Brexit Negotiations: The State of Play

Many people in our diocese are worried about the implications of Brexit. The purpose of this blog is to set out where negotiations have got to in regard to Citizens Rights – the area that most affects individual British people living in the EU.

The negotiations have now moved on to phase 2: transition period and future commercial relationship between the UK and the EU. The positive progress in Brexit negotiations on Citizens’ Rights that I reported on last October led to an agreement in principle on all issues before the end of last year. The 58 individual items under discussion now all have a green shading applied (see Citizens’ Rights Technical Note).

Of those issues on which agreement had not been reached back in October the outcome is as follows:

Cut-Off Date

The date after which moving to a new country will no longer qualify you for retained EU freedom of movement rights is set at Brexit Day – 29th March 2019.

Scope of EHIC (European Health Insurance Card)

Those qualifying for retained EU freedom of movement rights will continue to be able to obtain emergency treatment in any EU country under the EHIC scheme and have it reimbursed by the country where they normally receive healthcare. But those leaving the UK to live abroad after Brexit Day (or vice versa) will not necessarily be covered by the scheme. Nonetheless, it is still possible that a more comprehensive coverage of EHIC could be negotiated in phase 2 of the negotiations as part of the future post-Brexit relationship between the UK and the EU.

Time limit of Retained EU Freedom of Movement Rights granted to EU Nationals living in a country other than their own

Those qualifying for retained EU freedom of movement rights at Brexit Day and who have already or go on to live for five years in the country where they resided on Brexit Day will retain the right live and work in that country for life. This right can be forfeited if they absent themselves from that country for more than 5 years. But national governments have discretion not to terminate the rights after such an absence if they so wish.

Scope of right for family members to join someone with retained EU freedom of movement rights

Those qualifying for retained EU freedom of movement rights may obtain the same status for all family members and other dependants living with them on Brexit Day. They will also have the right for the following family members not living with them on Brexit Day to join them later as of right: spouse, direct descendants who are under 21 or otherwise dependant (e.g. students) and dependant direct ascending relatives.

Portability of retained EU Freedom of Movement Rights

For UK citizens normally resident on the continent, on 29th March 2019 the Withdrawal Agreement will only guarantee their retained EU freedom of movement rights for the country in which they are resident on 29th March 2019. Other EU countries may grant them the right to move to them and retain their rights, but that is at the discretion of their national legislation. However, there is a possibility that retention of EU freedom of movement rights may be made more flexible during the phase 2 negotiations of the future relationship between the UK and the EU.

Voting Rights

These have not been included in the scope of the phase 1 agreement.

Role of the European Court of Justice

Disputes in relation to qualification for and exercise of these retained rights for those residing in one of the remaining 27 EU Member States can ultimately be referred to the European Court of Justice in Luxembourg for resolution. In the UK, national courts will decide such cases but they will be mandated to follow the jurisprudence of the ECJ existing at the time of Brexit and will retain the right to apply to the ECJ for a ruling on the interpretation of EU law in respect of individual cases before reaching judgment for eight years after Brexit.

RESUMÉ OF AGREEMENT TERMS ON KEY ISSUES

For those who missed my earlier blog… I recap below the final state of play at the end of the phase 1 negotiations in relation to a set of key issues. These issues were the main areas of concern expressed by diocesan reps. at the diocesan Brexit roundtable meeting that I hosted in Brussels back in January 2017 with UK Ambassador Alison Rose.

