Safeguarding Trainers

Train the Trainers

Valuing the Little People

Jesus operated in a culture where children were routinely valued less than adults. The Book of Leviticus chapter 27 sets out exactly how much less. But Jesus’s teaching about children radically inverted society’s expectations. He says “whoever welcomes the children welcomes me”. And when the disciples don’t understand says: “Do not stop these children coming to me, because it is to children like these that the kingdom of God belongs. And if you don’t receive the kingdom of God like a little child you’ll never enter it.”

Jesus also valued those who were low in status, the marginalised and the excluded. A great deal of his ministry involved healing the sick or demon possessed. He preached good news for the poor. And throughout the gospels, Jesus is to be found in the company of tax collectors, sinners, Gentiles and outsiders of all kinds.

Insofar as we imitate Jesus then children and vulnerable adults will be an especial concern for the church. They are likely to be close to the centre of our mission.

The Safeguarding Agenda

A big lesson for society in general and the church in particular over recent decades has been that our care for children and vulnerable adults often wasn’t good enough. Ironically, institutions with a mission to care provided shelter for those whose purposes towards vulnerable people were malign. We are now playing catch-up. We have to atone for the mistakes of the past and get our practices right in the present. We have a limited timeframe available to us to change.

For the Diocese in Europe this is a particular challenge. How do we inculcate new habits, attitudes and practices across a diocese spread over 40 countries?

Establishing a Training Team

From 4 to 6 July, 23 people from across the diocese gathered to learn to teach. They had a challenging assignment. Firstly, they needed to get up to a good level of safeguarding education themselves. Then they had to acquire the confidence they needed to teach others.

Ian Carter confessed that ahead of the ‘Train the Trainers’ event he was nervous. He didn’t know if it would work. Evaluations submitted by participants indicated that they were equally nervous!

But the trainers, Ian Carter and Susan Verkerk were encouraging and expert. And the training cohort worked very hard. By the end of the course participants felt overwhelmingly that they had been given the knowledge and the confidence to present the material themselves in their own country or archdeaconry themselves.

What happens next?

We have now got to work together to roll out the training in each part of the diocese. Over the next three years we intend that key members of all chaplaincies have the opportunity to attend this ‘level 2’ training. (‘Level 1’ being the online course that many have already done.)

So, Archdeacons, Area Deans and trainers will be working together to plan a training event somewhere near you. This is a big exercise! It will need a lot of planning, encouraging and coaxing. But together we can make it happen.

And Finally…

I want to say a big thank you to those who have volunteered to be trainers. They include church officers, retired teachers, parents, clergy, clergy spouses. They have given up a lot of their time in travelling to Cologne. They have submitted to a demanding and intensive course of training. They have pledged even more of their time in being willing to train others. And they are now stepping out with a mixture of optimism and trepidation to share what they have learned with others. And before long, one of them will be starring in a training event near you…


St-Etienne-du-Rouvray, Normandy

Following this morning’s murder of Fr Jacques Hamel at the church in St-Etienne-du-Rouvray, Normandy, on behalf of the Diocese in Europe I want to assure the Archbishop of Rouen, Monseigneur Dominique Lebrun and the people of his archdiocese, indeed of the whole of France, of our prayerful support and solidarity. We hold in our prayers Fr Hamel and others caught up in this dreadful act of violence, including the perpetrators themselves. These are times of heightened tension if not anger in France and beyond but my prayer is that the French people will hold on to their dignity, which I witnessed when I visited Nice shortly after the recent tragedy there. In particular I pray for the parishioners of St Etienne-du-Rouvray that they may hold firm to the faith of the Resurrection to which Fr Hamel testified at the hour of his violent death. May he rest in peace and rise in glory.

Nice, France

I was already scheduled to visit Nice on Saturday 16th July for a clergy gathering. But the terrible events of Bastille Day gave me an altogether more serious reason for being there.

Nice is a bustling cosmopolitan city. And it is holiday time. Travelling from Nice airport, I asked the taxi driver what the atmosphere was like. It is heavy, he said, and there is less traffic.

Holy Trinity Nice has a particular connection with the Promenade des Anglais. The boulevard was built as a result of the visionary role and missionary engagement of the chaplain and people of Holy Trinity with the poor of the city. The murderous act attacks that very spirit of generosity and compassion.

Next to Holy Trinity Nice is a flower shop. There were large queues outside. People were buying flowers to lay on the roadside. I walked on to the Promenade itself to pay my own respects at an impromptu memorial built around a palm tree and surrounded by flowers and teddy bears. One of the signs said: ‘after this things can never be the same as before’.

Nice Flowers

Fr. Peter Jackson led our prayer service, and we lit our candles. We sang ‘abide with me’. The author, H.F. Lyte, is buried in Holy Trinity’s adjacent graveyard. I don’t imagine Henry Lyte would have imagined his fine hymn being used in such poignant circumstances.

Nice Church Service

After the service I chatted to some of the congregation. One lady described how she had escaped onto the beach. Another had fled to the old town. A third, had seen the lorry coming towards her at speed and had only just managed to jump to safety.

