From Reykjavik to Riga, from Trondheim to Freiburg, clergy and lay synod delegates gathered from the Nordic and Baltic Deanery and the Deanery of Germany for a joint meeting of the Archdeaconry in Stuttgart, the first of its kind in about 24 years. The meeting was held from 6 to 9 October.
The clergy gathered first for a chapter meeting and were able to share their experiences of the challenges from the COVID lockdowns and the current difficulties facing chaplaincies due to rising energy prices. There was much discussion about the effects of the war in Ukraine. Across the Archdeaconry not only has there been an influx of Ukrainian refugees, in many places being welcomed into our congregations, but also in places like Finland there are now complications arising from the influx of Russians fleeing conscription. Furthermore in Latvia, which has a sizable Russian speaking minority, the dynamics in the country are very complex indeed. The general mood in the countries bordering Russia is one of heightened alertness (in some places with parishes and clergy being asked to be ready for ministry in difficult times), but there is not as yet a sense of panic.
The gathering was hosted by the Erlöserkirche (Church of the Redemption) in the Landeskirche of Württemberg, a sign of the deepening friendship nurtured by the Meissen Agreement between our the EKD (the German Protestant Churches) and the Church of England. The Stadtdekan Søren Schwesig of the Church in Stuttgart was the guest preacher for our closing synod eucharist.
The Iglesia Filipina Independiente (IFI) Bishop Antonio Ablon, himself a refugee from the Philippines now settled in Germany spoke movingly of the struggles of the indigenous people in his native Mindanao against the military who are seeking to clear the land for western investments. His testimony reminded us all of the centrality of the pursuit of justice, in the calling of God's people. The IFI is the second largest Church in the Philippines, and is in full communion with the Churches of the Anglican Communion.
The meeting was able to hear reports about the general assembly of the WCC which met in Germany, at which several of our archdeaconry clergy were present and hosted participants in their parishes. Our Archdeacon Leslie Nathaniel and the Revd Vinod Victor of Freiburg presented the publication The Journey in Servanthood – The DNA of a Confident Church, which was launched at the WCC Assembly, and we commend this resource throughout our diocese which contains essays from many leaders in our diocese and other global voices on key current issues.
Bible studies were led by Dr Clare Amos, our Diocesan Director of Lay Discipleship. Clare helped us to reflect deeper into the theme of the Assembly Christ´s Love Moves the Church to Reconciliation and Unity, also the theme of this Archdeaconry gathering of both our Deanery Synods. Dr Amos also was able to introduce the exciting lay discipleship course, which has just been launched, and which will equip the people in the diocese theologically to enable them to move forward more confidently as disciples of Christ.
|The Revd Canon Christopher Jage-Bowler|
The German deanery environmental officer the Revd Canon Christopher Jage-Bowler spoke passionately of the urgency to change our own lifestyles as individuals and as communities to avoid further catastrophic damage to our planet. We received an update on the work of the racial justice group and were pleased that the first international conference on racism hosted by our diocese will be held in Freiburg in October 2023.
On the theme Mission and Evangelism Revd Stephen Walton and the Revd Canon Joanna Udal shared perspectives from scripture and from contemporary life and we noted the development of new work in northern Germany, where the deanery is looking to provide effective ministry amongst English speaking Christians in this new work.
The meeting enabled a rich exchange of experiences and both clergy and laity were able to offer each other mutual support. The encounter of the two deaneries will certainly strengthen our common mission and further the deepen the unity we treasure in this diocese.
The Archdeaconry was grateful to the Chaplain of St Catherine´s Stuttgart, Revd Kara Werner and her team for the invaluable support they provided for this meeting.