Mutual recognition of national insurance contributions for healthcare, pension and benefit entitlement. This would continue for those who have already at some time before 29th March 2019 lived or worked in another country. But those moving to live or work abroad after 29th March 2019 would not necessarily benefit from these provisions.
Actual receipt of healthcare, pensions and benefits (including EHIC) in another country. Only protected for those already resident or working in another country before 29th March 2019.
Moving between EU countries after the cut-off date. At the moment rights are only agreed to be protected in the country in which you are resident or working on 29th March 2019. However, there is a possibility that these rights could be extended to cover moving to another EU country during phase 2 of the negotiations.
Annual Uprating of Pensions. The UK offered unilaterally at the outset to continue to uprate annually pensions paid to UK citizens’ resident on the Continent by the cut-off date. The EU side has now agreed that the same should apply to EU citizens receiving pensions from their home countries in the UK before the cut-off date.
Rights of family members. The protected rights of citizens living in another country by the cut-off date are also to apply to family members and other dependants living with them on 29th March 2019 irrespective of their nationality and even if they are temporarily resident abroad (e.g. students abroad). Indeed spouses, children (under 21 or otherwise dependant – eg students) and dependant ascending relatives who are not living with the rights holder on 29th March 2019 may join them later and be entitled to the same protected rights. These rights should continue after the cut-off date even if the family members concerned cease to be dependants (e.g. students becoming workers). Children born or adopted after the cut-off date to citizens with protected rights would also be covered by them. New family members (e.g. spouses) seeking to join a citizen with protected rights, however, could only do so on the same basis as under current national immigration laws for non-EU citizens.
Definition of ‘Living in another Country’. The protected rights under discussion would only take effect on a permanent basis for citizens who have completed 5 years continuous residence by the cut-off date. Those with a shorter period of residence before the cut-off date would enjoy these rights on a temporary residence basis until five years residence has been completed. Absence of up to six months in any one year or 12 months for an important reason (e.g. childbirth) would not count as a break in continuous residence. Also those reaching the age of retirement or having to retire on the grounds of incapacity before reaching five years continuous residence would qualify for permanent residence status from that point. However, even after permanent residence status has been granted, a continuous absence from the country concerned of more than 5 years could result in a loss of status (but the national government concerned could decide, at its own discretion, not to insist on this).
Enforcement of Protected Rights. For UK citizens resident in the remaining 27 EU Member States who have disputes with national authorities as to whether they qualify for these protected rights, settled access to the European Court of Justice would remain open. For EU citizens living in the UK such disputes would be referred to national courts, but with a mandate that they should follow the jurisprudence of the ECJ as established by 29th March 2019, and with an option to refer to the ECJ for an interpretative ruling on the application of EU law in particular cases for eight years after Brexit.

Note Well: I must as before give a strong health warning. EU Treaty negotiations work on the principle that ‘nothing is finally agreed until everything is agreed’ – so if we do end up with a ‘no deal’ scenario these agreed terms cannot be relied upon.


The Citizens’ Rights Technical Note & a Q&A produced by the EU, which may help people understand how the rules would apply in practice, have been included under the ‘Talks & Addresses’ Section of this blogsite, here.

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Looking back, looking forward: Thoughts for a New Year

Life rushes along at such speed. If we are not careful we forget the many good things and rich experiences of the past. So the beginning of a New Year is a great moment consciously to give thanks for the past year. 2017 was the year when M. Macron became the youngest ever President of France – I was there, or at least just around the corner at St. Michael’s church. It was the year in which the Pope visited All Saints Rome – and Bishop David and I were with Jonathan Boardman and the local congregation for that historic occasion. And it was the year for a high-level Anglican delegation led by Archbishop Justin to meet Patriarch Kirill in Moscow. There were some significant endings: we said our sad farewells to Bishop Geoffrey, at a most moving funeral service in Chichester Cathedral. And we marked lots of new beginnings, with many baptisms, confirmations and licensings of new ministries. Following below is a round-up of some of the comings-and-goings that were reported on this blog in 2017.

Looking forward to 2018 there could be many reasons to feel gloomy: political uncertainty, Brexit, stories of church decline. But I was much heartened to receive from the Taizé community (whose guiding principles are simplicity, mercy and joy) a request that I (and the church more widely) make Joy a central reality in my life in 2018. My diary for the next few months is already filled with a mixture of church visits (Barcelona, Toulouse, Pau, Prague, Aquitaine to start with), ecumenical events (meetings with other Anglican bishops; meetings with Old Catholic Bishops; a CEC General Assembly) and the business of synods at different levels. How important to approach the commitments of a new year with a spirit of joy, expectancy and delight! The Christian virtue of joy is not a superficial feeling but the assurance that our activities contribute to God’s purposes, and the confident trust that we are loved and valued by God. In the words of the prophet Zephaniah: ‘The Lord your God is with you. He takes great delight in you; he will renew you with his love; he will sing with joy because of you.” So as I go into 2018, I aim to try to live into this prayer, written by the Swiss Saint Nicholas of Flue:

My Lord and my God; take from me all that keeps me far from you.
My Lord and my God; give me all that brings me closer to you.
My Lord and my God, take me out of myself and give me completely to you.


2017 Round-up

January
The year began with an invitation to dedicate the new Edith Cavell chapel at Holy Trinity Brussels. The chapel is the centre of the renovated Church House building – with a new administration and conference centre. As a British nurse who voluntarily and bravely came to Belgium at the outbreak of the great war, as a woman who was proud of her own country but equally committed to caring for the injured from all European countries, and as an intensely serious Christian, she is an inspirational figure.

February
A Historic Weekend in Rome was the heart of the month. We gathered to celebrate 200 years of Anglican worship in Rome and looked forward with great anticipation to the visit of His Holiness Pope Francis. This was the first time a Bishop of Rome had visited an Anglican parish in his own diocese. In fact, as far as we are aware, the first time a Roman Pontiff has visited any ‘ordinary’ Anglican parish (rather than let’s say a Cathedral). Other ecumenical encounters in Naples and Lyon made this a time focused on greater Christian unity, something we all strive for.

