Visit to Ukraine with the Archbishop of Canterbury

I travelled to Kyiv with a group led by the Archbishop of Canterbury. I was there to offer pastoral support and encouragement to our little Anglican community in the city, some of whose members are pictured above. Whilst in the city I listened to many stories of personal bravery and suffering. These are Christian brothers and sisters who live in fear of attack by missiles and drones, and whose electricity, heat and light is interrupted on a regular and irregular basis because of the destruction of critical infrastructure.  

Our journey to Kyiv began with a flight to Warsaw, where we were wonderfully looked after by Chaplain David Brown and his colleagues. We visited Ukraine House, a charity set up and run by (mainly) Ukrainian women. They provide assistance to Ukrainian refugees by such things as helping them find housing, organizing schooling and linking them to sources of social assistance in Poland. I was struck by the resolute determination of these women to organize a new form of social life in a foreign land and to do all they could to regain the freedom of their homeland.  

There are no flights into Ukraine. Our journey was by sleeper train and took 17 hours from Warsaw to Kyiv. As we moved further east, the weather got steadily colder. We travelled for hours through snowy forests. The winter season is, of course, only just beginning, and the temperature will drop much further. I wondered how long people could survive with serious disruption to electricity and heating under these conditions.  

Our Anglican community meets in the Lutheran Church at the heart of the government district close to the Office of the President. It is a beautiful space, with lovely artwork, conveying a sense of peace and safety.  

Much of everyday life goes on as usual in Kyiv. There is traffic on the roads and the shops are open. But people talk of a pervading sense of anxiety and tension below the surface. This is especially noticeable at night. Most street lights are turned off, which makes walking on the icy pavements dangerous. Restaurants close early, and a strict curfew is enforced at 11:00p.m. under the regime of martial law. 

On arrival in Ukraine, visitors are asked to download an air raid alert app onto their phone. On hearing the alert, you are advised to find a bomb shelter. My alert was activated twice during our visit, the first time coinciding with a meeting with the Ukraine Religious Council (picture below).  

The picture above shows our meeting with representatives from different Christian denominations (from Orthodox to Pentecostal) as well as leaders of the Muslim and Jewish communities. They spoke movingly of their efforts to provide humanitarian support to their people, of their determined resistance to the invasion and of their desire that Ukraine is not seen as a ‘victim’. They expressed sincere thanks to Great Britain for its support. And they asked for more humanitarian and military assistance.  

During our visit we wanted to bring whatever encouragement to faith leaders we could, as well as to listen and to learn. We held separate private meetings with leaders of both parts of the Orthodox Church (Moscow Patriarchate-facing Ukraine Orthodox Church and Ecumenical Patriarchate-facing Orthodox Church of Ukraine) and the Greek Catholic Church. We also held private meetings with the British Ambassadors in Kyiv and Warsaw, the Head of the International Red Cross and the Head of the United Nations Ukraine Office.  

It is evident that Churches have become centres of resilience in this conflict. And Ukrainian people have found comfort in their faith and seen many miracles of salvation over this last year.  

On the third day of a very full visit, we travelled to Irpin. This bridge was destroyed by Ukrainian forces to halt the Russian advance on the city. It marks the edge of the Russian assault on Kyiv. Visiting this place makes you aware of how close this bridge is to the centre of Kyiv – just 25km. Russian troops came very close to overrunning the capital back in February/March .   

Our host told us harrowing accounts of how he helped people escape under fire on a pontoon bridge or through the water, whilst there was gunfire overhead. Because it provided a place of escape, this bridge is now known as ‘the Bridge of Hope’.

But these rough wooden crosses are a reminder of those who died here. 

I will never forget visiting this place. The ice and snow made it quite a perilous climb down to the temporary crossing. There is Ukrainian graffiti all around testifying to heartfelt patriotism and strong and understandable anger. The brook burbles along happily and sparkles in the sun. This extraordinary site, with mangled steelwork, an overturned bus and temporary crossing, powerfully evoke both death and destruction as well as embodying what became a gateway to hope and freedom.

The city of Bucha adjoins Irpin and was our next stop. We were hosted by a Greek Catholic priest who had turned over the main floor of his basilica to an exhibition of photos of the atrocities committed in this area. Many bodies were found on the streets after the Russian forces retreated, some with their hands tied behind their back. The pictures depicted torture and murder and were graphic and harrowing. Our party felt a degree of revulsion towards those who had committed these crimes and those who still deny that they happened. The ground outside the Church had been used as a temporary mass grave into which bodies had been dumped. We lit candles to remember the dead.  

It was a short bus ride from Buchar to the Ukraine Evangelical Seminary on the edge of Kyiv. The picture shows the banner outside the building. The Ukrainian military warned the college to evacuate its premises earlier in the year. Just two days after that instruction, the building was hit by 6 Grad missiles.  The tears and holes in the banner show the evidence of the attack.   

We were shown these fragments of the missiles (above). The metal is heavy and jagged. When fired it would have been red hot. It was a miracle that the library, which was directly hit, did not catch fire. Touching and feeling these missile fragments leaves one in no doubt as to the harm they do. Yet, whilst there is still evidence of damage, we were impressed at the degree to which the building has been repaired.  

Today, the college supports online learning and houses residential students when it is safe for them to do so. The College has also developed a significant humanitarian function – providing food and wood for fuel to local residents. And it makes its premises available to the military for training exercises. We were hugely impressed by the broad sense of mission demonstrated by this college.  

I was delighted to have lunch at the College with Pastor Alexander (left), a Baptist military chaplain ministering on the front line of the conflict in the Donbas. He had travelled to Kyiv specially to meet the Archbishop. He showed me pictures of the trenches where he works amongst the soldiers. He told me how much the soldiers appreciated having a chaplain amongst them. As he said: ‘there are no atheists on the front line’. I asked him about the morale of the troops in Kherson. ‘Well’, he said, ‘if you measured morale on a scale of zero to five, I would give them five point five.’

This was a very complicated trip to organize, with six participants representing different elements of the visit’s purposes, and in general to support the Archbishop. We were particularly indebted to Christina Laschenko from our Kyiv Chaplaincy, pictured here, who is a professional translator. Christina accompanied us throughout, interpreted high level meetings, and with her daughter, Margo, guided us through Kyiv giving us constant good advice and help. Our group was also very grateful for the support of my own office in Brussels, and in particular my PA, Gail Wilmet, who oversaw many of the practical arrangements for the trip. The programme was assembled by Dr. Jeremy Morris, the Church of England’s Ecumenical Officer, and James Megoran, the Archbishop’s Director of Peacebuilding.

Our return home was via the midnight sleeper express from Kyiv to Chelm and then onwards to Warsaw.