The atmosphere in the city was, as the taxi driver said, sombre and heavy. But Holy Trinity also felt calm, peaceful and safe. Holy Trinity is a beautiful church. And the building is somewhere people can find comfort and peace, and share their experiences. One of the psalms set for the day was psalm 20, which begins: ‘May the Lord answer you when you are in distress; may the name of the God of Jacob protect you.’ That struck me as particularly appropriate.

Nice Church

The following morning, and having returned to Brussels, I was asked to give interviews for a series of BBC local radio stations. The presenters asked me why these things happen and what we as a church are doing. There are, of course, no easy answers to why God allows events like this to happen. The inhumanity of the tragedy was simply awful. It is devastating in its impact on the lives of hundreds of individuals and families. It is utterly evil.

In the face of such tragedy, the church can provide space for people to reflect and to grieve. It can try to provide comfort and solace.

Beyond that, we are a part of civil society. And we can work with other churches and faiths to help our communities hold together. There are amongst us people with deep grievances and there are too many weapons in circulation. And a heavy lorry can become a deadly weapon in the hands of someone intent on violence. It is vital that we demonstrate tangibly and symbolically that acts of violence are an outrage to all people of faith. We can play our part in fostering community cohesion and inter-faith solidarity. The aim of terror is to break our communities apart. Part of our role is to help make sure it does not succeed.


Time for Prayer and Silence: Holy Trinity Nice

At 12.45pm tomorrow, Saturday 16th July, Bishop Robert will join Fr Peter Jackson and the people of Holy Trinity Nice for a short service of prayer, silence and reflection following the tragic events of last night. During the service there will be an opportunity to light candles.

Bishop Robert will participate in the service, as a sign of our support as a Diocese for all who have been affected. All are very welcome to attend this time for prayer as the Diocese in Europe stands with the people of Holy Trinity, of Nice and of the whole of France.

Following the service, as planned, the Bishop will spend some time with the clergy of the Archdeaconry.

Nice, France: 14th July 2016


A message from The Bishop in Europe

I want to assure the people of Nice, and indeed of the whole of France, of my prayers at this time, on behalf of the whole Diocese in Europe. The terrible events of last night, which was to have been a day of national celebration, have reminded us that we must yet again stand together as men and women in the face of violence. I continue to pray for peace and, today in particular, we hold in our prayers the victims of this attack and their families. We also pray for Fr Peter Jackson and the people of Holy Trinity, Nice, situated so close to the Promenade des Anglais who, along with all faith communities of the city, will minister to all affected by this tragedy. May you be strengthened by the prayers of the whole Diocese, your brothers and sisters in Christ.

+Robert Gibraltar in Europe

“Send down the Holy Spirit on your servants”

Ordinations in Vienna and Paris 2016

Distances are measured in 1000’s rather than 10’s in the Diocese in Europe. This was especially true of Ordinations 2016. Journeys were made from Paris, Athens, Istanbul and Brussels to Vienna for the pre-ordination retreat which turned out to be a haven of peace on the wooded slopes of the outskirts of Vienna.

Canon John Wilkinson, Canon Pastor at Holy Trinity Pro-Cathedral Brussels, led the retreat and preached at both ordination services, in Vienna and Paris. All were hugely appreciative of his ministry. Thankfully, none of the ordinands heeded his warning when he reminded them of the weight of responsibility about to be entrusted to them. “But just in case, there are two exits if you want to get out now!” he told them. More reassuringly, looking back at his own ordination 29 years earlier, Fr John calmed the ordinands’ nerves by referring to the awesome privilege of serving, as deacons and priests, in the Church of God.

Ordination 4

At Christ Church Vienna on July 2nd, Mike Waltner was ordained priest to continue as curate in that congregation and Ros Wilkinson was ordained priest to continue to serve at the Church of the Resurrection, Pera, Istanbul. Both were ordained by Bishop Robert. People had travelled from the USA, Yorkshire, Istanbul, Prague and Budapest to name but a few places. On what was a hot Viennese day, the elderflower cordial in the garden following the service was most welcome!

Ordination 5

Ordination 9Ordination22Ordination 29

At St George’s Paris, on the following day, Bishop Robert ordained Nicolas Razafindratsima to the Diaconate. Nicolas was supported in particular by his family and the Malagasy community who made this a truly memorable occasion. Three languages were used in their turn. Praise and joyful singing were expressed in Malagache. Appropriately, the sermon was preached in French and the Bishop blessed the bread and the wine in English.


Full church for N's deaconing



These are hugely significant events in the life of any Diocese, all the more so in the Diocese in Europe where ordinands and families have made long and often tiring journeys to be present at these celebrations. We are grateful, this year, to the clergy and people of Christ Church Vienna and St George’s Paris for being such generous hosts in every way. We thank Canon John Wilkinson for his ministry both during the retreat and at the Vienna and Paris ordination services.

“Father, give to Nicolas, Mike, Ros and Chris skill and gentleness in the practice of their ministry and perseverance always in prayer.”