March
Gibraltar & Brexit, and Brexit’s impacts more widely on lives left in limbo, have been on the minds of many in our diocese. Gibraltar is the location of our Cathedral church which has an historic importance, not just to the people of Gibraltar, but to the Diocese in Europe and the Church of England more generally. The UK and Gibraltarian governments face many difficult issues when Britain leaves the EU. The outcomes will, in the words of Gibraltar’s Chief Minister, rely on the “good will and good faith” between Gibraltar and Spain. We all pray that goodwill and mutual cooperation will be the hallmarks of the negotiations ahead. Steady progress on other important issues has been made and that is indeed welcome.

April
April led me To Prague for the consecration of an Old Catholic bishop for the Czech Republic, confirmations at St Clement’s and to wish the then chaplain, Ricky Yates, a well-earned and fulfilling retirement. At a time when populism threatens European togetherness, it was especially important that European Christian leaders celebrated and deepened their ties with each other at the bishop’s consecration. We worshipped for nearly three hours in Czech and German: a test in humility for us English-speakers! The confirmation candidates represented a gloriously international community and it is always a joy to speak to candidates, young and old, about the journey that has led them to this point.

May
Visiting Paris on a Historic Day, I was thrilled when it turned out my long-planned visit would coincide with the installation of President Emmanuel Macron. The Champs-Elysées was decorated with flags for the occasion. St Michael’s is just around the corner from the Elysée Palace where the passation took place, so we felt very much at the centre of the action. I also learnt a lot about the church’s history from its most senior member, Rene, a former architect who joined St. Michael’s Paris 65 years ago. St. Michael’s is a lively church that supports a women’s meeting (‘Eve’), a men’s breakfast, Alpha courses, a gathering for young adults (‘Celebrate’), a café for English-speaking Au Pairs, children’s, youth, music and prayer ministries.

June
The news of Bishop Geoffrey Rowell’s death was a source of sadness and sorrow to many, including me personally. I first met Geoffrey in 2005, when I joined the Diocese in Europe. I experienced him as unfailingly kind, warm and hospitable. For 12 years as Diocesan Bishop, Geoffrey embodied the Diocese in Europe in his own character and personality. He managed to remain a serious academic whilst also carrying out a demanding pastoral ministry. He was a great ambassador for a traditional, catholic, Anglicanism and he maintained an enviable quantity and quality of correspondence with ecumenical partners and friends. His passing has felt as if it marks the end of an era, but we go forward in 2018 with fond memories and appreciation of such a devoted servant as Geoffrey was to this diocese. June was also a reminder of new beginnings, with many baptisms, confirmations and experiences of children’s ministry in Maisons Lafitte & Switzerland.

July
A Bishop in Europe is someone who travels on business to places that most people visit on holiday. That is true at least for the area around Chania in Crete, which has proved in recent decades a popular place for English-speakers to retire. Helen and I were invited to Kefalas to celebrate the 10th anniversary of St. Thomas’s Anglican Church. The chapel was built by Tony and Suzanne Lane and a ‘tabernacle’ added, which today forms the area where Sunday worship takes place. I got to meet many members of this relevantly new congregation and wish them, Fr. Leonard (our Athens chaplain) much wisdom and grace as, together with Archdeacon Colin Williams, they lead St. Thomas Kefalas into the next phase of its life and ministry: Χάρη και ειρήνη

September
A Grand New Beginning at St. Andrew’s Moscow was inaugurated with the licensing of Malcolm Rogers as Chaplain of the Anglican community there. Few cities compare with the awe-inspiring grandeur and scale of Moscow. And few have such international significance. So the opportunity to spend time there with Malcolm, who loves Russia and speak Russian, and has the deep pastoral experience needed to build Christian community in Moscow, was truly special. I was able to return to Moscow in November as part of a high-level Anglican delegation led by Archbishop Justin to meet Patriarch Kirill in Moscow. During that visit commission Malcolm was also commissioned as apokrisarios (representative) to the Russian Orthodox Church in Moscow and will play a major role in taking forward dialogue with the Patriarchate.

October
St George’s Ypres was built as a place of remembrance following the horrors of World War 1. The building included a bell tower but, back in the 1920s, there was no money to buy a set of bells. Finally, this year, those long-expected bells were introduced. Church bells have a very important and contemporary function. Because in our time, people mostly neglect the worship of God. They have forgotten how to praise God, and they don’t know how to enjoy God. And religion is something which, if it is tolerated at all, is supposed to be something quiet and personal and private. By contrast, a set of pealing church bells says to us: ‘Don’t apologise! We have good news to share! Come and join us! Praise God with all your heart and mind and strength! It will do you good. And it will do your community good too.’

