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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Tuesday, 31 January 2017

Charles I, King and Martyr

Here is a good pub quiz question: Who is the last person officially "canonised" by the Church of England? The answer is Charles, King and Martyr. Charles I was put to death on 30 January 1649. In 1662 his martyrdom was commemorated in the Book of Common Prayer. It is astonishing to know how quickly his cult expanded. In Tangiers, for instance, during the time of the English occupation in the 1680s, our own church there was dedicated to St Charles the Martyr! (Today, the present church in Tangiers is dedicated to St Andrew).

Each year, close to his feast day (30 January) the "Royal Martyr Church Union" gathers for a solemn eucharist to honour King Charles. Last Saturday, in St Mary le Strand Church in London, assisted by Deacon Frances Hiller, my Chaplain, and other clergy, I had the honour of presiding and preaching at this mass.

Whatever one thinks of King Charles the Martyr, he suffered and died for what he believed in.

Monday, 30 January 2017

27 explore vocation to the sacred ministry from across the Diocese

Fr William (bottom right) with members of his team and the 27 enquirers
27 enquirers from across the Diocese in Europe, from Sweden to Sicily, gathered in London last weekend to explore issues related to ordained ministry in the Church of England. It is an annual conference run by our Director of Ordinands, the Revd Canon William Gulliford, to give our enquirers an intensive exposure to the Church of England in its heartland. It is often a first stage in the process which may lead to clarifying a vocation to the sacred ministry.

During the three days, the process of discernment for holy orders is explained, as well as the selection, training and deployment norms of our Church. Advice is given on spiritual direction to assist in personal discernment. Some topics pertinent to ministry in the Church of England are covered, such as the norms of obedience and authority, the 5 marks of mission and issues in human sexuality. Parish visits are set up for a variety of experiences, often contrasting with the enquirer's own home congregation. As well as priesthood, the distinctive diaconate is set out as one of the possible vocational journeys.

Such a level of interest in the sacred ministry from these enquirers is indeed heartening. Of the 27, 19 were men, and 8 women. The average age was 36.

Thursday, 26 January 2017

The Revd April Almaas: I stand here for justice


"I am here today in solidarity with all who are oppressed. I stand here for justice". The words of the Revd April Maja Almaas.

April is a priest of our Diocese in Europe, who serves the Anglican congregation in Trondheim, Norway. She participated in a march in that city last Saturday, joining with millions of others around the world. (It is estimated that in the USA alone more than 4.5 million marched. Others marched around the world, from Iraq to Antarctica.) "As a multi-ethnic American and a Christian I felt that it was important to speak out", said April.

In addressing the crowd, April recalled that this march was in a long line of such historic demonstrations, from the first march for women's voting rights in Washington in 1913, to that led by Martin Luther King against racism 50 years later. Along with her sisters around the world, April wished to declare that the rhetoric used in the US election campaign was unacceptable, that many have been discriminated against, and that such discrimination is not right. The tone of the march was not an anti-Trump political demonstration, but a peaceful witness for the fundamental and basic human rights of all.

In her speech, April cited the words of the US author, Lillian Smith:

“Without words, it comes
And suddenly, sharply,
one is aware of being separated
from every person on one’s earth and every object,
and from the future
and even, a little,
from one’s self.
A moment before one was happily playing;
the world was round and friendly.
Now at one’s feet there are chasms
that had been invisible until this moment.
And one knows, and never remembers—
how it was learned,
That there will always be chasms,
and across the chasms, will always be those one loves.”

April's powerful speech continued, echoing sentiments of many of us across Europe, "Around the world nationalism is on the rise, Fear sown, hatred harvested. Wrong skin. Wrong creed. Wrong documents. Wrong place—wrong time. Walls are being built. Discrimination legalized. Brutality accepted. Ism’s are being taken out of their closets, dusted off and being worn again—racism, sexism, heterosexim, classism, ableism". Turning again to Smith's words, “Suddenly, sharply, one is aware of being separated from every person on earth and every object, and from the beginning of things, and from the future, and even a little from one’s self.”

