Holy Trinity Maisons-Laffitte was built in the 1920s to meet the needs of English-speaking stable-lads and trainers who came to work at the local racecourse. Today the church community has an electoral roll of about 130. Many of the congregation are younger professional families on short-medium term assignments. Others are long term members – some married to French people, some in the process of naturalising as French citizens. The lovely grounds of the church provide an excellent space for social events and for children to play.
I was impressed by the children’s ministry at Holy Trinity: three groups each with three pairs of teachers making 18 volunteers overall. The church is also hoping to appoint a paid family and children’s worker in the future. Here, at the end of the morning service, the ‘Fireflies’ (3 to 5 year olds) are preparing to hand out bookmarks they have made reminding the adults to pray for the groups and their teachers. What a good idea!
During my visit, it was good to get acquainted with two of the senior members of Holy Trinity – Pat and Marguerite. Pat has been a church member for 66 years! She could remember her first chaplain who had been a prisoner of war in Japan.
In the afternoon, we confirmed a large number of youngsters – with local Maisons-Laffitte candidates being joined by candidates from St. Michael’s Paris. Some of the younger Tamil siblings are pictured here – beautifully dressed for the occasion.
The confirmation itself was a big event. Perhaps 160 people crowded into Holy Trinity. When there was no more space in the church itself, people sat on chairs outside. It was a beautiful afternoon, with warm sunshine – and sparkling wine and strawberries to follow! A fine alternative to the final of the French Open taking place the same day in Paris.
The news of Bishop Geoffrey Rowell’s death is a source of sadness and sorrow to many, including me personally. I first met Geoffrey in 2005, when I joined the Diocese in Europe. I experienced him as unfailingly kind, warm and hospitable. He stayed at our home in Belgium on a number of occasions. I recall with affection long conversations over a bottle of whisky late into the night. When I was appointed his successor, he was wonderfully encouraging and helpful. Geoffrey valued highly his friendship with his clergy, and those of us who served as his priests and deacons will miss him dearly.
For 12 years as Diocesan Bishop, Geoffrey embodied the Diocese in Europe in his own character and personality. He managed to remain a serious academic whilst also carrying out a demanding pastoral ministry. He was a great ambassador for a traditional, catholic, Anglicanism. He maintained an enviable quantity and quality of correspondence with ecumenical partners and friends. He travelled with remarkable energy and stamina. He inspired loyal devotion in those who worked most closely with him.
Many of us wondered how he would cope with the transition to retirement, but he seemed to handle it marvellously. His home in Fishbourne was beautifully furnished and served as a workshop for his continuing academic projects. It is sad that, after a demanding European ministry, he did not have long to enjoy retirement. His passing feels as if it marks the end of an era. We commend him to his Lord, praying that he will rest in peace and at the last day rise in glory.
The following is a guest post by Josh Peckett, CEMES intern at Holy Trinity Brussels, in the Diocese in Europe. He has been on a 10-month placement in Brussels while exploring his vocation, and recently attended this pilgrimage.
Between 25th & 28th May, 21 young people from various Anglican and Old Catholic churches across Europe came together in Echternach, Luxembourg.
The aim was to meet and talk, worship and enjoy time with one another. Out of this we hoped to share our vision for the future of our two Churches. Much work has been done formally over the years by senior members of the Churches, but we wished to explore how building relationships between young Christians, across national borders and church boundaries, might further unity between us.
A few words of background…
Old-Catholics are a group of national churches which at various times separated from the Roman Catholic Church. They are Catholic in faith, order and worship but reject the Papal claims of infallibility and supremacy. The term “Old-Catholic” was adopted to mean original Catholicism.
The Anglican Communion signed the Bonn Agreement with the Old Catholic Churches of the Union of Utrecht in 1931. This agreement of “full-communion” has formed the basis for an ongoing relationship mediated by the Anglican-Old Catholic International Co-ordinating Council (AOCICC), who organised the pilgrimage.
