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.

Monday, 24 December 2018

Happy and blessed Christmas to Eurobishop readers

The Cathedral of the Most Holy Trinity Gibraltar, quietly awaits the first mass of Christmas
When peaceful silence lay over all, and night was in the midst of her swift course: from your royal throne, O God, down from the heavens, leapt your almighty Word (Christmas antiphon on the Magnificat) 
I wish all members of the Christian communities of the diocese in Europe, along with all friends and family, a joyful celebration of Christmas. As Jesus lived in love with Mary and Joseph, may every member of the human family live in peace and love.

Friday, 7 December 2018

Santiago Camino Chaplaincy prepares for 2019

The Diocese in Europe Camino Chaplaimcy is preparing for its second year of operation in 2019. It is proposed to extend the ministry from April/May through to October/November, and will be expanding to include not only the ministry on offer in Santiago itself, but chaplains who will be walking with pilgrims on the various caminos.

The Santiago base is "Egeria House" which is the home of Sybille Yates, the local coordinator for this ministry. 2018 was a fruitful pioneering year, some of the highlights being:
  • 27 church services (Sunday mornings in a chapel-like room the Parador Hotel has given us for free, Wednesday afternoons at Egeria House, followed by a shared meal).
  • Open House each weekday afternoon, for coffee/tea and chat.
  • Hospital and albergue visits to ill pilgrims, and ad hoc meetings with pilgrims on request.
  • Being present around town, and on the last kilometres of many Caminos to meet pilgrims, encourage them, welcome them and listen to them. 
  • Working closely together with ecumenical partners here in Santiago.
  • Providing practical help (food, equipment etc) to pilgrims that either came directly to us or were referred to us by our ecumenical partners.
One of the first congregations in 2018 with the Revd Liska Stefko, volunteer priest.
Plans for 2019, besides offering a presence throughout the pilgrim season, include, increasing the frequency of weekly eucharisstic celebrations followed by a shared meal, in addition to the Sunday Eucharist.  The “walking chaplains” ministering to pilgrims on the way, will be an important new dimension to this ministry as well.

Father Bob Bates, Camino Chaplain, blessing Estela the Camino Kitten on Saint Francis Day
These priests/chaplains, like all other volunteers, pay their own expenses, but we are seeking some funds to offer hospitality on arriva in Santiago and a welcome meal. There are other small overhead costs, such printing of material and basic supplies for the mass, and also costs of Egeria House.  It costs about €15 per day to run the Camino Chaplainc. Perhaps you might consider sponsoring one or more days? The ministry is run entirely on donations.

Please pray for this growing ministry of our diocese. For information on the Camino Chaplaincy follow this link. (

And if you would like to contribute financially through paypall, please follow this link.

Photos courtesy of Egeria House

Tuesday, 27 November 2018

CEMES Pilgrimage to the Holy Land

Six interns on the Diocese in Europe CEMES scheme, (a Church of England programme to encourage young vocations to the sacred ministry), 4 mentors and guests were led by Fr William Gulliford, the Director of Ordinands, on an 8 day pilgrimage to the Holy Land from 12 - 20 November. I was privileged to be part of the pilgrimage for a few days, along with the Revd Dr Matthias Grebe, (a former ordinand of this diocese and now on the staff at the Council for Christian Unity).

Director of Ordinands, Fr William Gulliford
The purpose of the Study Pilgrimage was to give a focus for the first term’s academic study for the interns and for to research one site of historic importance, about which a 4000 word essay is being written. On site, at each place, respectively each intern introduced the location to the group, and then fielded questions. For the many other sites, the group was most fortunate to have in support Dr Clare Amos, Director of Lay Discipleship in the Diocese, Hebrew Scholar and veteran of the Holy Land, having lived there for three years in the 70s and having visited multiple times since.

Director of Lay Discipleship, Dr Clare Amos
A strong focus, beyond exploring the Biblical significance of the Holy Land was getting exposure to Christian Orthodoxy, and a central part of the visit was a meeting with His Beatitude, Patriarch Theophilos III of Jerusalem. Considerable discussion of the foundational aspects of Orthodoxy in the Holy Land took place, and resonated in the actual meeting with the Patriarch. For all of the interns this encounter with the Eastern Church was new, and of a particular contextual relevance.