November
Between the church calendar, commemorating the faithful departed at All Saints & All Souls, the autumn season, and the annual marking of 11th November as a Remembrance or Armistice Day in many countries, November is often a poignant time to reflect on matters of life and its passing. I visited the most beautiful and well-orchestrated remembrance event I have ever attended at Sittard in the Netherlands and preached on John 15:13: ‘Greater love has no-one than this, that he lay down his life for his friends.’ During a reception, the local military wives choir sang the prayer ‘Bring Him Home’ (from Les Misérables), which I believe to have been particularly appropriate.

December
A Holy Land Journal was a wonderful collection of pictures and reflections to arise from a pilgrimage to Jerusalem by this year’s CEMES (Church of England Ministry Experience Scheme) interns for the Diocese in Europe. The pilgrimage was a result of the vision and hard work of our Director of Ordinands, Revd Canon William Gulliford, who wanted to offer the interns the same experience which had a profound impact on him and his calling as a young man. Such a pilgrimage is just one expression of the ways we can invest in the future, support and encourage young vocations in the Church of England. Throughout 2017 I have been pleased to host guest posts on this blog from other CEMES interns – ‘Whom shall I send, and who will go for us?’; Anglican-Old Catholic Youth Pilgrimage; Meditating on the Magnificat. Please continue to support and pray for all who, inspired by the Holy Spirit, offer themselves for ministry and work for the increase of God’s Kingdom.

New Chaplain for Strasbourg

Strasbourg in festive spirit with Christmas decorations featuring angels and gingerbread men.

The capital of the Alsace region, Strasbourg, is right on the eastern French border, far from our next nearest French chaplaincy. But the new high-speed railway line and direct TGV service to Brussels makes the journey much easier than it used to be. In a way, Brussels and Strasbourg are twin cities. Like Brussels, Strasbourg is home to a major European Institution (the Council of Europe) and with Brussels it shares the base of the European Parliament. It also houses one of France’s biggest universities, with 55,000 students. In view of Strasbourg’s political and academic importance, it was a particular delight to be licensing a new Chaplain to the Anglican chaplaincy of St. Alban’s.

Strasbourg lays claim to being one of our oldest chaplaincies, with a community of English Anglicans settling in the city as refugees during the 16th century Marian persecutions. Today, St. Alban’s is a highly international community. It meets in the Église des Dominicains, in a worship space beautifully modelled on a Roman basilica. On the day of the licensing, snow was falling thickly outside, and we were glad to be in such a warm and cosy building.

The appointment of Dr. Mark Barwick as chaplain is a huge encouragement to the community. Mark was formerly assistant priest with the Episcopal Church, in Waterloo, Belgium. He speaks French and German, has a track record of work with political institutions in Brussels and long experience in conflict resolution with the Pax Christi organisation. In the ‘waiting’ season of Advent, we can certainly say that Mark’s appointment was long awaited. St. Alban’s has been without a chaplain for four years. The clergy and leading laity have worked hard to sustain the life of the chaplaincy, but there is now great delight, and indeed relief, that a chaplain has been appointed.

The service was constructed to enable different elements of the diverse community to contribute.

The beautiful interior of the Dominican Church. The Churchwardens Pauline & Denis present Mark Barwick to be licensed and instituted as Chaplain.
St Alban’s includes a small Malagash community, pictured here offering a musical item.
Our concluding hymn: ‘We are marching in the light of Christ’.
A final photo-call: Mark Barwick with amongst others Bishop Robert and Archdeacon Meurig Williams, The Revd. John Murray and Bishop Vanuste, Reader David Cowley (from St. Alban’s), the ecumenical officer from the Catholic Archdiocese, a representative from the Dominican Order, and a representative of the Malagash.

We pray for Mark, his wife Corinna and small children Madeleine and Elias, as they settle into Strasbourg and as Mark begins this exciting new chapter in his life and the life of St. Alban’s.

A Holy Land Journal

In the last fortnight, from 24th – 29th Nov, this year’s CEMES (Church of England Ministry Experience Scheme) interns for the Diocese in Europe were on pilgrimage to Jerusalem and the Holy Land.

The pilgrimage was a result of the vision and hard work of the Director of Ordinands for the Diocese in Europe, Revd Canon William Gulliford, who says ‘I know what impact the opportunity to visit Jerusalem as a young man made to me, and how it affected the path of my own ministry. I wanted these young people to have a similar privilege. It is an important way that the church can invest in the future.’

