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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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"

Wednesday, 19 September 2018

Specialised funeral training for Readers

Readers and trainee readers at the funeral workshop
In the Church of England funerals are normally conducted by the clergy. Canon law does provide for the possibility of Readers (Licensed Lay Ministers) conducting funerals if the Reader has been authorised so to do by the bishop. In this diocese such authorisation is given to Readers following the satisfactory completion of extra training. In so many of our chaplaincies, this ministry is highly valued and indeed where there is a great volume of funerals and where there are large distances to cover, duly authorised Readers perform an essential pastoral service. 

The specialised training is delivered under the supervision of our Director of Reader Ministry, the Revd Canon Elaine Labourel, in periodic residential worshops. Last June, one such workshop was held at St Columba’s, Woking. Canon Labourel was assisted by the Revd Canon Paul Omrod, the Chaplain of St George's Madrid. Eighteen Lay Ministers and Lay Ministers in training came together from all over the Diocese.

Sometimes there are questions about why such specialised training is required before authorisation for funeral ministry is given. Canon Labourel says "The way in which the church deals with one funeral may establish or destroy the confidence of the community. So this is a very important ministry at at time when the deepest questions are on the minds of the mourners. Sensitive and sound teaching and careful liturgical and ritual leadership are absolutely necessary, all of which calls for a lot of responsibilty on the part of those who undertake this ministry. Each funeral is as much for the wider community as it is for the closed circle of minister and mourner."

The training given by Canon Labourel starts with understanding the grief journey and moves through the resources we have in Common Worship which include a wide range of liturgical rites to come alongside people in mourning. During the workshop there is also a sharing of the cultural differences in funeral ministry in the various locations around the diocese. Of course, as in all our Reader residential programmes, the sessions are interspersed with times of worship in the chapel and times of fellowship over breaks and meals.