This picture of the lounge in the main railway station captures what was a highly evocative scene. The grandeur of the place is discernible through the gloom of the reduced lighting. The café is lit up but closed. The large windows onto the square, out of view, are protected with plastic on the inside and shutters on the outside. Beyond the lounge, on the main concourse, large numbers of people clad in winter gear and carrying piles of luggage walk briskly towards their platforms. From here, you can travel South and East to Kherson and Kharkiv as well as West towards Lviv. I thought I sensed quiet desperation on people’s faces. Getting on the train we had to show passports. A moment’s reflection reminded us that the passport control at this point is mainly to prevent Ukrainian men of fighting age from boarding the international train. And, of course, most of the people on our westwards bound train were Ukrainian women.

In closing, this was a deeply sobering trip. It is clear that the damage – physical, emotional and spiritual is very deep indeed. Even if the conflict were ended today it might take two generations to repair. But it doesn’t look likely to end soon. Meanwhile, Ukraine faces a winter which could see a humanitarian catastrophe. And I use those words deliberately and seriously. If the district heating stations which serve city residents do not have electricity for prolonged periods of time then the water in their pipes will freeze and they will be decommissioned until the Spring. In the sub-zero conditions of a Ukrainian winter it is difficult to survive without heat. I feel especially for the older people and for women with children who cannot leave. With the people of Ukraine, we wait and watch, and we hope and pray for more miracles. Meanwhile, they need every ounce of support we can give them.

I had very mixed feelings when our train pulled out of Kyiv on Friday evening leaving most of the city in darkness. For us it was a return to safer territory. But we were leaving behind our hosts facing a dark, uncertain and dangerous winter. I was humbled by the warmth of the welcome we received and grateful for the kindness of those we met. The trip left me determined that we must continue our prayers and practical support for our brothers and sisters in Christ in Kyiv and for all the people of Ukraine.  Since my return some people have been in touch wanting to give financial help to people in Kyiv and to Ukrainian refugees elsewhere. The appeal I launched with USPG earlier in the year is still open. We have been able to make many gifts to help people in need in Ukraine and in neighbouring states – you can give here. And please join our weekly services of prayer for Ukraine during Advent which began on Wednesday 7 December at 18.30CET/19.30 Ukraine time/17.30 GMT.

A joyous weekend of Confirmations in and around Paris 

Over the year, I have made four tours of different regions of France. A long weekend in November saw the fourth and final tour of some of our chaplaincies in and around Paris. Covid-19 made confirmation services difficult so there is a ‘backlog’. Beginning south of the city and pictured above is my first service of baptism and confirmation, with the community of St. Luke’s Fontainebleau. For the occasion, they had borrowed a chapel used by Roman Catholic and Romanian Orthodox communities: ‘the Church of the Ferns’. The east end of the building is marked off by a rather wonderful floor-to-ceiling tree trunk!  

Moving around to the west of the City, I was delighted to confirm this large group of mainly young people from our chaplaincies in Maisons Laffitte and Chantilly. They had taken a confirmation course provided, largely on Zoom, by Deacon Joy from Rotterdam. The course finished with a two-day ‘retreat’ in Paris. It had evidently been a huge success and perhaps provides a model for use elsewhere?  

On Sunday morning I shared in worship with the community of St. Mark’s Versailles. St. Mark’s is fortunate to inhabit one of the very few modern ‘purpose-built’ churches in the Diocese – a beautifully airy worship space along with plenty of hall and meeting space. It was a privilege to confirm these three ladies each of whom had their own story of faith to tell.   

Our final stop was at St. Michael’s right in the center of Paris, just around the corner from the Presidential Palace. This group forms part of the Tamil community that normally worships in the afternoon. For their confirmation, they joined the evening service congregation that is led by Assistant Chaplain Ben Evans. Their families were, rightly, incredibly proud of their young people. We worshipped mainly in French, which is the first or second language of most of the candidates.   

The word ‘confirmation’ means to strengthen, to establish, and to make firm. It is not easy to be a follower of Jesus Christ in a society that mainly operates as if God did not exist. Our hope and prayer is that through their own personal faith, the support of the community of the church, and the indwelling power and presence of the Holy Spirit each of our candidates will be deepened in their discipleship and stay faithful to Christ to the end of their lives.  

Centenary Celebrations at the Church of the Resurrection Bucharest 

It was a great pleasure to visit the Church of the Resurrection, Bucharest to celebrate the centenary of the building’s consecration. Pictured here alongside Chaplain Fr. Nevsky Everett is the Klein-Burtt family, all four of whom I had the privilege of confirming. The family had come to Romania from the USA via Ethiopia. In Addis Ababa they had enjoyed the ministry of Martin Reakes-Williams, formerly our chaplain in Leipzig, which had led to their commitment to the Anglican way, now followed up in Bucharest.

Fr. Nevsky arrived in Bucharest from Oxford in the Spring. He has come to the city with his wife Clare and their three small children. After a long period without a Chaplain, the church is thrilled to have a young family at the heart of their community life.

The centenary cake, made by one of the churchwardens, reflects the red brickwork of the church.

The Church of the Resurrection is an unmistakably Anglican building. It is built on land that was gifted to the Church by the Romanian Crown in 1900. The marriage of Princess Marie, granddaughter of Queen Victoria, to Crown Prince Ferdinand in 1893, will certainly have contributed to that spirit of generosity. Marie was taken to the hearts of the Romanian people and became both popular and well-known as a nurse in later years. I find the existence of this building, which has survived the long and dark years of communism and is now the centre of a vibrant community, to be something of a miracle. It stands as a reminder of the much-loved Marie, the last Queen of Romania.   

This large oil painting hangs on the East wall of the interior. It was painted by a British diplomat and given to the church on Easter Day 1934. The scene depicts the moment when the disciple whom Jesus loved came running to the sepulchre in the early morning  of the first Easter Day. St John, astonished peers into the dark opening of the cave. Meanwhile, St. Peter, supposed to be less active than St. John on account of his age, is depicted in white hastening towards the tomb.  

It is particularly appropriate for this building to be linked so strongly with Christ’s resurrection, given its own remarkable history and the central place that the resurrection has within the liturgy of the Romanian Orthodox faith.  

The centenary of the church was celebrated with choral evensong, sung by this fine choir under the direction of Andrew Noble, who combines leading the church’s music with his responsibilities as British Ambassador to Romania. I enjoyed their music very much!

Of course this quintessentially English occasion was a great opportunity to invite former chaplains and ecumenical guests, including the Papal Nuncio and the External Affairs representative of the Romanian Orthodox Church (front centre).  