Coming out of their pilgrimage, a photographic journal of their time has been produced, which is offered below. A short report on the pilgrimage from Dr Clare Amos, a CEMES mentor, is available on the diocesan website HERE.


PHOTOGRAPHIC JOURNAL OF THE 2017 CEMES STUDY PILGRIMAGE TO JERUSALEM

DAY 1

Tour of the West Bank, Visit to Bethlehem, Visit to Synagogue and Jewish Families for Shabbat Evening Meal

The view over the Temple Mount towards to Mt of Olives from St Peter in Gallicantu, where we stayed with the Assumptionist Fathers in their Pilgrim Guest House.

On the first morning we had a tour of the different communities straddling the 1967 Green line with a former Israeli soldier who now leads study tours of the occupied territories. The view above is of a Palestinian refugee camp just next to the Mt of Olives, rubbish is strewn down the mountainside as the City of Jerusalem provides no normal street services in the Camp.

The Security Wall, just at the bottom of the Mount of Olives.
The Church of the Nativity in Bethlehem with examples of newly found mosaics dating from Crusader times in the Byzantine style.

The Christmas Tree in Manger Square.
The Grotto of the Nativity, in the Church of the Nativity.
The home of Rabbi Dr Michael Marmur and his wife Dr Sarah Bernstein with their three children and Rabbi Marmur’s father Rabbi Dove Marmur. Our group had just attended the Shabbat evening service at their Synagaogue – The Kol HaNeshama Synagogue, in the Reform Tradition. Rabbi Michael is Provost of Hebrew Union College – Institute of Religion Jerusalem.

DAY 2

The Wilderness, Masada, the Dead Sea, Qumran, En Gedi, Jericho

The Judean Wilderness.
Early morning at Masada.
The view of the Dead Sea from Masada.
The ritual bathe in the Dead Sea.
The oasis of En Gedi, where David hid as a fugitive from King Saul.
The view of Cave 4 from Qumran.
Dr Clare Amos giving a road-side lecture overlooking ancient Jericho, the most ancient and lowest city on earth.

DAY 3

The Holy Sepulchre, the Greek Patriarchate, St George’s Anglican Cathedral, the Russian Orthodox Monastery of St Mary Magdalene, the Mt of Olives

Early on the first day of the week the women went to the tomb, so our party of 15 rose at 6 am and were at the Sepulchre at 7 am having had a lecture on its history. The group spent over an hour experiencing the simultaneous worship in the Latin Church in Calvary, the Greek Church in the Nave and the Copts all the while were chanting behind the Tomb. The Greek Patriarch, Theophilos presided from his throne.

The Greek chapel of Calvary.
Newly restored Byzantine frescos near Calvary (but in the Ottoman style).
The Edicule, which was restored in 2016.
A deacon before the iconstasis in the Catholicon the Greek area of the church. His Beatitude Patriarch Theophilos presides from the throne, the candles burn at the omphalos.
His Beatitude Patriarch Theophilos of Jerusalem who graciously granted us an substantial audience in the Patriarchate after the Liturgy in the Holy Sepulchre.
Canon David Longe reads the Gospel at St George’s Anglican Cathedral on the Feast of Christ the King, three of the five servers who encircle him with the cross and candles are his children, the smallest carrying a processional Jerusalem cross.
Our party accompanied by his Grace the Anglican Archbishop of Jerusalem outside St George’s Cathedral.
The Russian Monastery of St Mary Magdalene, which is the last resting place of St Elizabeth of Russia and her niece, Princess Alice of Battenburg, also known as Princess Andrew of Greece, mother of HRH the Duke of Edinburgh.

DAY 4

The Dome of the Rock, the Tunnel along the Western Wall, Yad Vashem and an evening visit to the Student Year programme at the Abbey of the Dormition

Detail of the inscriptions on each of the flanks of the Dome, which were explained by our guide, Calen Gayle, who had researched this site for his presentation.
The sites and smells of the souk.
Three faiths in one photo, a group doing the stations of the cross on the Via Dolorosa, a Mosque minaret and beyond a Menora.
The German Benedictine Abbey of the Dormition which runs a student programme for Theology Graduates, we met with them for an evening and enjoyed sharing our experiences of studying Theology and making sense of our respective understandings of call. We were received very hospitably.

DAY 5

The River Jordan, Lake Galilee, to include St Peter’s Primacy, Capernaum the Mt of Beatitudes, Tabgha and Safed

The Jordan near where it leaves Galilee.
The 4th cent. Synagogue of Capernaum, which may have been on the site of the 1st cent. predecessor which Jesus would have known and in which he healed.

