and other activities. Besides her regular liturgical, pastoral and preaching duties, Dana has particular responsibility for these Christian Education programmes, both for youth and for members of the parish in general.

Many young persons are involved in the servers' guild, a good way to use their gifts in the Sunday liturgy. All Saints, under the spiritual leadership of its Chaplain, the Revd Canon Jonathan Boardman, has been a fruitful place for vocations to the priesthood; I can count about 6 such vocations discerned and nurtured over the past 10 years.  (Fr Jonathan, incidentally, was not able to be at the mass on Sunday as he is recovering from some injuries sustained in a bad fall last week. His condition is, thankfully, improving).

Acolytes lead the Revd Dana English into the midst of the congregation for the proclamation of the Holy Gospel
The congregation at All Saints comes from every continent on Earth, and is a warm and hospitable home for visitors and long-term residents in the Eternal City. For instance, on Sunday, I had conversations with people from Italy, Brazil, Japan, the USA, Canada, England, Australia, New Zealand, Nigeria, Philippines and Pakistan!

All Saints is a "shop-window" of the Church of England and Anglicanism in the city of Rome, with rich contacts in the Roman Catholic diocese and with Roman Catholic orders and movements such as the Focolare and the community of Sant'Egidio,  The parish also plays an active part in wider ecumenical life in the city, from Waldensians and Methodists to Lutherans.

Anglican worship has been offered regularly in Rome since 1816, so this is the 200th anniversary year. The Church building itself was built later. The architect was George Edmund Street, one of the leaders of the Gothic Revival period in England. On Sunday, one of the Churchwarden, Mr James Hadley was responsible, (with help from parishioners Loris Gaudenzi and Rebecca Harden) for some magnificent flower arrangements, which brought the architecture of the building to life, and added to the joy of the feast.

Friday, 18 November 2016

Sharing the story of the Church of England with the University of Athens

Deacon Christine engaging with the students from the University of Athens
Every year groups of students from the University of Athens are welcomed to a Sunday morning service at St. Paul’s Anglican Church in that city.  They are studying History, Theology or Comparative Religion and are eager to learn about the Church of England, its roots and its place in the world today.

As the service progresses the differences between an Orthodox service and an Anglican one become apparent. As well as the architecture and interior design of the church, they are particularly interested in such aspects as the role played by women in the service as lay assistants, readers or sides-persons, the broad mix of nationalities represented within the congregation and, perhaps most striking, the preparation of the sacrament at an altar which is in full view of the congregation. Another striking difference, they say, is the strong participation of the congregation through words and song and they also enjoy seeing members of the Junior Church present their artwork and sing at the end of the service.

After the service either Father Malcolm or Deacon Christine Saccali are available to answer questions, as are members of the congregation.

St. Paul’s interacts with its host country in many ways and at many levels and this particular link is another example of the spirit of ecumenism that marks all of our Church's relationships with the society in which we live.

Tuesday, 15 November 2016

Italian language ministry in Italy: Part I

Fr Luciano, Mother Teodora, Archdeacon Vicki and Sra Faustina Bruno
For several years there have been small communities of Old Catholic Italian speaking Christians in Italy. At one time they were under the oversight of the Old Catholic Bishop of Germany, and then later under the oversight of the Old Catholic Bishop of Switzerland. In 2011, the Swiss Old Catholic Bishop wrote to this diocese to say that he was relinquishing oversight of these Old Catholic groups and that they would decide to affiliate with either the Church of England, or the Convocation of Episcopal Churches in Europe.

Since 2012 I have been working with those former Old Catholic clergy and congregations who have requested formally to come within the jurisdiction of the Church of England. We have welcomed these sisters and brothers in Christ warmly, and are seeking ways, within the norms of the Church of England, for certain Old Catholic traditions to be maintained within their new affiliation, the main such tradition being their own Old Catholic liturgical rites celebrated in Italian. The main congregations are centred in Florence (San Vincenzo di Lerins) , Rome (Dio Padre Misericordioso) and Perugia, with small diaspora groups elsewhere. 

The work of gradual integration into our family continues, including the incorporation of congregations into the Associazione Chiesa d'Inghilterra, the Church of England's legal identity in Italy. Fr Renzo Radano (Florence), Mother Teodora Tosatti (Perugia) and Fr Luciano Bruno are already authorised for priestly ministry in the diocese. Already some vocations to the sacred ministry are being overseen by our Director of Ordinands, Fr William Gulliford.

Given this new development, namely Anglican worship in Italy in Italian, Archdeacon Vickie Sims and I have outlined to our Italian speaking clergy and people the ecumenical policy of the Church of England and our firm commitment to ecumenical relations with the Roman Catholic Church in Italy and therefore our agreement not to proselytise among Roman Catholics. Nevertheless, these congregations, now within the Church of England, do provide a home for Italian speaking Christians of a Catholic tradition, but who are not part the Roman Catholic Church. We are enriched by their being part of us, and we look forward to all the ways that our Italian and English speaking parts of the Church of England can support each other, within the one family. 

In another article I will outline how another development in Italian language ministry is progressing.