I was deeply moved by my visit to the Church of the Resurrection. Romania was for many years a hard and difficult place to live. But our Anglican church has survived. It took the very considerable step of faith to recruit a full-time chaplain. And now it is thriving and growing! It offers a spiritual home to people from many countries. And it provides a base to increase friendship and ecumenical links with the Romanian Orthodox Church. It is truly a community of the Resurrection.  

The church is currently running a centenary appeal to strengthen their financial resources for the future. If you are interested in supporting their work, check out their website Donate — Church of the Resurrection (

I close with a prayer written by Fr. Nevsky to celebrate their centenary.  

Lord God, you have called us to be a light for the world; 
may we know the power of Christ’s Resurrection at work in our lives, 
that we may shine with the radiance of your glory, 
both now and for generations to come; 
through Jesus Christ, our Lord. Amen.  

Her Majesty the Queen: Ambassador for reconciliation in Europe

At Holy Trinity, Brussels on Sunday 11th September.

The evening that I heard Her Majesty the Queen had died, I was on my own in a hotel room in Karlsruhe, Germany. The 10-day Assembly of the World Council of Churches (WCC) had just come to an end. I wondered about the various resonances.

The Queen’s family is of partly German descent. However, George V had declared that his House and Family should be styled “Windsor” as a result of First World War anti-German sentiment. And the centre of Karlsruhe was largely reduced to rubble by allied bombing in the Second World War. Yet in 2022, I, along with other Conference delegates had been most warmly welcomed to Karlsruhe by the Lord Mayor, regional ministers and the Federal President Steinmeier.

The transformation in Anglo-German relations is something in which the Queen, herself, played a significant role. Her visit to Germany in 1965 was the culmination of a 20-year process of post-war reconciliation. In offering condolences, Chancellor Olaf Scholz said: “Her commitment to German-British reconciliation after the horrors of World Word 2 will remain unforgotten.” And President Walter Steinmeier praised her 1965 visit as an “invaluably important signal of reconciliation after two devastating world wars”.

So, I am bold enough to hope that the Queen might have been pleased and proud that one of her bishops was in Germany on the day she died. And not just anywhere in Germany, but in Karlsruhe, which is the seat of the German Federal Constitutional Court and seat of the highest court of appeal. It is in Karlsruhe, that modern Germany’s commitment to justice and human rights is maintained.

Meanwhile, the WCC is a body that is committed to unity and reconciliation. In today’s global Church, the biggest differences are not so much doctrinal as social and economic. Whether you are a Christian in South Sudan or South Carolina matters much more for your experience and outlook than some of the finer points of Christian belief. So, in its deliberations, the WCC urged the worldwide church to join in a “pilgrimage of justice, reconciliation and unity”.

I wondered: would Her Majesty the Queen have approved of the WCC? I’m sure that there are plenty of things about this rather cumbersome body that would irritate her, at least in private. But the impulse towards Christian unity is something in which she certainly believed strongly. I remember her urging unity both within the Church of England and with other Christian churches in an address at the opening of the General Synod in 2015, when she quoted from St. Paul “as ambassadors for Christ [we] are entrusted with the ministry of reconciliation”.

She herself was an ambassador par excellence for Christ’s reconciliation and healing. I think of her historic attendance at a Catholic service at Westminster Cathedral in 1995, the first British monarch to attend Roman Catholic worship in 400 years. Her four-day visit to the Republic of Ireland in 2011, the first UK monarch to visit the independent state – was described by the then President Mary McAleese as ‘magical’.

There is one particular element of this reconciling ministry for which our diocese has cause to be especially grateful. In 1994, she visited St Andrew’s Moscow, which had been confiscated by the Communists for use as a recording studio, and as a result the then President Yeltsin signed an order to return the property to religious use.

Her Majesty the Queen was truly an agent for peace and reconciliation on the global stage, and perhaps in Europe in particular. I was especially touched by the condolences expressed by President Macron of France:

“We are grateful for her deep affection for France: Elizabeth II mastered our language, loved our culture and touched our hearts…from her coronation on, she knew and spoke with all our presidents. No other country had the privilege of welcoming her as many times as we did.”

Over the last few days, I and others have received several expressions of condolence addressed to me and to our diocese. They are moving tributes to a deeply loved and respected Queen. Here are a few of them.

From Laurent Ulrich, Archbishop of Paris


L’archevêque de Paris, s’associe à la peine de tous les fidèles de l’Eglise d’Angleterre, particulièrement ceux du diocèse en Europe qui vivent dans l’archidiaconé de France.

La Reine Élizabeth est populaire en France comme dans le reste du monde, comme chrétiens, nous sommes reconnaissants pour son zèle exercé dans sa charge de chef spirituel de l’Eglise d’Angleterre. Elle a assumé cette fonction avec fidélité tout en respectant les institutions épiscopales et synodales de l’Eglise d’Angleterre. En exerçant ses prérogatives religieuses avec sagesse et constance, elle a servi l’Eglise d’Angleterre et donné ainsi un authentique témoignage de Foi.

Nous voulons exprimer notre amitié et notre compassion à tous les membres du clergé qui servent dans notre pays et aux fidèles de l’Eglise d’Angleterre et de la Communion Anglicane, qui conformément à leur charisme s’efforcent de travailler à la réunion de toute l’Eglise dans une communion de foi et d’amour, dans les groupes œcuméniques.

Recevez Monseigneur, l’expression de ma fraternelle amitié dans Notre Seigneur Jésus-Christ, roi du ciel et de la terre.”

(Dear Bishop,

The Archbishop of Paris is united in grief with all the faithful of the Church of England, in particular those of the Diocese in Europe living in the Archdeaconry of France.

Queen Elizabeth was well-loved in France and throughout the world. As Christians, we are grateful for the zeal with which she exercised her role as Supreme Governor of the Church of England. She fulfilled this function faithfully, fully respecting the episcopal and synodical institutions of the Church of England. She carried out her religious duties with wisdom and constancy, and in doing so, she both served the Church of England well, and bore witness to the Faith.

We wish to express our friendship and sympathy to the clergy who serve in this country, and to the faithful of the Church of England and of the Anglican Communion who are called to work ecumenically for the unity of the Church in one communion of faith and love.

Receive, dear Bishop, our fraternal greetings in Our Lord Jesus Christ, King of Heaven and Earth.)

From Martin Kmetec, Archbishop of Izmir to Canon James Buxton

“Dear Father James,
In the name of Catholic Church in Turkey and in my personal name I would like to join all who mourn the loss of Queen Elisabeth who for 70 years, served as the constitutional monarch of the United Kingdom expressing my condolences to your People, to the Church of England and to your local Community in Izmir. May her example of unfailing and long service be the encouragement for all those who strive for a better world. May the Risen Lord give her everlasting life in his eternal presence!”