The Revd Dr Matthias Grebe
Visits to the Al Aqsa/Temple Mount, and a Reform Synagogue meant some engagement with questions of Islam and Judaism was possible. A wider encounter with people from a range of backgrounds meant that the reality of life either side of a large separation wall was possible to get some sense of, with all the tensions, paradoxes and fears. Meeting people trying to overcome the entrenched positions gave hope and inspiration; but no one came away underestimating the task before all concerned.

The Tomb of Christ
Fr William notes that "the friendship of fellow pilgrims helped give a sense of the Church’s prayerful accompaniment and support of discernment. And the inspirational teaching of Clare Amos will live with all who sat at her feet".

A booklet of the entire pilgrimage has been prepared. There are many more photos and an account of the journey written by participants. I have uploaded the journal to this blog on a separate tab called CEMES Holy Land Pilgrimage.

Erik Heemskirk - Utrecht; Mark Van Eker - Brussels; Ben O’Neill - Vienna;
Isle Swart - Leuven;  Sharon Ejinkonye - Tervuren; Jonty Brawn - Lyon

Saturday, 3 November 2018

Solidarity in prayer with the Coptic Church

St Samuel the Confessor Monastery, Egypt

I have sent a message of solidarity on behalf of the people of this Diocese in Europe to Archbishop Angaelos, the Coptic Archbishop of London, on learning the news of the killing of 7 pilgrims travelling to St Samuel Monastery yesterday. Dozens more have been injured.
Your Eminence, dear Brother in Christ: once again our beloved Coptic sisters and brothers are mourning the deaths of pilgrims killed by terrorists in Egypt. I assure you of my prayers and those of our own communities for those who have died and for those who now mourn. May the Lord grant strength and consolation to your people and deliver Egypt from these acts of violence. In fraternal love +David
Please remember the victims, their families and the Coptic Church in the intercessions on Sunday.
Eternal God, in whose perfect realm no sword is drawn but the sword of justice, and no strength known but the strength of love: guide and inspire all who seek your kingdom, that peoples and nations may find their security in the love which casts out fear; through Jesus Christ our Saviour. 
Archbishop Angaelos

Friday, 2 November 2018

St Philip and St James Church in Palma: a vibrant community church

The Anglican Church of St Philip and St James in Palma de Mallorca is one of three congregations on the island (the others being Puerto Pollensa and Cala d'Or). Last weekend on a brief parish visit to Palma, I was able to catch up with the priest, the Revd David Waller, the Churchwardens and the members of the Chaplaincy Council to hear of their life and activities.

The chaplaincy seeks to maintain a profile in the English speaking community in Palma through many of its own activities and through providing a venue and support for other groups. On any given week, one can find times for meditation, prayer, and mindfulness, as well as drama, music (choirs and jazz) and fund raising events. Of course at the heart of the community life is the Sunday sung eucharist. One senses that the spiritual and community life of the parish is in a healthy state, with much joyful and committed lay support. 

On 28 October at the Sunday mass, several persons were confirmed. Like so many of our Spanish chaplaincies the diversity of the congregation at St Philip and St James Church continues to grow, as Anglicans from all over the world (and English speaking Christians) find a warm welcome and spiritual nurture in our congregations.

Fr David Waller is also Area Dean for Catalonia and the Balearic Islands. In Palma he is assisted by two clergy from the Uniting Church in Australia, the Revds Viv and Ron Larkin, who have permission as ministers of the Word, under the provisions of the Ecumenical Canons of the Church of England.

Wednesday, 17 October 2018

Pan Africa Day in St George's Madrid

Pan African Sunday, 30 September, at St George's Madrid included a service of confirmation, a Nigerian choir and an African feast after the mass. It was a day of exuberant joy. It felt like St George's was truly an place of international encounter for the many Christians in Madrid who speak English or who are from an Anglican background.

