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.

For official diocesan information please click the diocesan logo on the right.

Saturday, 24 December 2016

Happy Christmas to Eurobishop readers!

The lands of the Bible, places we know from the stories of the Patriarchs of the Old Testament, and the soil of the Middle East where our Lord Jesus Christ was born and lived and where Christianity first took root, are still ravaged by war, violence and terror. It is hard to imagine what our sisters and brothers in Syria and Iraq, two countries which border on our Diocese in Europe, have witnessed this past year, and most recently the attack on the Coptic Church in Cairo underlines the fragility of life for minority communities across the region. Terrorism has of course also touched our own continent, most recently in Berlin.

Nevertheless the celebration of Christ's birth, the Prince of Peace, gives us hope. There are few finer words to summarise this hope than those of a Syrian Teacher of the Faith, St Ephrem the Deacon, (commemorated in the Church of England on 9 June). He died in 373. Here is an extract from one of his Christmas hymns:
The feast day of your birth resembles You, Lord
Because it brings joy to all humanity.
Old people and infants alike enjoy your day.
Your day is celebrated
from generation to generation.
Kings and emperors may pass away,
And the festivals to commemorate them soon lapse.
But your festival
will be remembered until the end of time.
Your day is a means and a pledge of peace.
At Your birth heaven and earth were reconciled,
Since you came from heaven to earth on that day
You forgave our sins and wiped away our guilt.
You gave us so many gifts on the day of your birth:
A treasure chest of spiritual medicines for the sick;
Spiritual light for the blind;
The cup of salvation for the thirsty;
The bread of life for the hungry.
In the winter when trees are bare,
You give us the most succulent spiritual fruit.
In the frost when the earth is barren,
You bring new hope to our souls.
In December when seeds are hidden in the soil,
The staff of life springs forth from the virgin womb
A happy, blessed and peaceful Christmas to all Eurobishop readers!

Monday, 19 December 2016

500 attend St Nicholas Helsinki's Carol Service

500 people attended the Service of Nine Lessons and Carols of St Nicholas's Anglican Church in Helsinki which was held in the Lutheran Cathedral in the centre of the city. The Anglican Carol Service is a major attraction in the Advent season in the Finnish capital, and is well attended by people of all nationalities and church affiliations. In the square below the Cathedral, Helsinki's Christmas Market is held. I am certain that there are also many who attend the carol service, who have been browsing around the market and who are drawn for some reason to enter the Church. Some who may have no formal Christian connection come perhaps for aesthetic reasons to begin with, or who are tentatively exploring the Christian faith, and find at the Carol Service, a warm and welcoming space for that exploration.

Our priest at St Nicholas's, the Revd Tuomas Mäkipää, deliberately keeps the format of this service very traditional, even maintaining the scripture readings from the Authorised Version of the Bible. The number who attend seems to suggest that this time-honoured liturgy can still satisfy the spiritual needs of many people. In an age of "contemporary worship", (whatever that is), we need to acknowledge that many are hungry for what this service seems able to provide: a simple and accessible, recounting of the mystery of God's plan for our salvation which culminates in the incarnation of his Son, our Saviour Jesus Christ. The excellent music provided by the St Nicholas Singers, and the familiar, yet deeply theological hymns and carols, provide an atmosphere of calm and reflection on the deep meaning of Christmas, amidst a frenetically-paced world. The lessons and carols speak for themselves - no sermon needs to be added to open up the meaning of the sacred story.

HE Ambassador Sarah Price
HE Sarah Price, the UK Ambassador to Finland, was present and read one of the lessons. I also invited the Church of Finland Bishop of Helsinki, Irja Askola and Metropolitan Ambrosius of the Orthodox Diocese of Helsinki to join me at the service, and together we blessed the congregation as a sign of the unity and love in Christ that all Christians share.

Left to right: Bishop Irja, yours truly, Metropolitan Ambrosius, Fr Tuomas, Fr Maximus

Sunday, 18 December 2016

Youth at St Paul's Monaco: light in the darkness and service to the world

St Paul's in Monaco regularly celebrates Confirmation and usually in the season of Advent. It is an appropriate time of the year to celebrate this sacrament as the Advent message of light shining in the darkness underlines the commitment of the newly confirmed to bear Christ's light in the world. In the confirmation liturgy the candidates receive a lit candle at the conclusion of the rite, and carry that candle out into the world.

This year in St Paul's I administered the apostolic rite of Confirmation to another class prepared by the parish priest, the Very Revd Walter Raymond OGS. This latest celebration has brought the number of candidates that Fr Walter has presented to me to 40 in total during his 8 years of ministry in the Principality. The spiritual life of the congregation seems in good heart!