From the President (Revd. Christian Krieger) and General Secretary (Dr. Jørgen Sørensen) to the Archbishop of Canterbury and Diocese in Europe

“Your Grace,
Today with our Anglican brothers and sisters and beyond, we mourn the passing of Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II, Europe’s longest reigning monarch, conveying our prayers.

We also offer our sincere condolences to the people of the United Kingdom, the Commonwealth, and the entire world as we mourn the loss of a great world leader.

Together with the United Kingdom and the rest of the world, we celebrate her life and legacy, especially the hope she offered to the world, deeply rooted in faith.

Queen Elizabeth openly shared with the world her devotion to God, highlighting Christian values in her messages to all people, including those of other faiths.

May she rest in peace and rise in glory.

In Christ.”

We will ensure that all these messages are forwarded to Buckingham Palace along with many others that we are receiving including any left as comments on this blogpost. Over the weekend many of our chaplaincies across the diocese have opened books of condolence. All are welcome to sign these in our chaplaincies. The Church of England has also opened a digital condolence book here.

Pastoral Visit to St. Andrew’s Moscow July 2022 

Above: The interior of St. Andrew’s, Moscow 

There has been a visit to Moscow planned in my diary for many months. The current situation has made this visit more important than ever. Helen and I wanted very much to see The Revd. Malcolm and Mrs Alison Rogers to demonstrate our care and support for them in what has become a particularly isolated and difficult ministry.   

Above: the truly fabulous new Istanbul airport, which with 5 runways is reckoned to be the busiest airport in Europe as well a principal gateway to Asia. 

Getting to Moscow is much more difficult than it used to be. There are no direct flights from Europe to Russia these days. The most popular route is via Istanbul. To avoid overflying Ukraine, the flight from Istanbul to Moscow heads North West towards Prague and Brnw, then northwards across Poland and eastwards over Minsk in Belarus, making that leg of the journey nearly 3,000km. It is all very good business for Turkish Airlines who seemed to be offering flights to Moscow every hour at some times of day.   

One of my main reasons for visiting Moscow was to conduct a confirmation service. I very much enjoyed meeting this large and diverse group of confirmation candidates. The largest component of this group were Russian, along with folk from sub-saharan Africa, one from the UK and one from Ukraine. Since I don’t speak Russian, we all did our best to communicate across the language barrier.  

It was a particular joy to baptize and confirm Liliya, who comes from a part of the Russian Federation which is predominantly Muslim. Liliya is aged 30 and works in fashion and design. For her, Christian faith is rooted in the God who is love, and is matter of celebrating the love and beauty of God in the world. Liliya wanted to be baptized and confirmed to become fully a part of the Christian community.  

Our wonderful confirmation candidates gather at the door of St. Andrews at the end of the service, along with others helping to lead our worship. We don’t know where this talented group of (mainly) younger people will find themselves in the future. I pray that their confirmation at St. Andrew’s will be a decisive step on their journey into God, and that they will be more and more deeply rooted in Christian faith.  

I came to St. Andrews bearing gifts: this beautiful chalice and patten was donated by Bishop Michael Ipgrave on behalf of Lichfield diocese. In our worship we dedicated them for use in St. Andrews, in thanksgiving for the friendship between Christian communities that they embody.  

Hieromonk Stefan Igumnov with Bishop Robert and Fr. Malcolm Rogers 

Every pastoral visit provides the opportunity for ecumenical encounter. I was delighted to accept the invitation from Fr. Stefan, whom I have known for several years, to meet him at the Russian Orthodox Patriarchate. Fr. Stefan is Secretary for Inter-Christian relations at the Patriarchate’s Department for External Church Relations. Amongst other things, we stressed the importance of good fraternal relations and maintenance of dialogue. In these difficult times, we agreed on the importance of using language carefully. We shared our longing for peace and reconciliation in Ukraine.   

It was equally good to meet with Mgr Pavel Pezzi, the Latin Rite Metropolitan Archbishop of the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Moscow. We have been most grateful to the Roman Catholic Church for their willingness to consider offering pastoral and sacramental care in extremis for the congregation of St. Andrew’s should, God forbid, circumstances ever be such that we are not able to sustain ordained ministry in Moscow.  

There was also opportunity to visit the British Embassy. I was struck by this lovely banner advertising the embassy playgroup.  

The Ambassador being out of town, we were welcomed and entertained by Julia Crouch, the Acting Deputy Ambassador. We enjoyed a wide-ranging conversation during which Julia expressed deep appreciation for the ministry of Malcolm and Alison to the embassy community in these difficult times.  

I was thrilled that in the midst of a busy schedule we were able to find time to visit the Tretyakov Gallery and to see what is probably the most famous of all Russian icons: Rublev’s Trinity or ‘the Hospitality of Abraham’.  

This icon represents the fullness of the God who subsists in three persons bound together in perfect love. It embodies peace, harmony, love and humility.  

I believe that God intends relationships in the Church to be modelled on the ‘diversity in unity’ that we see in the Holy Trinity. By contrast, we witness in Europe the appalling reality of Christians from neighbouring countries fighting and killing one another. That is as far from what God intends as could be imagined.  

It is therefore vital that Christian people, and leaders in particular, do all that they can to sustain relationships, reach out to one another, and dialogue together. Malcolm and Alison represent the Church of England and the Anglican Communion more widely in Russia. They have remained in Moscow at a time when many other people from the West have had to leave, either voluntarily or involuntarily. This is a sacrificial ministry. They are separated from family not just by distance but by the huge cost and difficulty of travel into and out of Russia. Whilst the streets of Moscow are safe and everything appears peaceful and prosperous, there are real stresses involved in living here. Please do pray for Malcolm and Alison, that they will find the resources and inner strength to persevere and that their ministry at St. Andrews will continue to be richly blessed.   

Visiting Citykirche Vienna for a Confirmation Service 

It is always a joy to visit the magnificent Austrian capital. Very few places combine such a commitment to innovation with so rich an inheritance of architecture, culture and music. Vienna is truly one of the world’s great cities. And it is also a strategic location for the establishment of a new church plant and fresh expression of Anglicanism. “Citykirche” meets just across the road from the splendid Vienna Concert House.  

Citykirche began its life just a couple of years ago in rather humbler surroundings. Here is the Roman Catholic chaplaincy room where Citykirche’s worship began. The community still has its offices in the same building.   

The Revd. Dr. Christian Hofreiter had the vision of a German-speaking Anglican community in Vienna that would complement the work of our existing English-speaking Christ Church, Vienna. He raised the very considerable funds needed via entrepreunerial networks of business people committed to church planting. He discussed the project with ecumenical colleagues. He formed the requisite Austrian charitable structure, developed a constitution that meets the needs of our diocese, and last year registered the community as a new chaplaincy within the Diocese in Europe. This is an admirable venture of faith, requiring some courage from Christian and his wife Helen – pictured here with us in the delightful Café Central enjoying a Wiener Schnitzel.  