However, there was sad news for the chaplaincy that day. I had to announce that their beloved Chaplain, the Revd Canon Paul Ormrod, would be leaving. Fr Paul has been appointed to St John's Montreux and he and his wife Jill will be saying farewell to St George's at the end of December.

Book Sale at St George's
It has been such a fruitful time for the Ormrods in Madrid. He will leave behind a thriving multicultural community as was in evidence that Sunday. There is a vibrant Sunday School and three services each Sunday. The Church Council includes a good cross section of the parish, including some young adults. (I think possibly the youngest Churchwarden in the diocese serves St George's). There are numerous events which serve both the wider community in Madrid as well as bringing people to the Church and helping them make contact with this historic Anglican parish. Fr Paul has also been a key link to ecumenical partners in the city, especially the Roman Catholics. My pastoral visit coincided with one of the important outreach events in St George's, the Book Sale. Fr Paul also took me to visit the Misioneras de la Unidad, a Roman Catholic order in the city who run an ecumenical centre. There we met a young woman, Syrian Orthodox, who is a refugee from her home Syria, and heard her moving story.

The Archdeacon of Gibraltar will soon be beginning the to work with the parish in preparing the search for a new priest to build on the outstanding work of Fr Paul

Syrian refugee (left) at the Ecumenical Centre in Madrid

St George's ministry team includes Reader Celia Paterson, who is also an international leader in ministry with young people through her work on Godly Play. Celia serves on the board of Godly Play España and on the Godly Play International Council. Solomon Ike, originally from Nigeria, is a member of St George's now preparing for the Sacred Ministry.

Fr Paul, Solomon Ike, Celia Paterson in back row

Tuesday, 16 October 2018

A recent Reader training workshop: "Total joy and inspiration"

Canon Elaine Labourel introduces the weekend workshop
Readers (Licensed Lay Ministers) and those in training for that ministry recently came together in Woking, England, for a workshop on the ministry of preaching. Organised by the Director of Reader Ministry, Canon Elaine Labourel, this workshop included some theological reflection on the doctrine of revelation, how God communicates divine truth to the human community, some principles of Anglican preaching, as well as practical guidance and skill enhancement in homiletics. The Revd Dale Hanson of St Mark's Versailles was a key resource person for the event. As Warden of Readers, I was also able to spend some hours with the participants.

Reader Angela Mirani (left) was the first Reader I admitted to this office back in 2003

These training events are very well supported by the Readers, and are generally oversubscribed! One participant thanked Canon Labourel for her encouraging leadership, "because of her, the reader workshops are always a total joy and inspiration".

Another participant, Simone Gallop has written a report on the event for the Diocesan website, in which she says,
"We were treated to excellent talks from Bishop David and Dale covering the theology behind preaching the Word as well as practical advice and tips on how to preach effectively. All this to help us to lead people to an encounter with the living Christ.
On the final day we were ‘put on the spot’. Each person was given a page of the newspaper. We were asked to pick a headline or an article. We were given 30 minutes to write a ‘four minute thought for the day’, which we were to present to the rest of the group. It was a fascinating exercise, intended to teach us to ‘think on our feet’. Everyone entered into the spirit of the event with enormous creativity. Elaine and Dale gave ‘honest’ but constructive comments on our efforts. It was a wonderful weekend with good friends, inspiring worship, excellent teaching, fellowship and fun. It was another very successful Reader workshop." 

A couple of short videos were made at the workshop, interviewing some of our Readers who speak about their ministry:

Monday, 15 October 2018

Led by Archbishop Rowan Williams, Anglicans attend the Canonisation of Oscar Romero and Pope Paul VI

Pops Francis listens to the formal petition to canonise the seven new saints
Before a crowd of over 70,000 people, including Spain's former Queen Sophia, the Presidents of El Salvador, Panama, Chile and Italy, Pope Francis yesterday, 14 October, canonised 7 saints. Two will be well known to Anglicans: Archbishop Oscar Romero and Pope Paul VI. I was privileged to be present as part of the delegation of Anglicans attending the canonisation, headed by Archbishop Rowan Williams. After the mass in St Peter's Square the Pope expressed warm words of gratitude for our presence.  