 

Lake Galilee.
The early Byzantine mosaic at Tabgha, the site of the feeding of the Five Thousand.
The lake-shore chapel at Tabgha, carefully tended by the Benedictines of the Dormition.

DAY 6

Abu Gosh – Emmaus, the Crusader Church run by French Benedictines

A land of contradictions. Our guide took us for a coffee on our way home to an Elvis café. It was the beginning of coming home with a bump.
The CEMES Interns Julius Anozie (Lyon), Annie Bolger (Leuven), Guy Crumpler (Ostend-Bruge) Lloyd Brown (Brussels), Philip Milton (Vienna), Calen Gayle (La Cote).
The interns with their mentors, Mary Talbot, Janet Sayers, Clare Amos and the DDO.

These are beautiful pictures from a pilgrimage which clearly had a deep impact on those who went, an impact they are only just beginning to realize. You need only read their comments on the website article.

But this reflection from one intern is perhaps something to dwell on in Advent:

‘The patriarch [of Jerusalem, His Beatitude Theophilus] put a provocative question to our group: he asked us to consider what we had come to Jerusalem to see. In my mind I ran through a list of sites that I had come to see: Gethsemane, the Holy Sepulchre, the Western Wall. After a moment of silence he quietly commented, “I hope that you have not come to Jerusalem to see places. I hope you have come to see people. Israel is not the Holy Land, it is the Land of the Holy One. I pray that you see God’s light.”

I felt that some light had broken through. Too many pilgrims like myself visit Jerusalem for the places, for the Land. In so doing, we miss the people. We miss the face of Christ, who is so often best seen in our neighbors.

Before we left His Beatitude Theophilus, we asked how we could pray for him. “Pray for enlightenment,” he said.

This is what Advent is about: Christ came for our enlightenment. He came that the people who walked in darkness would see a great light, he came to shine light on those who dwell in the land of the shadow of death (Isaiah 9:2).

If there is one thought I can offer from my pilgrimage, it is this thought from Dietrich Bonhoeffer: “The celebration of Advent is possible only to those who are troubled in soul, who know themselves to be poor and imperfect, and who look forward to something greater to come.” Advent reminds us – in our troubles, imperfections, and sorrows – to expect God. It teaches us to expect God, whom we so often experience as absent… it teaches us to expect God to be revealed. Jesus came as Immanuel, God with us. This was nothing new. Immanuel reveals what has always been true about God: that God has always been coming to us and has always been among us and truly does remain with us always.’

Amen.

Even so come, Lord Jesus.

Advent Sunday in Lugano

I have been to Switzerland many times, but never to the Italian part of the country, which is somewhat isolated from the French and German-speaking parts. So I was particularly looking forward to visiting the Anglican Church of St Edward the Confessor, Lugano, for the first time. Helen and I travelled on a regular Airbus to Zurich and then onwards via a small Dash-8 aeroplane. Lugano has my favourite kind of airport: a small airstrip neatly slotted in between the mountains and the lake, only three arrivals per day (all from Zurich) and minimal queueing.

The main reason for my visit was to celebrate a 30 year anniversary. Our chaplain in Lugano, Fr. Nigel Gibson, was ordained priest 30 years ago in Adelaide South Australia. Since then he has ministered in the UK, Hong Kong and Europe. 10 years of his ministry have been in the Diocese in Europe – a stint as chaplain to Milan, Genova, Varese and Cadenabbia and the last 20 months in Lugano. Before ordination, Nigel had a career in broadcasting and journalism, and the new church website is eloquent testimony to his skills in design and communication. His subsequent 30 years as a priest is a fine achievement well worthy of celebration.

The wardens and council of St. Edwards had taken every care over our visit. We were booked in to a delightful, centrally-located hotel, and after arrival were given a short tour of the city. Lugano has the good fortune to combine Swiss efficiency and cleanliness with Italian beauty and style. This is very evident in the civic architecture. In particular, we had opportunity to admire the exquisitely tasteful Lugano Art and Culture Centre ingenuously attached to the outstanding Renaissance Cloisters and Convent of Santa Maria degli Angioli.

Dinner was arranged at a restaurant a stone’s throw from our hotel. This was a lovely occasion with plenty of opportunity to chat with members of the church council. Not for the first time was I struck by the exceptionally able and gifted lay folk with whom we are privileged to serve. The restaurant was gorgeous, but then it had been chosen by a churchwarden whose husband is a leading authority on gastronomy and wine.