The community quite rapidly outgrew its initial home. Now it meets at this central high school, with the impossibly prestigious address of Number 1 Beethoven Platz. Like several of our chaplaincies, Citykirche has found that a school provides ideal premises for worship with an assembly hall, toilets and classrooms for Sunday School. This High School is also used as a school for Ukrainians at the weekend, so some of the usual issues around caretaking and opening up are made easier.  

Though not all school halls are quite as beautiful as this one. Not only does the hall benefit from inspiring neo-gothic windows and splendid chandeliers, but the space is surrounded by gorgeous artwork depicting saints from Christian history.  

Aside from being very keen to see this new church community, I was visiting to confirm four adult candidates: Dominik, Annika, Francesca and Sam. Each of these candidates had a fascinating story to tell about what had led them to Citykirche and why the liturgy and reformed theology of Anglicanism resonated with them. We assembled for a photo at the end of the service under the (I hope) approving gaze of St. Augustine and St. Jerome.  

As the community grows and becomes established it will no doubt have lots of questions to settle about its identity and what it does and doesn’t stand for. Early decisions quickly become traditions! At the outset it embodies a commitment to Anglican teaching and liturgy and to a missional ethos. Christian himself brings a particular interest in apologetics – commending and defending the faith, and my observation is that the church is tending to attract some notably keen, thinking younger people.  

At the present time, confidence in the relevance of the Christian gospel to our current world and a rising generation can feel shakier than it did. So I hope that like me you find the story of this new church plant at the centre of one of Europe’s major capital cities an encouraging story and something to celebrate.  

An Episcopal Tour of South East France

The Covid epidemic has made travel much more difficult. Whilst you can do business on Zoom, face to face contact is irreplaceable. And liturgical events like Confirmations require touch as well as sound and sight. It was to help catch up on a backlog of requests for episcopal visits that we had the idea of a regional tour of South-East France. This is planned to be the first of four regional tours of a country where the distances make touring a great option. The tour was made possible by the new Archdeacon of France, Peter Hooper, who hired a car and acted as chauffeur. It was the fruit of a great deal of careful planning by Peter, Giles Williams the Area Dean, the local clergy and my own office. 

At the outset, I caught the TGV from Brussels to Lyon, where I met Peter and the Chaplain of Trinity Church, Ben Harding. The high-speed train covers the 350 miles in just three and a half hours. By a remarkable act of providence we were able to join a lunch for ecumenical leaders in France. Those invited included the President of the Protestant Federation, the President of the Catholic Bishops Conference and the Metropolitan of the Greek Orthodox Church. It was particularly valuable to talk with Pasteur François Clavairoly, the Protestant President, about our intentions to form a single Anglican association for France and the possibility of this becoming a part of the Protestant Federation, bringing many institutional and administrative advantages. This ecumenical lunch was the ideal start to the four day tour, setting it in a context of inter-church co-operation and ministry. 

From Lyon, we drove South East to Grenoble, the alpine city about which it is said ‘at the end of every street is a mountain’. Our chaplaincy meets in a fine ecumenical centre. It is home to a congregation that brings together (mainly) older expatriates and (mainly) younger members from the global south. This was the first time I have been accompanied into church by ‘dancing girls’. The ladies had written a special song called: “Welcome to our bishop”. 

Seated to the left is Chaplain of Grenoble Nic Finlay and Chaplain of Lyon Ben Harding, who between them presented me with some 25 confirmation candidates, mostly in the age range 20-45. The service was an exuberant event with much singing and dancing. But the stories told by members of the congregation relate to the hardships of migration, the long journey towards legal recognition and the frustration of years spent without the right to work. Before the reaffirmation of baptismal vows we sang Getty and Townsend’s “Come people of the risen King”, and seldom has a song better expressed the mood of a congregation with its recognition of present suffering and advent hope. 

The next day we headed south to the port city of Marseille. My chauffeur excelled in navigating the narrow streets of the old city and the almost impossibly tight corners of the underground car park. We were wonderfully hosted by Chaplain Jamie Johnson (left) and Curate Roxana Teleman (centre). We were given a well-ordered presentation of the past history, current activity and future hopes for this chaplaincy, and in particular discussed opportunities for planting new satellites, before closing with a service of prayer and heading back to the car for the next leg of the journey. 

Driving East, we set off for the Chaplaincy of St. John in St. Raphael – Fréjus. Confirmation candidates – again, mainly adults – came from Marseille and Cannes, as well as from St. Raphael itself. 

Following the service, the Chaplain Tom Wilson, took us to an appropriately named local restaurant. I introduced myself to the waiter as ‘the bishop’, hoping that it might elicit a special deal on the menu – on the assumption that English bishops didn’t visit his restaurant all that often. Unfortunately, the waiter didn’t quite see the connection…

After supper, we drove along the coast to Cannes, where we stayed as guests of Area Dean Giles Williams and Chris Williams in the chaplaincy’s guest apartments. 

The following morning, Giles invited me to speak with a group of parents on the subject of “Being a Christian parent and passing on your faith to your children”. I very much enjoyed reflecting with parents on the challenges of bringing up children and teenagers within the Christian faith. 

My predecessor as Bishop of Gibraltar, Dr. Charles Sandford (1828-1903) lived in Cannes, a testimony to the large numbers of British people who settled in the French Riviera in the Victorian era. And the stunningly beautiful church of St. Michael’s Beaulieu (pictured above) is a marvellous reminder of this era. It was built by subscription, including a gift from the British Prime Minister, Lord Salisbury, who loved to stay in the area, and was dedicated by Bishop Sandford in 1894. The Chaplain, Fr. Tony Ingham, presented the history and mission of the church and I enjoyed meeting a fascinating group of church members and supporters. 

Later in the afternoon, we travelled to Monaco, where I confirmed six candidates at St. Paul’s. In the evening, the interim minister, Canon David Roper and his wife Chris, entertained us to dinner with the Archbishop of Monaco Mgr. Marie-Dominique David and the Cathedral Dean, Don Luqa Favretto. After some turbulent times at St. Paul’s, I rejoice that the chaplaincy is enjoying a period of stability under Fr. David’s guiding hand. 

On the Sunday morning of Christ the King, I had the enormous pleasure of re-dedicating the Church of St. John’s Menton. The Church had been closed for a decade after its foundations were damaged by the erection of an apartment block next door. The rebuilding project had involved a great deal of administrative effort in particular to establish the ownership of the church building and to make a claim on the builder’s insurance. The project involved not just the church itself, but the creation of a beautiful new adjoining building that serves as a library for the English community and a space for social events. 