Archbishop Rowam is greeted by Secretary of the Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity Bishop Brian Farrell
In his homily, Pope Francis spoke of Jesus inviting us to return to him, the source of joy, a courageous choice to risk everything to follow him. He reminded us of how St Oscar Romero, the Archbishop of San Salvador, left the security of the world, even his own safety, in order to give his life according to the Gospel, close to the poor and to his people, with a heart drawn to Jesus and his brothers and sisters. St Oscar Romero was shot and killed while celebrating mass on 24 March 1980, by a government sponsored death squad.
In my time as Mission Coordinator for Latin America and the Caribbean for the Anglican Church of Canada during the years of the civil wars in El Salvador and other Central American countries, I made many visits to the region, most often in support of those seeking to defend the human rights of the poor and exploited, including many priests and pastors in El Salvador. I recall meeting so many who were inspired by Oscar Romero to continue the struggle for justice for the poor of the region. In the hearts of the people of  Latin America Romero was already considered a saint;  "San Oscar de las Américas" they acclaimed him, almost right after he was assassinated. On the occasion of his canonisation, for the poor of the Americas this is a moment of great joy to have his martydom officially recognised by the Church. I never imagined I would be present to witness this event.

With regard to St Paul VI, Anglicans will know that it is thanks to this Pope that we entered into formal dialogue with the Roman Catholic Church. Following the historic visit of Archbishop Michael Ramsey to Pope Paul VI in 1966 (at which the Pope gave the Archbishop his own episcopal ring) ARCIC was established: "a serious dialogue which, founded on the Gospels and on the ancient common traditions, may lead to that unity in truth, for which Christ prayed". Today we recognise that ARCIC has produced ground-breaking agreed statements on the Eucharist and Ministry which have received the highest level of reception by the Churches of the Anglican Communion.  ARCIC continues its work on theological issues, and now, because of the significant progress made, a complementary commission, IARCCUM, was established in 2001 "to  translate our manifest agreement in faith into common life and mission". We have much for which to thank Pope St Paul VI.

Photos courtesy of the Anglican Centre in Rome

Sunday, 14 October 2018

Work has begun on St John's Casablanca Development

Work has now begun on the Development Project of St John the Evangelist Parish in Casablanca.
Phase one, the contruction of a new facility for community development work especially educational space for children and adults is now under way. The contract with the builder was signed in September and digging and initial work has begun.

Canon Medhat Sabry, Chaplain of St John's, signing the contract

The contractor has generously donated a tent to serve as a temporary facility for activities that once had to happen in an old tent and an old shipping container, particularly children's Sunday school!

The temporary tent
The St John's Development project is supported by the Diocesan Board of Finance, by donations from a diocesan Advent appeal, from some trust funds dedicated to work in St John's and from the donations of parishioners and others. Even the children of the parish are busy raising funds through the sale of baked goods and craft items!

Donations continue to be very welcome to support this unique project. Please email the Diocesan Finance Officer for information on how to contribute:

Here is a short video on the total plan for the development of St John's. The first part of the video is actually Phase 2 but the community centre, Phase 1 is in the second part of the clip.

Saturday, 13 October 2018

Table Talks - Anglicanism in Sicily

Community Dinner at St Alberto of Trapani, Randazzo
"Table Talks" was the title given to a programme involving 2 of our congregations in Sicily, St Alberto of Trapani in Randazzo and St George's Taormina. The purpose was to engage the members of the congregations in dialogue about being Anglican in Sicily, especially the challenge associated with being Italian-speaking or bilingual Italian-English Anglicans.

In the Diocese in Europe most of our liturgical and pastoral work is in English, with some exceptions where Anglicans from other parts of the world have brought their own language, such as French, Arabic, Tamil or Malgache. In many places occasioanl offices or pastoral rites such as baptism, confirmation or marriage might be celebrated in English as well as the national language (for example Spanish, German or Dutch) where there is a clear need. But regular liturgical and pastoral work in the national language has not been a routine part of our life, with only a couple of exceptions, in Turkey and Poland.

