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Monday, 23 September 2019

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

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