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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Wednesday, 25 September 2019

The sound of the conch being blown, ancient pre Columbian languages, mariachi and tightrope - all part of a Mexican consecration

The Caracol is blown to call the people to prayer
In the Church of England, the Archbishop (of York or Canterbury) when consecrating a new bishop lays out the duties of a bishop including "joining together in the ordination of bishops". Participating in the ordination of new bishops takes place, for me, most frequently in the Church of England. However, I was asked recently to be a co-consecrator for a new bishop in Mexico, and to preach at the consecration mass. It was a great privilege to do so, as the new bishop was an old friend, Fr Julio C├ęsar Martin Trejo, now the Coadjutor Bishop of South East Mexico.

I have known Fr (now Bishop) Julio for 30 years. He was still in seminary when we first met. The consecration was in the Anglican Centre in Tuxtepec, in Oaxaca state. (The diocesan centre is in Xalapa, while the largest city in the diocese is Veracruz). Bishops from Mexico, the USA and Spain were present for the service on St Matthew's day, as well as clergy and laity from across the diocese, other Mexican dioceses and beyond. The Primate of Mexico, the Most Revd Francisco Moreno, presided. 

The episcopal regalia set out awaiting the consecration
It was a joyful and colourful occasion, with the liturgy (and preaching) in Spanish, readings and prayers in Zapateco, Maya and Chinanteco. The mass began with the solemn sound of the caracol  - a large conch-like shell - a pre-Columbian tradition marking a sacred event. The congregation included many more young persons than would be seen in England.

Representatives of communities in the diocese present the candidate to be consecrated

Tuxtepec has a very hot and humid microclimate. It was the sweatiest service (of about 2 1/2 hours length) I have been at for quite some time!

Bishop Julio, newly consecrated
Bishop Julio faces many challenges. The faithful of South East Mexico are majority indigenous people and a number of distinct indigenous languages are spoken. Many are not able to understand Spanish well. The people are economically poor, but rich in their faith and in their cultural traditions. There are also many migrants moving through from countries to the south such as Guatemala, Honduras and El Salvador, most of whom are heading for the USA. The communities of the diocese are scattered over large distances, and transportation is not always readily available and roads are not always smooth.

A young server filled with joy
Following the service a banquet was offered by the laity of one of the communities of the diocese. This included some features are not seen in Church of England consecrations: a mariachi band to accompany the eating and drinking, for instance. Also a youth group performed afterwards for the new bishop, including a demonstration of tightrope acrobatics. Now this, I thought, ought to be part of the C of E ceremony - a tightrope act is particularly apt symbol of episcopal ministry!

Ad multos annos, Bishop Julio!

Monday, 23 September 2019

MES interns will explore Anglican Identity over the next 9 months

MES interns at All Saints, Rome
Dr Clare Amos, the Diocesan Director of Discipleship, also directs the MES programme of the diocese (the Ministry Experience Scheme, formerly known as CEMES, the Church of England Ministry Experience Scheme). We have 5 interns on placement for this academic year, in Brussels, Vienna, Copenhagen, Rome and Warnham Sussex (the intern is from Heidelberg). Together with their supporting advisors and mentors, Clare brought the interns to Rome recently for their official orientation to the programme.

Pastoral Advisor Mary Talbot and Dr Amos taking a drink from a fountain in Rome. (The figure in the fountain is damaged as it was believed (mistakenly) that it was Martin Luther, not a popular figure in 16th century Rome.)
At the PCPCU in Rome
The orientation in Rome included a visit to the PCPCU, the Vatican's Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity, where Bishop Brian Farrell, the Secretary of the Council met with the interns and their advisors.

In terms of the theological areas to be explored over the next 9 months, Dr Amos has decided that given the context of the Diocese in Europe, and the varied nature and backgrounds of the candidates, to focus on the issue of Anglican identity. Clare says, "Apart from being valuable in itself, it would be beneficial to any interns going forward eventually on the ordination process, where the ‘Why are you an Anglican?’ question is likely to be asked of some of them".

The ‘Signposts statement’ which was developed by a working group in the Anglican Communion about 10 years ago, suggests four elements of the ‘The Anglican Way’ which will figure in the theological programme:
  • Formed by Scripture
  • Shaped through Worship
  • Ordered for Communion
  • Directed by God’s Mission

A video has been produced by the Revd Dr Robert Kinney and Mr George O'Mahony to introduce the interns to the diocese and to let them share some of their hopes for their participation in the scheme. It is here:

Nordic/Baltic Deanery could be the Church of England's most diverse

Stockholm Cathedral

The clergy from the Nordic/Baltic Deanery were recently hosted and indeed inspired by one of Area Dean Nick Howe's close colleagues in the Church of Sweden Stockholm Cathedral. The Revd Ulf Lindgren, the Canon Precentor of the Cathedral, gave a fascinating historical tour of this church where the Reformation in Sweden actually began. It was here that the first mass in Swedish was celebrated. It continues to be the venue for national events, royal weddings and funerals, and interestingly, even after formal disestablishment of the Church of Sweden, the official service to open Parliament. The Cathedral has many features that are more Mediterranean than Baltic, such as a beautiful collection of Bernini Angels! Fr Ulf also led the clergy in some biblical reflections, picking up some fascinating insights from the Old Testament that were new to us all. 