But now, in parts of Italy, including Sicily, there are communities of Anglicans who are exclusively Italian speaking. Table Talks was one initiative to explore how Anglican identity, lived in the Italian language can be supported and nurtured. It was a particular aspiration of the Table Talks to guide and encourage the ministry of the Italian priest serving in Randazzon, the Revd Giovanni La Rosa.

Four priests assisted as resource persons for these talks: Fr Kevin Morris of St Michael and All Angels, Bedford Park and Fr Fabrizio Pesce of St Peter's Acton Green both from the Diocese of London; Fr Hugo Adán of St Matthew's, Elephant and Castle in the Diocese of Southwark; and Fr Russ Ruffino, a long-serving locum priest in this Diocese, currently covering the vacancy in Holy Cross, Palermo.

Fr Kevin spoke of how he revitalised his parish when he moved there through opening up the church and making it a welcoming place for the entire community, which proved to be key to parish growth and development. Fr Fabrizio spoke of his experience ministering to an Italian speaking, a Spanish speaking, as well as English language congregations in St Peter's. Fr Hugo, originally sponsored from this Diocese, now heads up what is the first completely bilingual parish (Spanish-English) in the Church of England. Their input, as well as that of Fr Russ, a priest from the USA born to Sicilian immigrants, was key to inspiring the thinking of the members of St Alberto's and St George's about ministry in Italy, and especially in Italian. In Taormina participants in our talks included the Revd Jutta Sperber, the German Evangelical Pastor who ministers to German Christians in Sicily, and the Revd Canon John Smith, the locum Chaplain at St George's.

"Table Talks" was a ground-breaking initiative, encouraging reflection by the communities involved on questions of Anglican identity, ministry in a minority context, ecumenical sensitivity and linguistic challenges.

Randazzo lies on the slopes of Mount Etna, only about 15 kilometres from the crater of one of Europe's most active volcanos. During an hour's free time when we visited one of the Roman Catholic Churches in the town we came upon a curious painting of a priest praying with parishioners for the protection of the town from the lava flow from an eruption. On close inspection the priest in the painting looked like our own Fr Russ!

Thursday, 4 October 2018

The Revd Canon Hugh Broad, sometime Area Dean, celebrates 50 years as a priest

Fr Hugh (rt) with Deacon Frances and Fr David Sutch
A former Area Dean in the diocese, the Revd Canon Hugh Broad, has just celebrated his golden jubilee of priesthood. Friends and colleagues, including former Archdeacon of Gibraltar, the Ven. David Sutch and my Chaplain Deacon Frances Hiller, gathered last Saturday with Fr Hugh for a special anniversary mass in Gloucester Cathedral.

Of his 50 years as a priest, 10 were spent serving in this diocese, as Chaplain of Costa Almería and Costa Cálida, as Area Dean of Gibraltar (and convenor of the Archdeaconry Synod), as an Assistant Director of Ordinands. All in all a very fruitful and joyful ministry.

Fr Hugh reflected that he feels quite homesick for the diocese, "My decade in the Diocese in Europe meant a great deal to me and which I shall never forget." It will always be your home, Fr Hugh! Warm wishes on this significant anniversary.

Wednesday, 3 October 2018

Clare Amos: a vision of diversity may be lost through Brexit

Dr Clare Amos
The Director of Lay Discipleship in the Diocese in Europe, Dr Clare Amos, in an article written for  Anglican Communion News, reflects on the nature of the continent of Europe and the implications of Britain’s decision to leave the European Union. This is what she has written:


“The Diocese in Europe is like the Anglican Communion in miniature”. That was a perceptive remark made a few years ago by the chaplain to the Suffragan Bishop in Europe. It has a great deal of truth.

I have now been a member of a church in the Church of England Diocese in Europe for seven years, since I moved to a small town in France near Geneva in 2011 to work for the World Council of Churches. One of the things that I have noticed and appreciated is how much more diverse our congregation in Geneva has become over these years, both in terms of ethnicity and the geographical origins of people. And that is also true, I believe, for many other churches of the Diocese in Europe.