Our final act of worship was a Deanery service of Evening Prayer for Christ the King at Holy Trinity Nice, where we were hosted by the Chaplain, Fr. Peter Jackson. I liked this poster dating from the 1930s, which we found hanging on the wall of the sacristy, and which gives a good sense of the former Diocese of Gibraltar, centred as it was on the Mediterranean and strongly linked to mission amongst seafarers.

Fr. Peter had structured our worship around the themes of “remembrance, thanksgiving and hope”. It was a service for the time of Covid. Already, since that service took place, the pandemic seems to be much more of a present than a past phenomenon, with the emergence of a worrying new variant. Nonetheless, Christ the King is a festival of hope, looking forward to the time when the Kingdom of God comes in its fullness. 

The Church is a sign and foretaste of the Kingdom. On this rich and full tour of our chaplaincies in South-East France, I found many sources of hope: extraordinary clergy and lay officers, amazing buildings, all kinds of plans and hopes for mission. My tour ended with the licensing of Peter Hooper as Archdeacon in full title. Peter began his ministry back in February 2021. This was the first time he and I had been together in the Diocese. Peter is full of enthusiasm and energy, and his ministry is another great source of hope. I did indeed finish this tour acknowledging the many ways in which the Anglican church has flourished in this region in the past, with deep thanksgiving for its life in the present and with a real hope for all it may achieve by God’s grace in the future. 

Christ Church Amsterdam: 250 years at Groenburgwal

On the first weekend in November, Christ Church Amsterdam celebrated 250 years of worship in its historic canal-side home at Groenburgwal in one of the oldest and most picturesque parts of the city. Christ Church has survived wars and conflicts. It has closed and opened. It has known riches and poverty. It has offered a welcome to all nationalities, but it has kept a quirky Britishness in the midst of its international character. 

left Clergy Associate The Revd Rik Florentinus, right Interim Minister The Revd. Kerry Buttram

I was privileged to be invited to unveil the plaque celebrating the rich history of this place. Originally a Guild Hall, the building has been associated with numerous famous people. Hendrick de Keyser, architect of some of the city’s most significant historical buildings lived here. Rembrandt van Rijn had his studio close by. Vincent Van Gogh taught in the Sunday School. And Charles Simeon came to serve as a missionary pastor here. 

Of course, I am far from the first bishop to visit! In the church’s historical photo exhibition, I particularly liked this picture of The Bishop of Fulham arriving at Amsterdam Central Station with his wife in June 1933 and being met by the Chaplain, Dr. Keay. This was long before the Diocese in Europe in its modern form had been conceived and when the Bishop of Fulham looked after chaplaincies in North and Central Europe. 

Rembrandt’s ‘The Staalmeesters’ now hangs in a prominent position in the Rijksmuseum. Rembrandt crafted this remarkable, vast painting in Groenburgwal, and for a while it hung in the building that is now Christ Church, before being transferred to a safer place. It shows the Officials of the Drapers Guild assessing the quality of the cloth presented before them. They wear black as a sign of their religious humility – and their power!

The festival 250 weekend was celebrated with a wonderful programme of music. Pictured here is ‘The Schoch Quartet’, named after the first violinist. They are playing instruments that date from the 17th century onwards. Christ Church has a marvellous acoustic and lends itself particularly well to the intimate atmosphere of a string quartet. Behind the quartet, the East Wall of the building displays the classic texts on Christian belief, action and prayer that you might see in a traditional English village church. Dating from 1698, these panels were brought into the building when the congregation began meeting here in 1771.

The weekend was evidently a huge amount of work for the organisers, especially for a chaplaincy in vacancy. I detected the guiding hand of the very capable Church Administrator, Pamela Matinde Ten Wolde. It was a joyous event which I have no doubt will have affirmed the church’s sense of fellowship and togetherness. 

I enjoyed meeting the Chaplaincy Council, who are an exceptionally talented team. Christ Church is a three centred Chaplaincy, and so the Council has to work hard to build fellowship and enable all three locations work together in a unified way. We had a warm and convivial discussion about the process of appointing a new Chaplain.

Our hostess, Beth Johnson Kat, used to run an Amsterdam bookshop. She now oversees an educational project called ‘Room For All’. The project has acquired the rights to six delightful children’s books promoting inter-cultural respect and understanding. The books have been translated into Dutch and the intention is that copies are given to each primary school in Amsterdam, and then each primary school in the Netherlands. This struck me as a really significant initiative in a country where acceptance of different backgrounds and cultures is a vital issue, as it is in all European countries. 

Of course, buildings are important in providing us with a safe place to meet, a sanctuary for worship and a storehouse of treasured memories. But the church is at heart a community of Christian people and the faith they share. So I was delighted to confirm these nine – mainly young – people at Christ Church ‘Centre’, shown here flanked by the two wonderful churchwardens Becky Moss and Rebecca Teerlink. Along with the candidates from Christ Church it was a special pleasure to confirm Stephanie Van Leer from Groningen, who had been prepared for the event by her father, Archdeacon Sam Van Leer. 

After morning service at ‘Centre’ we drove to afternoon service at ‘South East’, for a second confirmation service. The ‘Congregation of the Holy Spirit’ is 10 years old and the newest of the three Christ Church congregations. Our oldest candidate, Nout, joined us from Heiloo, whilst the immaculately turned out younger candidates are from Christ Church families. 

And here they all are having been confirmed. The multiple use worship centre at South East is a really impressive place. It features a large and a medium-sized worship space both equipped with proper pipe organs and sound insulated from each other, plus a suite of meeting rooms and a central hospitality area. This centre enables people who are mainly from the global south to sustain church worship and community in their own traditions in an affordable way. 

Chaplaincy life can sometimes feel fragile. And those of our communities in city centres (especially) see lots of people passing through. But the celebration of Groenburgwal 250 reminds us that our church communities are more tenacious and robust than we often realise. Kerry Buttram, as an American, reminded me that the United States of America was founded less than 250 years ago. God has been faithful to Christ Church over the centuries. The Church’s current motto is ‘In the City, for the City’. I pray for this very special chaplaincy as it goes through a vacancy process. I trust and hope that it will be a place of great fruitfulness in the next phase of its life.  

Harvest Festival in Palma, Mallorca

At this time of the year, churches everywhere are celebrating Harvest Festival. I came to our chaplaincy of St. James and St. Philip Palma, Mallorca to join in their harvest celebrations. The church was beautifully decorated for the festival.