The Advent confirmations also frequently coincide with the huge charity bazaar held each year, called the Kermesse. It is a major ecumenical event as well: the clergy of the Principality, Roman Catholic (including Archbishop Barsi of Monaco), Orthodox, Anglican and Protestant, gather for a festive lunch and time of sharing. The Spanish speaking parish and the Greek Church provide the food for the clergy, and this year, the Greeks broke into an impromptu folk dance at the lunch.

St Paul's has a very active presence at the Kermesse, with many volunteers from the parish working hard on various stalls. Fr Walter emphasises that this giant charity event also provides the confirmation candidates with an excellent opportunity to roll up their sleeves in service to the community - another dimension to the sacrament in which they pledge to seek and serve Christ in all people, loving their neighbour as themselves.


Saturday, 17 December 2016

Memorial Prayers at Westminster Abbey for Coptic Christians killed last weekend: faith, forgiveness and a cry for justice

It was very moving last Wednesday 14 December to join in a prayer vigil led by His Grace Bishop Angaelos, General Bishop of the Coptic Orthodox Church in the UK, at the Innocent Victims' Memorial at Westminster Abbey. The prayers were offered in honour and memory of the 25 Coptic Orthodox Christians, mostly women and children, who were killed in the bombing of St Peter's Church in Cairo last weekend.

The Reverend Canon Jane Sinclair of the Abbey welcomed all to the prayers. Addresses were given by the Archbishop Justin Welby, Bishop Angaelos and HE Mr Nasser Kamel, the Egyptian Ambassador to the UK. As the names of the victims were read aloud, 25 red roses were laid between 25 lit candles, representing the blood that they shed for their faith, and the light they will continue to represent in the memory of their family, friends, and communities.

Bishop Angaelos spoke of the tragedy of families broken apart just before the Feast of the Nativity, and of the need for faith, forgiveness and justice:
"People are indeed surprised when we speak of forgiveness at times like this, but we are called to forgive and we must continue to do so. Of course there is a call for justice but never for vengeance…reconciliation but never carelessness. In our unity as the Body of Christ, the family of faith, and the global family, we must continue to advocate for and safeguard the dignity and sanctity of every life. The importance of our mission and our ministry here as God’s children, is to continue, like these candles to be light in darkness.”

HE The Ambassador of Egypt,​ added,
“These heinous crimes that aim to undermine the unity of the Egyptian people,​  regardless of their religious affiliation, ​will never succeed, ​nor will the bonds that tie its religious establishments ever be broken. Peace and harmony have always prevailed in Egypt. Let me remind you - as we also approach ​the Nativity celebrations - that the Virgin Mary, after giving birth to Jesus Christ, sought refuge in Egypt to protect her newborn from tyranny and intolerance." 

Friday, 16 December 2016

Readers come together to explore pastoral principles for their ministry

The Readers and Readers in Training, with the Director of Reader Ministry, the Revd Elaine Labourel, (3rd from left)
A  workshop for our lay ministers (Readers) was held recently. It was entitled "Pastoral Principles for Readers". It was very well attended and clearly well received. One of the participants, Simone Yallop, a reader in training in the Anglican Church in Twente, Netherlands, wrote this article:

In the weekend of 28-30 October 2016 a group of 22 Readers and Readers-in-Training gathered at St Columba’s House in Woking for a Diocesan workshop on Pastoral Principles. Under the expert leadership of the Revd Elaine Labourel (Diocesan Director of Readers) and Ms Alexandra Wheeler, we learned about what pastoral care really is and how to build pastoral relationships. Using various exercises, generally in groups of two, we discovered what it is that makes a good listener as well as what to do and what not to do during a pastoral visit.

Alexandra addresses the group
The workshop was also an excellent opportunity to exchange news from around the Diocese, to meet up with old friends and to make new ones. It was a good time of worship and fellowship.

In the final session we were given the example of an ideal pastoral encounter in Luke 24:13-35 as Jesus came alongside his disciples on the road to Emmaus. In their despair Jesus listens to them, he gives them freedom to react, he mirrors and reflects back, he reminds them of what they already know in the scriptures and he builds a bridge of trust. When he is recognized in the breaking of the bread, Jesus disappears and lets them move on.

After an uplifting Eucharist we also moved on, full of inspiration, to return to our own parts of the Diocese.

Thursday, 15 December 2016

Congratulations to St Andrew's Puerto Pollença: celebrating 30 years

From the left: Fr Nigel, Mark Mallet-White, Fr David, the Revds Vivien and Ron Larkin
On St. Andrew's Eve, 29th November, the Anglican Church at Puerto Pollença celebrated 30 years of its ministry. St Andrew is the patron of this congregation. Although active for these 30 years, only a couple of years ago, the congregation moved to a new multi-purpose premises, which is well used by this active parish, led by their priest, the Revd Nigel Stimpson.

