A Drama in Three Acts – 27th March 2021 Brussels

Act 1: The Confirmation of Rebecca Mathen

Rebecca Mathen has had a fascinating spiritual journey. Her family traces its roots back to the Brahmin who were contemporaries of St. Thomas when he visited India. Rebecca was baptized in St. Andrew’s Singapore and confirmed as a Methodist in Canterbury. She was a member of the youth group at St. Paul’s Tervuren and of the Christian Union at Plymouth University. She is currently a member of St. Alban’s Copenhagen and a Ministry Experience Student on placement at Holy Trinity Brussels. Now, as a candidate for ordination in the Church of England, it was my privilege to confirm Rebecca into the Anglican Communion.

Act 2: Admitting Bess Brooks and Jacob Quick as Readers

Bess grew up in the North East of England. She and her husband Paul have lived in Belgium since 1999 and attend St. Paul’s Tervuren. Bess is particularly interested in questions of women in ministry and what it means to be a woman in Christ in the 21st century.

Jacob moved to Belgium from the United States in 2015 to study philosophy at Leuven, where he joined the chaplaincy of St. Martha and St. Mary. Jacob is now a member of Holy Trinity Brussels. He is researching a Ph.D at Leuven, and as a Reader is looking to explore how Christian mysticism can empower us to live out Christ’s teaching.

Bess and Jacob have several degrees in theology and related subjects between them, and I was thrilled to be admitting these younger and very well qualified Readers to their new ministry.

Note also that Jacob is married to Annie Bolger – who serves as curate at Holy Trinity Brussels.

Act 3: The Installation of Canon Stephen Murray

Stephen had previously been made a Canon of the pan-diocesan Cathedral Chapter. In this ceremony he was installed by the Chancellor of Holy Trinity Pro-Cathedral in the stall of St. Willibrord. The 8th century Northumbrian missionary St. Willibrord is known as the ‘apostle to the Frisians’ and is an important Christian link between England and the Low Countries. Stephen is Area Dean of Belgium and Chaplain of St. John’s Ghent.

Part of the role of Holy Trinity Brussels is to be a Pro-Cathedral. In the Installation service we use these words:

‘Like all churches, the Cathedral is a sign of God’s presence in the world; a meeting place of refreshment in the Holy Spirit for all who choose to use it.

As Cathedral it has these particular duties and opportunities: to be a physical sign of the unity of the people of the Diocese with their Bishop and with one another; to be a place in which the festivals of the Church and important events and anniversaries in the life of the Diocese are celebrated by the Bishop or on his behalf; to be a place of regular prayer for the bishops, clergy and people of the Diocese, and for the communities in which they live.’

The Cathedrals in our diocese don’t have quite the same functions as Cathedrals of ‘churches of the land’, like the Church of England in England or the Catholic Church in Belgium. But they do try to fulfil a wider ministry than other chaplaincies. On Saturday 27th March, despite the severe restrictions of a Belgian lockdown, we were all able to rejoice in the wider role of Holy Trinity Brussels and the growth in faith and ministry of some very special people.

A Licensing in Liège

It is a long time since I have travelled out of Brussels – and a long time since I have written a blog. So I am very pleased to be able to share an account now of the licensing of The Revd. Guy Diakiese Matumona as Chaplain of the Anglican Church Liège.

Liège used to be part of the industrial heartland of Wallonia in Belgium known for its iron and steelmaking. Today it supports modern manufacturing and electronics as well as the delicious Galler chocolate and Belgium’s best-selling Jupiler beer. It is also home to tens of thousands of students.

The picture shows the view across the city and the Meuse river from the top of the ‘Montagne de Beuren’. With 374 steps it can justifiably claim to be an ‘extreme’ staircase – the kind of ascent that would be a cable car if it were in Switzerland or a set of escalators if it were in Hong Kong.

The English Church of Liège meets in an Adventist building. (Adventists make particularly good hosts for us because they don’t use their churches on Sundays). Whereas Liège is a big city, our chaplaincy is only small, and it has been through difficult times in recent years. For a while, it looked like we would not be able to restart paid ministry. But with support from the Belgian State and a pan-diocesan Lent Appeal we have been able to do something which had earlier seemed impossible: select, appoint and install a new full-time priest.

The Reverend Guy Diakiese is a truly cosmopolitan priest – educated in philosophy and theology in Nigeria and Rome, fluent in French, Italian and English, and having served his curacy in The Hague. I ordained Guy as Deacon and as Priest, so it was a great delight to be licensing him now to his first incumbency in our Diocese.

All those of us who have been involved with Guy’s training and development in the Diocese regard him as a treasure. He has much to do to help the chaplaincy recover its confidence. There is then a potentially huge field of mission in the city of Liège.

Here is Guy with the parish representatives: Ruth from Belgium and Rathna from Chennai. The representatives and churchwardens have done a great job in keeping the flame of faith burning in their chaplaincy in difficult circumstances and all the privations of Covid-19. Today, 7th March, was the first time the chaplaincy has gathered for physical worship since Belgium’s second lockdown.

Canon Jack McDonald, second from right, next to James the usher, overseas our relationship with the Belgian State, and I was particularly pleased that he was able to attend Guy’s licensing.

Guy will have good friends and colleagues amongst our Belgian clergy. But Liège is in the East of Belgium and our only chaplaincy in the Wallonia Region, so it is a potentially isolated ministry.

Please do join with me in praying that Guy will find a ready welcome, settle quickly into this multicultural city, and see both spiritual and numerical growth in the Anglican chaplaincy of Liège.