Fr. Nigel presided at the Eucharist. All the elements of the service – readings, prayers, music, were done well. I was pleased to meet The Revd. Elizabetha, the priest who looks after the small Old Catholic community that meets at St. Edwards, and the President of the Lugano Council of Churches who had been specially invited. At the end of the service there was a surprise presentation – of an electric bicycle. Nigel is lithe and fit; Lugano is hilly with car parking at a premium – so an electric bicycle is an ideal way of getting around the city. Nigel obligingly attempted to ride the bike down the aisle whilst wearing a chasuble – which is certainly as difficult as you might think.

Adjoining the beautiful worship space, is ‘Casa Benson’ which provides a gorgeous suite of meeting/Sunday school rooms/kitchen on the ground floor and a stunning chaplain’s apartment with views over the lake on the upper two floors. Casa Benson was once the home of Mrs. Agnes Benson – the wife of a one-time Bishop of Truro who gave the Anglican Church its ‘Nine lessons and carols’ service. She bequeathed it to the church on her death. Casa Benson was once regarded by St. Edward’s as a ‘liability’ – it is now a massive asset – which just shows how our buildings can be redeemed and transformed.

Left: Casa Benson; Right: View over the lake from the Church and Casa Benson.

The after-church refreshments featured a beautiful church-shaped ‘cake’ that was actually made up of three different types of savoury quiche covered in Philadelphia cheese. (There’s a healthy alternative to cream and sugar.) Homemade Advent Wreaths were on sale to raise money for ‘futureforfamilies’ foundation, which supports children in need in Bosnia. The congregation member who is President of the foundation, Jennifer Stone-Wigg, has just been awarded an MBE for her work.

As this visit came to a close, I give thanks to God for a remarkably welcoming, creative and talented church community. I was deeply touched by the evident affection and esteem in which Fr. Nigel is held by the community. St. Edward the Confessor is a very encouraging place. It deserves to grow and I very much hope and pray that it will.

Fr. Nigel with Archdeacon Adèle, Bishop Robert and Churchwardens Diana and Brian.

A Weekend in Funchal

The island of Madeira is at the far South-West corner of the Diocese in Europe. It lies off the West Coast of Africa, and for part of its history was in the Diocese of Sierra Leone. It has a sub-tropical climate with warm weather all the year round. Work on the English Church in the island capital of Funchal was begun in 1817, so this being 2017 I was invited to help launch a bicentennial appeal as well as to confirm two adult candidates.

I was pleased to be joined on this trip by Archdeacon Geoff Johnston, pictured here in front of the distinctive neo-classical church building.

Holy Trinity church is set in a beautiful garden well stocked with flowers and shrubs, and elegant palm and banana trees. It is quite a large building and could seat 300 if the balconies were used. Though the local congregation is small, it attracts a good congregation from regular visitors to the island.

The Chaplain, Canon John Blair, and Jean his wife (third right), with members of the Church Council on John’s terrace.

One of the particular features of Holy Trinity Funchal is the British Cemetery, which offered burials to Protestants of all nationalities. Many notable and interesting people have visited or lived in Madeira over the centuries. Some came for health reasons because of the warm climate and clean air. Those buried in the cemetery include a King of Bonny, an African goddaughter of Queen Victoria and Dr. Langerhans – the German doctor who discovered the ‘islets of Langerhans’ that produce insulin.

Left: Church Archivist Cefyn, with Cemetery Gardener Carlos. Right: The very remarkable ‘British Cemetery’.

A neo-classical church, its surrounding gardens, and a sizeable cemetery all cost a lot of money to maintain. In days gone by, Holy Trinity had large congregations of wealthy residents, but that, sadly, is no longer the case, so a special appeal for funds is needed.

The main ‘launch event’ for the appeal was a magnificent banquet for over 100 people.

Churchwarden Richard Colclough, and my wife Helen, sit next to Madeiran Region Vice-President and Finance Minister Pedro Calado at the gala dinner.

Holy Trinity’s two most senior members are Maureen Goncalves and Elizabeth Burca, whose history with the church goes back some 60 years. Elizabeth was a cordon bleu cook and her husband was the manager of Reid’s Palace, Madeira’s best-known hotel. Maureen worked in the British Consulate.

Maureen & Elizabeth.

Holy Trinity Funchal is a little piece of English history. It is now a Portuguese trust. It hopes to be an international church, open to all nations, to be used for social and cultural events as well as worship. It looks forward to being fully embraced and understood as a special part of Madeira’s heritage and finding its place in Madeira’s future.

Coffee after church amidst the palm trees.

The visit concluded with a memorable traditional barbecue, kindly hosted by the churchwardens, at an off the beaten track restaurant in the mountains. Note the skewers of meat hanging from the ceiling!