Yes, there are still people like myself who have travelled here from that part of the Church of England based on the off-shore island (England!) and find ourselves living as Anglicans in continental Europe. But we are increasingly outnumbered by people who have come to Geneva from many countries of Africa and Asia – not to mention America, Australasia, and indeed other parts of Europe.

Many gravitate to our church of Holy Trinity because they were Anglicans in their homeland: in other cases it is our style of worship that they appreciate and relate to. I do think that the church in Geneva – and indeed the diocese as a whole – needs to work through some of the implications of our increasing diversity in a way that we have not quite done so far. But such diversity is definitely something to be celebrated and built on.

This diversity is already reflected in a diocesan venture that I have been involved with in recent years. Like several other dioceses in the Church of England we have developed a programme for young people called CEMES – the Church of England Ministry Experience Scheme. This offers those who are thinking seriously about full time church ministry the opportunity to spend nearly a year working as an intern in one of our churches in a structured way which includes also theological, educational, spiritual and personal reflection facilitated by a team of volunteer mentors.

The geography of the diocese means that because the interns are working with different churches in different countries it is important to bring all of them together from time to time during the year for some intensive learning and team-building.

Due to the vision and hard work of William Gulliford, the Diocesan Director of Ordinands who set up the scheme four years ago, we have found ourselves meeting together in Rome, Lyon, Brussels, Cologne and the Holy Land. The majority of the interns who join us are young people who originate from Britain, but others have come from North America, Africa and different parts of Europe. In turn they seem to appreciate the diversity of the contexts in which they find themselves.

Most of those who have participated in the scheme are now working towards ordination. As an educational mentor, I have wanted to ensure that the participants in the scheme reflect seriously on Anglican identity. In continental Europe what it means to choose to be an Anglican is an intentional question which takes on more weight that it has had in England until recently. For these purposes I have drawn on a document called the “Signposts statement on the Anglican Way” that I helped to develop while working at the Anglican Communion Office a decade ago as Director of Theological Studies.

“Signposts” frames Anglican identity as being:

Formed by Scripture

Shaped through Worship

Ordered for Communion

Directed by God’s Mission

It has been gratifying to realise how useful “Signposts” is in helping people to grapple succinctly with the ideal charisms of the Anglican Way: it deserves to be better known. Part of its vision is certainly of an Anglican tradition which gives space for diversity in unity.

Such holding together of diversity and unity is part of my own personal passion. It has informed my spiritual journey, and many of the steps of my working life. Like many, perhaps most, though probably not all, Anglicans living in the Diocese in Europe, I am deeply grieved at the likely developments over the next few months which will see the United Kingdom leaving the European Union.

This may well have practical consequences for my own life, and indeed for the corporate life of the Diocese in Europe, although at this stage it is not exactly clear what these will be. But the primary reason for my grief is that by taking this step the United Kingdom seems to be turning its back on that vision of diversity in unity which is dear to my heart.

I know all too well that the European Union is far from perfect: I have lived in France for seven years! Yet I am also now aware in a way that is difficult to comprehend from a purely English perspective, how for the past 60 years what is now called the European Union has acted as a bulwark against the wars that had previously dominated the European landscape for hundreds of years, and from which the geography of Britain had partly protected it. Living with diversity calls us all to a radical selflessness; it is precisely such a selflessness which is lacking in current political debate.

CEMES interns 2018-2019

Friday, 28 September 2018

Architects of the Porvoo Agreement gather to honour Bishop Andreas Aarflot

Bishop Andreas Aarflot (seated) with Bp John Hind, Bp Stephen Platten, Dr Colin Podmore, Bp David Tustin, the Very Revd John Arnold, Dame Dr Mary Tanner and Bp Christopher Hill

Bishop Andreas Aarflot was the bishop of Oslo from 1977 to 1998. He was also one of the architects of the Porvoo Agreement between the British and Irish Anglican Churches and the Lutheran Churches in the Nordic and Baltic Countries. In fact, it was he who coined the title for the official report of the conversations: Together in Mission and Ministry.

