On the first Friday in February, we headed South on the TGV to Poitou-Charentes. Later this year, the new high-speed TGV line to South West France will be commissioned, cutting the journey time from Paris to Bordeaux to just two hours. But even at present, the newly refurbished TGVs are a very pleasant way to travel across France.
Adam Boulter and his family arrived in Poitou-Charentes in November. On 4th February he was to be licensed as chaplain by the Bishop and installed by the Archdeacon. The chaplaincy of Christ the Good Shepherd was originally a plant from Aquitaine to the South. The chaplaincy covers four departments: Vienne, Deux-Sevres, Charente and Charente-Maritime. The chaplaincy has (depending how you count them) 12 to 15 worship centres and covers a territory 25% bigger than Wales!
This part of France is known for its vineyards – for its sweet, fortified wine ‘Pineau’, and its better known spirits – Armagnac and especially Cognac.
We were kindly hosted by Stuart and Evelyne Woodrow who live along the banks of the River Charente, near the town of Cognac. On the night of our stay there was a furious storm. This led to a complete power failure. Entertaining a visiting bishop with no electricity could be challenging, and they handled the situation most graciously.
On the Saturday morning, we drove some 45 minutes to the church of Mansle which had been chosen for the ceremony because of its central location. The licensing service started half an hour late, as various people negotiated the fallen trees. Archdeacon Meurig had a much longer drive than expected from his home in Limoges.
Adam comes to Poitou-Charentes with an interesting range of experience. He was previously chaplain of the Episcopal Church of Aqaba in Jordan. He was also Mission to Seafarers Port Chaplain and had area responsibility for Mission to Seafarers work across the Eastern Mediterranean and Black Sea. So he is no stranger to looking after mixed international congregations and supervising activities across a large area. Adam is both a priest and an artist. What a wonderful combination for ministry!
Adam was presented for licensing by the churchwardens, Ted Hands and Ann White, with Richard Bromley from ICS. After the service the parish laid on a magnificent bring and share lunch. Adam is married to Beth, and they have three children: Joseph, Hannah and Benjamin. The photo shows two of the children… Hannah preferred not to be photographed.
The licensing of a new chaplain is a huge event for a chaplaincy, bringing to an end a long process of discernment and opening up many possibilities for the future. Do pray for Adam, Beth, Joseph, Hannah and Benjamin as they settle into their new home, progress with language learning and make friends. And do pray for Adam as he leads a large team of retired clergy, readers and worship leaders and seeks to find the way forward for Anglican mission and ministry in Poitou-Charentes.