Visit to Moscow with the Archbishop of Canterbury

His Holiness Patriarch Kirill, the head of the Russian Orthodox Church, visited Her Majesty the Queen and the Archbishop of Canterbury in October last year. This November 2017, Archbishop Justin made a return visit to Moscow. He was joined by a delegation including Bishop Jonathan Goodall (who has taken over from +Richard Chartres as our representative with the Orthodox Churches), Will Adam (International Ecumenical Secretary), David Porter (the Archbishop’s Chief of Staff), Ailsa Anderson-Cole (Communications Officer) and me. The aims of the visit were to commission Malcolm Rogers, the Anglican chaplain in the city, as apokrisarios (representative) to the Russian Orthodox Church in Moscow and to take forward dialogue with the Patriarchate. It was the Archbishop’s first visit to Russia and a particularly important event given current political tensions between the UK and Russia.

Malcolm and Alison Rogers arrived in Moscow this summer. Malcolm’s primary responsibility is the pastoral care of St. Andrew’s Moscow, which is a diverse church community inhabiting a splendid Victorian Gothic building, unique in Russia, that was used in Soviet times as a recording studio. He also acts as the face of Anglicanism in Orthodox relations in Moscow. His knowledge of Russian is particularly useful for this. On our first evening, the Archbishop met members of the ‘Step Up’ programme, which works with former orphanage children to help them complete formal education in order to gain employment. In a service of Compline, the Archbishop commissioned Malcolm as apokrisarios. We were particularly grateful to the people of the chaplaincy for laying on extensive refreshments.

The following morning, we were taken to the Convent of St. Martha and St. Mary. Unusually for Russia, the convent sponsors extensive social work – in particular running an orphanage for children with Down’s Syndrome. It was a delight to meet the children and see how well cared for they were. At the conclusion of our visit, the mother abbess (above, middle left) offered us delicious refreshments.

The ‘main event’ was a lunchtime meeting for the Anglican delegation with Patriarch Kirill (above, left), Metropolitan Hilarion (above, right) and other members of the Russian delegation. This took place with a high level of formality, in the magnificently regal surroundings of the Moscow Patriarchate. The Patriarch’s opening address included significant reference to the Middle East and to Ukraine and was delivered to a bank of television cameras. The media then left, and Archbishop Justin was invited to respond.

The dialogue between the two principals continued over a six-course banquet for, I think, about two hours. It was an extremely open, honest and warm discussion. I was impressed that the Archbishop could sustain the highest level of religious (and indeed political) dialogue and debate, whilst also eating a very substantial lunch! Following lunch, we moved to Metropolitan Hilarion’s offices. There was further discussion of specific ways in which our two churches could collaborate, for example in clergy and cultural exchanges. A joint press statement was issued drawing the attention of world leaders to the plight of persecuted Christians in the Middle East and North Africa. You can read the statement HERE.

In the evening, the British Ambassador, Laurie Bristow (above), hosted a lecture and reception for the Archbishop. 100 people attended from different sectors of the international and Russian communities. After the lecture, the Archbishop answered questions on a wide range of subjects.

The following morning, (more food!) the Ambassador hosted a breakfast meeting for our delegation with younger Russians who had been sponsored to spend a period of time studying in the UK. It was fascinating for us to hear their perspectives on matters of faith, their future and their country. I enjoyed a conversation with a woman who had studied business at Durham University. She described how, she had been one of the first Russians to study market economics and accountancy after the communist era. She explained how, in communist times, the notion of ‘making a profit’ didn’t’ exist – so you had to start learning about ‘profit and loss accounts’ from a very basic level!

We left the embassy to go to the postgraduate institute of St. Cyril and St. Methodius, where the Archbishop delivered a lecture on Christian anthropology. You can read it HERE. From there, we were taken to the newly rebuilt Cathedral of Christ the Saviour, which dominates the Moscow skyline. (Its predecessor was systematically demolished by the Soviets.) The building is vast – the main worship space has a capacity of 10,000 people. Just one part of the complex, the auditorium (below) is far larger than any church auditorium in Britain. And from the roof of the cathedral you get a fine view over the Kremlin and beyond.

Moscow Cathedral Auditorium
View from the Cathedral Roof

This was an unforgettable visit. It was a privilege to be part of the Archbishop’s delegation and to experience first-hand dialogue and debate between global leaders. It was a tough and demanding engagement, and one could not but be impressed with the Archbishop’s grace, intellectual ability and diplomatic skill. At the highest level, the two religious leaders established rapport and respect. In many other informal conversations, members of the two churches shared stories and experiences. At a time when political relations between Britain and Russia are frozen, I found it so encouraging to be reminded of our common faith, common concerns and common humanity.