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.
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.