Bishop Aarflot, now aged 90, was in London recently to continue some ecumenical research. The priest of the Norwegian Church in London, the Revd Torbjørn Holt, a good friend of this diocese, invited a group of "old Porvoo hands" to a lunch and conversation in honour of Bishop Aarflot's visit. Fr Holt managed to gather many of the ecumenical leaders who worked on the Porvoo Agreement.

I was able to say to the Bishop that the work the ecumenical pioneers on the Porvoo Commission has transformed the life of this diocese. In Iceland, Norway, Sweden, Finland, Denmark, Estonia and Latvia, our Anglican life would be very much diminished if we could not work in visible unity with our Porvoo sister Churches in those countries. Not only do we have cross-appointments of clergy, but a deep awareness of belonging to a greater Church family. This is so important to us as Anglicans, being few in number and very much a minority Church in the Nordic and Baltic countries. Additionally, the model of unity contained in the Porvoo Agreement has attracted much interest across the ecumenical world, including from our Roman Catholic and Orthodox dialogue partners.

Tuesday, 25 September 2018

The Nordic Baltic Deanery Synod meets in North America (well, geologically speaking)

Clergy Chapter
The synod of the Nordic/Baltic Deanery met in Reykjavik from 14 to 15 September. Our priest in Iceland, the Revd Bjarni Þór Bjarnason, was the local host. Clergy and lay representatives from Latvia, Finland, Sweden, Denmark, Norway and Iceland were welcomed by Church of Iceland leaders, including Bishop of Iceland, the Rt Revd Anges Sigurðardóttir who hosted a congenial dinner party for us at her home. 

The Very Revd Sveinn Valgeirsson, the Rector of the Cathedral parish welcomed us to the Sunday eucharist at which I was able to relicense Fr Bjarni for another term as Chaplain of St Thorlak's Anglican Church in the Icelandic capital. 

Dean Valgeirsson's Cathedral is incidentally one of the smallest in Europe. 

At the clergy chapter meeting held one day before the synod, the Dean of West Reykjavik, the Very Revd Helga Soffia Konradsdóttir, invited our clergy to join with those of her own deanery for a barbeque and an evening of fellowship. The communion between the Church of Iceland and the Church of England, established by the Porvoo Agreement, made us truly one family together at this synod.

Thingvellir - where two continents rub together
Major theological input was given on the theme of climate change by Professor Sólveig Anna Bóasdóttir of the Faculty of Theology and Relilgious Studies of the University of Iceland. We were also privileged to be led by Professor of Geophysics at the University, Dr Páll Einarsson, on a brief excursion to Þingvellir, the seat of the Icelandic parliament (the Alþing) from about 930 to 1798. It is also the site of a geological wonder - the intersection of two tectonic plates, the North American, and the Eurasian. Our synod meeting was, geologically speaking, held in North America! 

Fr Bjarni with Area Dean Nick Howe
The members of the Nordic/Baltic synod enjoy being seriously challenged in their bible studies, and this year was no exception. Area Dean Nick Howe led a bible study on "go therefore and make discples of all nations", from Matthew 28.19, exploring with us if the word "disciples" is actually referring to us, or whether this would be in fact a category error. Challenging food for thought given the present emphasis in the C of E on "discipleship". This was followed by the Chaplain of St Saviour's Riga, Bishop Jana Jeruma-Grinberga, exploring the justice imperatives from Micah 6.8 "What does the Lord require of you, but to do justice, and to love kindness, and to walk humbly with your God?"

It was the last Nordic Baltic Deanery synod for Archdeacon Colin Williams, and the members presented him with a small gift to remember them, and Iceland. 

Lay Chair of Synod Nigel Rowley presents a gift to Archdeacon Colin
Area Dean for Finland Tuomas Mäkipää counting the synod fees with Fr Bjarni

ð = a vocalised "th"
Þ = a non-vocalised "th"