The Revd April Almaas addressing the crowd

April challenged her hearers to ponder, "How has it come to this? That we are standing here in bondage, trapped on our islands of privilege and need? With chasms at our feet—separating us from our sisters and our brothers, from the beginning of things”—which is God—who created each and every one of us in the very image of God? Today, I am asking all of us to extend our arms out from our islands, across the chasms that separate us, and to grasp hands in solidarity with all who are oppressed.This is not any easy task. The path towards justice is always difficult, but it is also, always the right way to go".

April's son is holding the "She's Someone" sign

Thank you for your witness, April. "Amen" is all I can add.


The Revd April Maja Almaas


Friday, 20 January 2017

Anglicans sing Evensong at Papal Basilica of St Paul's Outside the Walls

Fr Marcus Walker of the Anglican Centre in Rome
Our parish of All Saints in Rome keeps busy during the Week of Prayer for Christian Unity. Last night, on the second day of unity week, the choir sung Evensong in the Papal Basilica of St Paul's Outside the Walls. I was present to preside and preach at the service. The Associate Director of the Anglican Centre in Rome, the Revd Marcus Walker, assisted me.
All Saints Choir rehearse in the. Basilica
It is a moving experience to read and and then to preach on the words of the Apostle (II Corinthians 5.14-20 was one of the lessons) just a few metres from where, according to Christian tradition, his earthly remains lie. The basilica, built by Constantine in 324, rises above the place venerated as the site of his burial. St Paul who was of course Saul of Tarsus, was beheaded in Rome sometime in the reign of Nero, likely between 65 and 67 AD. As he was a Roman citizen, he was able to be buried on this site about 2 miles from the heart of the ancient city, where there was a necropolis for citizens. St Paul lies in a tomb several metres below the high altar. There is an inscription on a slab of marble which lies on top of his sarcophagus. It bears the inscription Paulo Apostolo Mart (Apostle Paul, Martyr).
The Papal Altar over the tomb of St Paul
We Anglicans were welcomed most warmly by the Benedictine monks who live at St Paul's. The Abbot, the Most Revd Roberto Dotta, invited us to a reception following. The Archpriest of St Paul's, Cardinal James Michael Harvey, was also present for the service and welcomed us. Anglican liturgy and spirituality is at its heart Benedictine, so we are all very much at home in each other's company. Our unity in Christ is felt very deeply indeed.

At the conclusion of evensong, the monks chanted the ancient Latin hymn to the Apostle:
Pressi malorum pondere te Paule, adimus supplices, qui certa largus desuper, dabis salutis pignora.
(Pressed by the might of the wicked, thee, O Paul, we approach supplicant, who are lavish to give from above the certain assurances of salvation).

Thursday, 12 January 2017

CTBI - not simply about Britain and Ireland!

Why is a bishop in Europe a trustee of the Churches Together in Britain and Ireland (CTBI)? A good question. Of course the basic reason is because the Church of England is a member of this ecumemical instrument. But beyond this, the work of CTBI takes on many international dimensions, not least in its advocacy and support for refugees and migrants.This is an issue which transcends national or regional boundaries as we in the diocese are well aware. (It was a visit by CTBI to Greece, hosted by our own Fr Malcolm Bradshaw back in 2015 that was a catalyst for increased focus, both in churches and in government circles to the refugee crisis). CTBI also has historic and fruitful partnership relations with Churches in the Middle East (where Christians must not slip from our sight in the midst of current conflicts), as well as in other regions such as Sri Lanka and China. So CTBI is itself a body with a global focus, even as it seeks to serve the member Churches, including our Church of England, with their historic roots on the islands of Great Britain and Ireland.
A meeting of the trustees has just concluded in Leeds. The agenda ranged from communication of the Churches' work in a digital age, to refugees and migrants, to theological questions related to inter-religious dialogue. Also, we did some work on an exciting proposal to bid for the next General Assembly of the World Council of Churches (WCC) in 2021 to be hosted by the British and Irish Churches in Glasgow. We hope that the WCC Central Committee will find our proposal to be an attractive one when it comes to decide the venue at its next meeting.
Churches in our Diocese in Europe will find a host of very useful resources, such as Lent courses, theological reflections, and ideas for programmes and action on the CTBI website which can be found here
The Moderator of CTBI is my good friend and colleague Bishop Angaelos of the Coptic Orthodox Church.
CTBI trustees review how its resources on refugees are being used