The entrance to St Andrew's multi-purpose building
Some parishioners from the congregation in Palma, together with their priest, the Revd David Waller, joined Fr Nigel and two clergy from the Uniting Church in Australia, the Revds Ron and Vivien Larkin, who assist under the provisions of the Ecumenical Canons. After the service good use was made of the multi-purpose building, as we shared lively conversation, lovely food and some excellent wine. Some members of the congregation present that evening had been there at the beginning of the Church in Puerto Pollença 30 years ago.

During the celebratory Sung Eucharist, I confirmed one of the parishioners, Mark Mallet-White.

Oh, and for the record, this was now the 3rd time in a row that I have visited St Andrew's and been separated from my luggage by Iberia! The parish is getting used to this, and are able to kit me out appropriately.

Tuesday, 13 December 2016

RIP: The Venerable Fr Howard Levett SSC

Fr Howard at Diocesan Synod 2015
It is with great sadness that I convey the news of the death of the Venerable Fr Howard Levett SSC. He died on Monday 13th December at the Royal Free Hospital in London, where he was admitted last Tuesday the 6th. He was 72. He had battled with cancer a while back and the disease had returned and spread. During his last days, he received many visitors, mostly former parishioners and clergy friends and colleagues. I visited him just hours before his death. He was already unconscious, but I was able to pray for him and for the visitors who were around his bedside, and to anoint him in the sacrament of Holy Unction.

Fr Howard has had a rich ministry as a priest. Ordained in 1969, he has served in the Dioceses of Southwark, and London, as well as in Egypt as Archdeacon for 14 years. In our Diocese he was Chaplain of St George's Venice and Christ Church Trieste from 2010 to 2015. He was a member of our Diocesan Synod until his retirement.

So many will miss his wise pastoral ministry, his gifts as a teacher of the Faith, his keen wit and sense of humour, and his excellent company.
God of love, receive into your presence your servant Howard whom you have called from this life. Welcome him into the company of your saints, in the kingdom of light and peace. We ask this through Christ our Lord.

The Feast of St Lucy: darkness will not overcome the light

Today is the Feast of St Lucy, the young woman martyred in Syracuse in 304 AD during the Diocletian persecution.

According to the Julian calendar used in Sweden until 1753, the night between the 12th and the 13th of December was Midwinter, the longest night of the year, when it was believed that extra protection was needed against darkness and evil. Hence in Sweden Sankta Lucia has become a major festival of light celebrated in churches, schools and homes. In the beautiful service St Lucy appears wearing a white gown, a crown of candles and a red ribbon around her waist as a sign of her martydom. She is accompanied by young people singing traditional Swedish songs and carols.

Each year in London Swedes and their friends come together for a great celebration of Sankta Lucia, to which I am invited, along with the clergy of Porvoo sister Churches. This year's celebration was in Westminster Roman Catholic Cathedral.

We witness the ongoing violence in Syria and Iraq, violent terrorist attacks like those of the past weekend, the bomb blast that killed 38 in Istanbul and then the attack on Coptic Christians worshipping in the chapel of SS Peter and Paul in the Cathedral compound in Cairo which killed at least 25, mostly women and children.  There is great darkness in our world. Lucia is a powerful symbol of our faith, that good will prevail despite the apparent increase in evil and people continuing to behave at their worst towards their fellow human beings. St Lucy's feast day today is a reminder of the blessed light we all need, as St John's Gospel says, "The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness did not overcome it". (St John 1.5)

Monday, 5 December 2016

Issues in public ministry - an intensive (post-ordination) course

In the Church of England, after ordination, (or after a priest is received into the C of E from a Church not in communion with ours) a second phase of training is compulsory. This is called IME Phase 2. Various themes are covered in this training period which lasts 3 - 4 years, to assist clergy with their great demands in terms of spiritual and parochial leadership.

The Director of Ministerial Development, the Revd Canon Ulla Monberg, has recently completed directing another residential training session for our own IME Phase 2 candidates at St Columba's House, Woking. The group focussed on issues to do with observing boundaries in ministry, understanding transference and counter transference, dealing with the shadow self, safeguarding, priorities for ministry, and clergy well-being.

One of the resource persons for the sessions was the Revd Canon Philippa Boardman MBE, Canon Treasurer of St Paul's Cathedral. She invited the priests and deacons from across the diocese to bring maps from the places where they minister, which formed a cross on the floor of the chapel, providing an imaginative way to bring the participants together. This present IME Phase 2 class comes from Trondheim, Fuengirola, Athens, Aquitaine, Istanbul, Paris and Malaga.