Saturday, 12 November 2016

Strong Porvoo links celebrated in Trondheim where April Almaas is our priest

Trondheim Cathedral
One of the realities of divided Christianity is the fact that it can take decades, even centuries, for historic divisions to be healed. Different contexts for the divisions mean that different ways of progressing towards the restoration of communion often need to happen in different parts of the world. An example of this pertains to the varied ecumenical relations between Anglican Churches and Lutheran Churches around the world.

Anglican Churches in the UK and Ireland are in a relationship of visible communion with the Lutheran Churches of most of the Nordic and Baltic States, thanks to the Porvoo Agreement whose 20th anniversary is this year. In North America, there are different agreements bringing the Episcopal Church USA into communion with the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (ELCA) and the Anglican Church of Canada into communion with the Evangelical Lutheran Church in Canada (ELCIC). But these regional agreements are not yet all connected! Ecumenists refer to this as the transitivity question.

For over the past year the Venerable Brian Russell, Chaplain of Oslo, and I have had to work intensively with the matters of transitivity in Norway, particularly with regard to the Anglican congregation in Trondheim. There, a priest of the ELCA, the Revd April Almaas, has been been accredited for ministry in Church of Norway. When a vacancy in the Anglican congregation occurred, April was the suitable candidate for this post. We assumed that this would be possible under the Porvoo Agreement. Unfortunately, the Church of England is not yet in a position to transfer April's ministry into our own Church, despite being now a priest of the Church of Norway. This was because April was ordained by an ELCA bishop, and the transitivity questions between the ELCA and the C of E have not yet been sorted. With the support of our Church of Norway friends, and some sensitive diplomatic conversations with both that Church and the ELCA, we found a way forward. It is a sign of the strength of the Porvoo relationship that the bishops and ecumenical officers of the Churches were able to work together to reach a solution.

So on 24 September, in the great cathedral in Trondheim (Nidaros), the spiritual heart of Norway, a conditional ordination to the priesthood was celebrated. The rite was shared with the Church of Norway Bishop of Nidaros, the Rt Revd Dr Tor Singsaas, who also represented the Presiding Bishop. The Dean of Nidaros Cathedral, the Very Revd Ragnhild Jepsen together with many Church of Norway priests, and Church of England priests, participated in the laying on of hands. It was a joyful reconciliation of ministry, affirming the journey towards full communion between Anglicans and Lutherans around the world, for which we work and pray.

The following explanatory note about a "conditional ordination" was in the order of service:

In the teaching of the Church, ordination, like baptism may only be given once. April was ordained a priest in the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America. The Church of England has not yet been able to accept the transferability of his ministry, however. So in order to make the appointment of April possible, under the Porvoo Agreement,and with the consent of the Presiding Bishop of the Church of Norway and the Cathedral Dean of Nidaros, we are proceeding with what is termed a conditional ordination to fulfil what the Church of England is unable to acknowledge at this time. Thus the service is not considered a second ordination to the priesthood, and does not deny any possible charism of the ministerial priesthood in the candidate. 

Saturday, 5 November 2016

A rich experience of partnership in Brazil

Archbishop Francisco de Asis presides at a mass for the bishops

It has been an unusual few days, with a different rhythm from my day to day ministry. At the invitation of the Episcopal Anglican Church of Brazil and USPG I was invited to lead a spiritual retreat for the Brazilian bishops. It was an enormous privilege to be with my colleagues across the Atlantic and to accompany them in this time of profound reflection on their episcopal ministry and to work with them as they reviewed the life of their episcopal college.

I have known practically all of them for 30 years, long before any of us were bishops, and it was a time of blessing to renew those friendships.

The context of the Church's ministry in Brazil appears to be changing fast, and is very different from when I was first working closely with the Province. My colleagues were noting how in many ways the socio-political reality is going backwards, with the gains of democracy less certain than before, and an alarming signs that basic human rights can be ignored. The country is also much more secular in outlook, and peoples' religious preferences much more "eclectic". The bishops and the churches they care for, scattered across this vast nation, are working to create a new perspective, taking account of these changes, and equipping their people for a more profound commmitment to the values of God's kingdom. As part of this, the new Brazilian Book of Common Prayer has incorporated the 5 marks of mission of the Anglican Communion into the Baptismal covenant.

I learned much from these days. There are, surprisingly, some important parallels between the dioceses of the Brazilian Province and our own Diocese in Europe, particularly in the scattered nature our communities, working often in isolation in minority situations. There are trends in political scene too which are clearly becoming part of a global phenomenon. The Brazilian Church has no inherited endowments or material wealth. Everything they do requires careful stewardship and vast amounts of volunteer commitment and support. Despite few material resources, it is a joyful, outward looking, ecumenical Church, firmly committed to justice and peace. There is much to learn from the faith of the Anglican Brazilian communities as they engage in God's mission.

The place where the bishops were meeting was a town along the coast heading east from Recife called Porto de Galinhas (Chicken Port). The origin of this name is interesting. The town was originally called Porto Rico. In 1850 it became a place where slaves continued to be traded to work in the sugar plantations in this part of Brazil. There were laws banning the importation of slaves dating back to 1808 but the illegal importation continued until 1888. To hide this illegal activity from the authorities slaves were transported along with fowl. The traffickers used passwords for their heinous work and they would announce new arrivals saying Tem galinha nova no portoThere are new chickens in the port. Hence the rather shameful origin of the name. Nowadays it is a popular sea-side resort, with magnificent beaches.