Wednesday, 11 January 2017

Week of Prayer is approaching fast with its call to cross barriers

"Crossing Barriers" is the theme of this year's Week of Prayer for Christian Unity. In the northern hemisphere, including in this Diocese in Europe, that week is observed from 18-25 January.
The 2017 materials have been prepared by the Council of Christian Churches in Germany, the ACK - Arbeitsgemeinschaft Christlicher Kirchen. Our German Deanery which unites with the Episcopal Church parishes in Germany in the Council of Anglican-Episcopal Churches in Germany - CAECG, is represented on the ACK. Of course, 2017 marks the 500th anniversary of the Reformation and the Week of Prayer resources aptly focus on reconciliation.
Germany's history of division, including the Berlin Wall, provides an important backdrop for these theological and liturgical materials. But today in our Europe, both on the continent and on the islands (such as Great Britain), there is an alarming resurgence of calls for separation from our neighbours and even political moves towards building new walls of division between peoples. As we pray during this Week of Prayer, the Germany-inspired resources are sure to be powerful, evocative and challenging.
As a diocese deeply engaged in ecumenical relations, members of our communities will be active participants in Week of Prayer events across the continent. I will be at a service at the Basilica of St Paul's Outside the Walls in Rome on 18 January.
The resources can be downloaded from the CTBI website here

Friday, 6 January 2017

Epiphany and the Search for Extra Terrestrial Intelligence


As part of my continuing education I have been participating in a programme called "Equipping Christian Leaders in an Age of Science". Today, the Feast of the Epiphany, by happy coincidence one of the topics in our sessions turned our gaze to the stars and galaxies as we explored issues related to SETI, the search for extra terrestial intelligence. A wonderful lecture was given by the Revd Professor David Wilkinson, of St John's College Durham, a noted astrophysicist as well as theologian, with doctorates in both fields.

Professor Wilkinson, from a scientific point of view, would surmise that at present we are likely the only intelligent life in this galaxy, although with 100 billion stars in the galaxy, with about 70% having planets, and 100 billion galaxies in the universe one cannot be sure! As a theologian, he maintains that SETI is important for Christians for a number of reasons:

  • It invites us to observe and wonder at the complexity and vastness of the universe, God's creation.
  • It is in the thought and imagination of the public, including many young people.
  • It is "a fun sand-pit for theological speculation". In the sand-pit we can explore themes such as the Incarnation, the Fall, Redemption and the uniqueness (or not) of human beings in the light of the possibility of other beings on other planets....
Professor Wilkinson

We thought of the Sydney Carter Christmas hymn "Every Star Shall Sing a Carol" with this evocative verse:

Who can tell what other cradle,
high above the milky way,
still may rock the King of heaven
on another Christmas day?

Professor Wilkinson is one of our keynote speakers for the Diocesan Readers' Conference in May. Should be interesting!

Other themes for the current sessions have been equally fascinating: Being Human in a Digital Age, Artificial Intelligence, Robotics (including issues raised by a topic rarely discussed by bishops - sex with robots!). We were alerted to the fact that there is very little theological engagement with the huge issues raised by artificial intelligence, issues which are coming at us like an express train: ethics (do machines have rights? Is it permissible to torture a robot?); the erosion of ontological differences between animals, humans and machines; work and employment as jobs, especially among the poor, will be increasingly threatened; the nature of relationships and community in a digital world, and so on.

Andrew Graystone lectures on AI and Robotics
Visit to Durham University Robotics Lab