In my sermon I preached on the gospel text: ‘Therefore I tell you do not worry about your life, what you will eat or what you will drink…for is not life more important than food, and the body more important than clothing.’ I noted just how much there has been to worry about over the last 18 months – physically, psychologically and economically. I suggested that Harvest Festival reminds us of God’s fatherly care for us. I said that the proper response to this care is an attitude of gratitude and thanksgiving. I took, by way of example, the Pilgrim Fathers celebrating their first ‘Thanksgiving’ almost exactly 400 years ago, in October 1621, having survived their first winter in the New World. For us, although life has been hard, and although we are not yet out of the woods – with the island of Mallorca facing a difficult winter ahead – there is still much to celebrate and much for which we should give thanks. 

One of the things I particularly like about the building of St. James and St. Philip is this triptych which decorates the inside north wall. To left and right are the chaplaincy’s patron saints, and in the centre is a Madonna with a halo representing all the ethnic groups of humanity.

Looking out on the congregation it seemed to me that the vision of a chaplaincy that would be a place of international and intergenerational welcome was on the way to being fulfilled. This group of worshippers was keen to be photographed together with the bishop.

Churchwardens are key lay leaders in any chaplaincy. They are ‘officers of the bishop’, and we have just published a Guide to what it means to hold this important office in the Diocese in Europe. As bishop, I am very grateful to Nita de Petersen and Shirley Roberts (above) for their care for the Chaplaincy during its recent vacancy and for all they are doing to help the new chaplain and his family settle in.

I was delighted to meet for the first time The Reverend Bill Boyce and his wife Eleanor. They are newly arrived from Belfast in Northern Ireland. Bill is licensed as Assistant Chaplain and has responsibility for the congregation in Puerto Pollença in the north of the island.

And it was a particular pleasure to become acquainted with the new Chaplain of Palma de Mallorca: The Very Revd. Dr. Ishanesu Gusha, formerly Dean of Harare Cathedral. The picture shows Ishanesu, his wife Caroline and two of their three young sons.

Caroline is a trained chef. She not only prepared a delicious meal but also gave me a huge fruit cake that she had baked to say ‘thank you for coming’. Getting this wonderful cake home safely, in the hold of my Ryanair return flight, was a risky process, but I’m glad to say it survived the flight fully intact.

It was a long and complicated process for the chaplaincy to bring this delightful young family to Palma from Zimbabwe. Their arrival promises much in terms of strengthening the intergenerational and international nature of the community.

Collation of The Revd. Marcus Ronchetti as a Canon of the Cathedral Chapter

The historic seaside resort of Calpe lies roughly centrally along the coast of the Chaplaincy of Costa Blanca, and is home to the Senior Chaplain, The Revd. Marcus Ronchetti. The city’s dominant geographical feature is the great limestone rock of Calpe. Marcus had the idea of inviting the bishop to begin his visit by scaling the rock.

This is quite a challenging walk. The path is in two parts. A broad track goes as far as a tunnel. The path inside the tunnel is well polished and slippery. Beyond the tunnel, it is a case of climbing and scrambling to the summit.

This was the first time I had needed my mountain boots for a chaplaincy visit. Marcus told me that he had long had a fear of heights, but had rather recently managed to conquer it. If he had any such fear, it certainly was not in evidence on our walk, which gave new meaning to the diocesan motto “walking together in faith”.

At the summit, I was invited to bless the Chaplaincy which extends South as far as you can see (towards Alicante airport) and north as far as you can see (towards Valencia airport). I recalled how many significant biblical encounters with God took place on mountain tops. And I was glad to pronounce the Aaronic blessing over the people of the chaplaincy. 2021 happens to be the 50th anniversary of the founding of the Chaplaincy of Costa Blanca, and there was surely no better way to mark the occasion!

The view over the coastline on the way down was spectacular.

All of this made for an excellent ‘warm up act’ to the business of licensing and collating Marcus as a Canon of the Cathedral Chapter of the Diocese in Europe. This was done, safely back at ground level, in a different kind of attire, in a Eucharistic service in the beautiful Roman Catholic Church of Our Lady of Mercy, which is the Chaplaincy’s Calpe worship centre.

Marcus has been a priest for 40 years. He has given 10 years of ministry to this Chaplaincy. He loves his work, and the joy he finds in it is reflected by the huge appreciation that his people express for his ministry.

Costa Blanca is a large chaplaincy with multiple worship centres, and Marcus leads a big team of PtO clergy as well as talented and committed lay leaders.

Beyond the Chaplaincy itself, Marcus has a particular area of ministry as a presenter and DJ with the Pure Gold radio station, broadcasting to the Costas (and the world) on 94.1 FM. This is a great work of outreach bringing the gospel in an accessible way to many who do not attend church. It is a ministry that has been particularly important during times of lockdown. 

Costa Blanca is dedicated to the Holy Spirit, which makes it a Pentecostal Parish. In my sermon, I invited the congregation to reflect on the work of the Holy Spirit in animating our prayers, in guiding us through life, and in generating the fruit of a beautiful character. My hope and prayer for this Chaplaincy is that ‘Costa Blanca at 50’ will be a community where people are growing in Christian character as they open themselves to the purifying and nurturing activity of the Holy Spirit. St. Paul writes: ‘when one member is honoured, all rejoice together’. This ceremony of collation was indeed a real opportunity for rejoicing, after a long and anxious period of living with Covid-19. It was a great joy to be together, to worship together, and in the evening to party together. 

Michaelmas at St. Peter and St. Sigfrid Stockholm

St. Peter and St. Sigfrid is situated close to the waterfront in the embassy district of Stockholm. It adjoins an old military cemetery, which means the church building is surrounded by lots of green space.

Of particular note are the two bee hives that have been installed at the bottom of the burial ground. I was told they generate an astonishing 100kg of honey per year. On the day we visited it was sunny and warm, and the bees were active: indeed one of the churchwardens was stung as we observed the busy bees! One of the benefits of installing the hives has been that a large area of ground round and about has been declared a pesticide-free zone, which just shows how a positive environmental impact can ripple out from one project.

The interior of the church is equally beautiful, with fine pews and attractive stained glass windows. Chaplain Nick Howe is initiating a project to see if the iconography in the church could better reflect what is now a diverse international community.

During my visit there was opportunity for a hybrid meeting with the church council. Covid regulations in Sweden are now quite relaxed by European standards and will relax further very soon. But about half the congregation still join services and indeed meetings by Zoom. We were able to have a good and helpful exchange – albeit that lunch for virtual attendees is never as satisfying as when physical and in person!

On one Sunday afternoon a month the building is used by a community of Luganda-speaking Bugandans. They are Anglican by background, and are ‘on the way’ to finding their place with us.

Jesus words in St. Luke’s gospel embody the ethos of St. Peter and St. Sigfrid. Longer standing members told me how they have seen the diversity of the community increase in recent decades.