Bernini Angels in a Lutheran Cathedral

Canon Precentor of Stockholm Cathedral, the Revd Ulf Lindgren
The clergy chapter strikes me as being an essential event for our scattered priests who can feel very isolated in their ministry. Fr Bjarni, for instance, in Reykjavik, is a three hour flight from his nearest neighbouring Anglican priest. Living and working in countries in the region pose some distinct challenges too, as labour laws, issues of contracts and working hours, (even working hours for clergy!), can seem often at odds with the terms and conditions of our Church of England priests. Throw into that mix some of the expectations of some of the laity and you have a very challenging set of circumstances indeed. There was a strong sense of solidarity and mutual support among the clergy as they face these challenges in their localities.

Ok  you Church of England clergy, hands up those who come from England? 
The Nordic / Baltic Synod is likely the most culturally diverse of all our synods. Even the clergy who originate from England are in a very tiny minority as is revealed in the photo above.

Fr Nick gives directions to the clergy in the kitchen
The clergy were joined by the laity for the annual Deanery Synod. The sessions were held at the Church of St Peter and St Sigfrid in Stockholm, again with Fr Nick Howe convening and presiding as Area Dean. Always faithful to their calling as "servants of the servants of God" Nick organised the clergy into a team to cook and serve a festive Swedish meal for the lay delegates to synod. 

Director of Ministerial Development and Bishop find a new calling

Fr Amos (left): "Sorry sir, we only have mashed. No chips"
Andrew Caspari, the new Diocesan Secretary/Chief Operating Officer was able to introduce himself to the Deanery on this his first visit. We hope it was not too stressful, even though he has the unenviable but essential task of interpreting much of what happens at the level of the diocese, including safeguarding and financial matters, always of concern to synod members. He has already endeared himself to many nevertheless, through his love of (and generous sharing of) ice cream.

Diocesan Secretary, Andrew Caspari (centre)
Church of St Peter and St Sigfrid, Stockholm
The synod closed with the members joining the congregation at the Church of St Peter and St Sigfrid for the Sunday mass. The congregation, like many in our diocese, is observing the Season of Creation and the service focussed on our Christian calling as stewards of God's creation and especially planet Earth.

Church of St Peter and St Sigfrid, Stockholm

Friday, 20 September 2019

Holy Ghost Genoa: an interesting past and an important future

Newly baptised and confirmed receive candles - the light of Christ

At one point in the 19th and early 20th centuries there were about a half dozen Church of England parishes along the Italian Riviera. When founded they tended to serve well-heeled British who would come to the region for sunshine and culture, especially in the winter season. The Anglican demographics of the region have changed and there are now only two communities remaining. Monthly services are held in Bordighera but the only community with a regular permanent week to week Church life is Holy Ghost Genoa.  

There has been an Anglican community in Genoa for over 200 years. An early member, who has a commemorative plaque in the Church, was James Smithson, F.R.S, who founded the Smithsonian Institute in Washington DC (he lived in Genoa for three years prior to his death in 1829). The building, which was designed by G.E. Street, one of the greatest English architects of the time, was consecrated in 1872. It was badly damaged in 1942 when it received a direct hit from an RAF bomb. Much was destroyed: stained glass, roof, flooring and the organ. There was a restoration in the 1940s and 1950s, but still much remains to be done to restore this unique architectural gem to a fit condition, to serve its present community.

Fr Tony finds jobs for all in the parish. This young member rings the bell at the appropriate times in the mass.
That community and congregation have changed radically in 200 years. Fr Tony Dickinson is the chaplain, and he now serves a parishioners among whom are few from a UK background, but a large number from West African countries. His faithful include some who have made the dangerous journey across the Sahara desert, Libya, then risking their lives in overcrowded inflatables crossing to Lampedusa. Others come from North and South America and Asia, Italy and other European countries. 

Fr Tony and the Churchwardens, Mary and Liz
In July I made a brief parish visit to Holy Ghost, where a jubilant service of baptism and confirmation was held, with a festive meal of African and Italian food following. 

But despite the vibrant spiritual life the financial situation of the community is quite precarious, given the profile of most members. Stewardship of time and resources is a major challenge as some of the long-serving faithful volunteers find they are getting older, while many others, even if employed, live in very modest circumstances economically. Fr Tony and the Council will be looking at how to appeal for support for this unique parish with a remarkable history and an even more remarkable present ministry as a home for migrants from around the world.