The Reverend Nick Howe’s ministry is hugely appreciated by the community – as many people told me. Sustaining fellowship and witness during the covid epidemic has been hard, and council members paid tribute to Nick’s ability to create a spiritual home and to use technology skillfully to enable regular worship.

The flying angel weathervane is a distinctive feature of the church building. In the sunshine the golden angel sparkled. 

In my sermon, for Michael and All Angels, I wondered if this flying angel had a name. Michael would be an appropriate name, given that Michael is the patron saint of soldiers and the church is surrounded by military graves. 

Traditionally, Michael is the angel who accompanies Christians in death and who fights for the Christian community against darkness and evil.

Michael appears in Revelation Chapter 12 fighting against the dragon, who is the devil. The Book of Revelation is a key part of the New Testament, though it is often misunderstood. Revelation speaks of a triumph that is ultimately won in a costly way by Jesus, the lamb who was slain, and by those who are faithful and true witnesses to Jesus, even unto death. The angels and archangels accompany the saints, protecting them and fighting with them.   

It occurred to me that the – recently relaunched! – Swedish pop group ‘Abba’ were feeling their way to some of these insights in their song ‘I believe in angels’: “….and when I know the time is right for me I’ll cross the stream. I have a dream…” The book of Revelation provides a much more full blooded version of the vision and hope that Abba seemed to be pointing towards, with its vivid depiction of the triumph of God and a final victory over the powers of darkness.

As we celebrate Michaelmas, may God send his holy angels to accompany us on our earthly pilgrimage and finally bring us safely to his heavenly kingdom.

Consecration of Barend Theodoor Wallet as Archbishop of Utrecht

The archbishop-designate prepares for his consecration

Barend (Bernd) Theodoor Wallet was born in Middleburg, Zeeland. He lived, studied and worked for eight years in Yorkshire. He was ordained deacon by Archbishop Sentamu in York and ordained priest by Archbishop Joris Vercammen in Utrecht, which makes for a truly ecumenical pedigree. Bernd’s consecration had been delayed for many months because of the pandemic. He was chosen for the role as long ago as February 2020. Saturday September 18th 2021 gave long-awaited opportunity for a truly international gathering to celebrate Bernd’s new ministry.

Robing for the Consecration with Old Catholic Bishop Matthias Ring

I was honoured and delighted to be invited to be one of the three principal consecrators of the new Archbishop. New bishops are required to be consecrated by (at least) three existing bishops. Alongside the Principal Consecrator, Bishop Dirk Schoon of Haarlem, and Bishop Matthias Ring of Germany, I was invited to participate as representative of the Church of England with whom the Old Catholics are in full communion.  

The Old Catholic Church is present in seven broadly Germanophone European countries. Each country has its own bishop. The bishop of Utrecht does not have metropolitical jurisdiction over the other bishops in the way that the Archbishop of Canterbury does in the Church of England. But he is the ‘first amongst equals’, he is the titular archbishop, and he is a key partner in ecumenical relationships with the Diocese in Europe. 

The Lebuinus Cathedral, Deventer in the Netherlands

The consecration took place in the lovely Dutch city of Deventer, in the Protestant Cathedral named after Lebuinus – an English missionary, who  first built a wooden church in Deventer in the 8th century. The present building is of much later construction, and it is magnificent. In fact, the Old Catholics chose this building for the ceremony because it is one of the largest church buildings in the Netherlands and could therefore accommodate a big congregation, even with physical distancing.  

Bishops from all of the European Anglican jurisdictions were present as were Old Catholic bishops from Germany, Austria and Switzerland, and a bishop from the Independent Filipino Church. It was a long time since we had seen each other and it was a joy to be together. Of particular note was the presence amongst the consecrating bishops of Bishop Thomas of the Swedish Lutheran Church Diocese of Visby. The Old Catholic Church has a high doctrine of episcopacy and of properly catholic apostolic succession, and this was the first time a Lutheran has been invited to participate in a consecration of a new Old Catholic bishop.

Inside the Lebuinus Church preparing for the Consecration

The consecration was a grand occasion, lasting two and a half hours. Two Dutch television stations had come along, so the action took place under powerful stage lights. I can testify that it was hot under the lights! The service was both being live streamed and woven into a TV documentary on the Old Catholic Church, so there were technicians and cameramen everywhere. Those bishops robing in the sacristy had to manoeuvre around a huge microphone on a long boom plus a TV camera, positioned to enable the journalists to capture snippets of conversation between bishops as they struggled with putting on their robes!

Special mention needs to be made of this wonderful crozier, which is the historic staff of the Old Catholic bishops of Deventer. It was manufactured in Antwerp in the 16th century. Since 1982 it has been held in safe keeping in the Museum of Utrecht. Made of gold, silver and copper, it is evidently hugely valuable, and it was made available for our ceremony under strict conditions. I watched a suitably burly member of the Museum staff arrive with it in an unmarked steel box. He put on his gloves, unlocked the box, and assembled it with great care before – temporarily – entrusting it back to its owners, the Old Catholic Church, to add a sense of history and dignity to the consecration ceremony.  

The whole ceremony was beautifully and elegantly conducted. There was much traditional Old Catholic plainsong, to which the new Archbishop had added items by William Byrd, Ralph Vaughan Williams and Arvo Pärt. There was, what I thought to be, an encouragingly large and youthful congregation. And afterwards (as the picture shows) a delighted Bishop Dirk Schoon signed the documentation making it all legal.

I do believe that the consecration of Bernd Wallet has the capacity to open a new era of hope in Anglican Old Catholic relations. Bernd has a gentle and humble style coupled with personal warmth. His extensive experience of the Church of England from the inside makes him a natural and easy dialogue partner. I am very much looking forward to working with him.

In continental Europe smaller churches need each other. The Old Catholics offer historical rootedness in the countries where they are present. Anglicans offer a sense of connection with the worldwide church. Old Catholics normally worship in the local language; whereas chaplaincies in our Diocese normally worship in English. There are differences between us – in liturgy and ethics, and most significantly the fact that Anglicanism is a product of the Reformation, whereas the Old Catholic Church sees itself as historically and traditionally ‘catholic’. I hope these differences can be sources of mutual enrichment and dialogue so that we can journey together in faith. I hope that episcopal friendships and ecclesial friendships will both grow in the years ahead.

Bernd has chosen as the motto on his new episcopal coat of arms ‘In Christo Gaudium’. What an excellent note to strike at the outset of an episcopal ministry! I hope that Bernd will be able to bring joy to those with whom he ministers, and that he will retain a joyful spirit in the difficult work that will inevitably lie ahead. I pray for the flourishing of Bernd, his wife Elly and their four children and that God will give the whole family much about which to rejoice.