They have participated in the World Council of Churches since its beginning and are in formal dialogue with both the Orthodox Churches and the Roman Catholic Church. Among them the Archbishop of Utrecht holds a primacy of honour not dissimilar to that accorded in the Anglican Communion to the Archbishop of Canterbury.
Anglicans and Old Catholics are welcome to participate fully in each other’s worship and receive communion at celebrations of the Eucharist; clergy may act fully in each other’s churches, with proper episcopal permission. This was the first agreement of its kind that Anglicans had ever concluded.
Echternach is a small town in eastern Luxembourg. It is the place where St. Willibrord is buried. For over 1200 years it has been regarded as a holy place. Willibrord was born in the Kingdom of Northumbria in 7th century England, educated in Ireland and went on to travel across the Netherlands to teach people the Christian faith. Given his background in Britain and Ireland, and becoming the first bishop of Utrecht, Willibrord has always had a special unifying significance for Anglicans and Old Catholics. In a world in which people want to build walls and erect barriers, Willibrord might inspire us to build bridges between different nations and cultures, and stand up for what we believe: justice and God’s love for everyone.
The 21 young people who gathered represented a variety of churches:
The Church of England (mainland England & Diocese in Europe)
The Church of Ireland
The Lusitanian Church of Portugal
The Old Catholic Church of Austria
The Old Catholic Church of Germany
The Old Catholic Church of the Netherlands
The Old Catholic Church of Switzerland
Also in attendance were members of the Anglican and Old Catholic clergy, older lay members, and the co-ordinators of AOCICC, bishops Michael Burrows (Diocese of Cashel Ferns and Ossory, Church of Ireland) and Dick Schoon (Diocese of Haarlem, Old Catholic Church of the Netherlands). Altogether we represented countries as varied as Austria, Belgium, England, France, Germany, Ireland, Latvia, the Netherlands, Portugal, and Switzerland.
Our 4 days together were a mixture of prayer, formal discussions, and free-time in which we could get to know each other. Early on we presented to each other about the important aspects of Anglicanism and Old Catholicism, which really allowed everyone to get a feel for the contexts from which we came.
There were workshops on topics including: ‘Writing your own spiritual biography’, ‘Faith and Identity’ and ‘Curating your identity’. In the workshop on ‘Faith and Identity’, discussion centred on what defines our identity and how identity is constructed. I thought that this was an incredibly important conversation to have when many in society across Europe are asking the same questions of themselves. These practical, often personal conversations set the theme for what we would produce next.
We spent time in groups wrestling with the following questions:
What does it mean to be a Christian in the context that you live?
What challenges do I see?
What visions and hopes do I have?
What must the Church do to address these issues?
The results of those conversations were then formed into a declaration on unity and faith in action, called the Willibrord Declaration. We offer it to AOCICC and the wider Church for consideration. It can be found, in English and German, here.
Beyond the formal conversations, the most important aspect of our time together was the space to chat, share stories, and build friendships. If unity is to mean more than formal agreements between churches, it must involve building ties between the members of our congregations. A beautiful reflection, given on the Friday’s evening prayer, asked us to consider the abiding presence of God with all people, and reflect on the call to unity. “He will lead us all into the New Jerusalem, where there will be no temple because people will know God by themselves, and will not forget that they are one.”
My deepest thanks to all those involved in the Pilgrimage. The memory of our time together in Echternach will remain with me for years to come, and in this time of Pentecost speaking the psalms together all at once in many languages during our closing service around the lake was an experience filled with great resonance.
A Prayer for Anglicans & Old Catholics:
Merciful God, we give thanks for your grace that we, Anglicans and Old Catholics, may walk together on the way. You gave us each other and united us, to become signs of reconciliation and unity for the world. As you called Jesus, so you call also us and fill us with your love for humankind. As you strengthened Jesus with your spirit, so you also strengthen us, so that we never lack strength and inspiration, creativity and courage. Teach us to see the opportunities which you offer us, and give us trust in you, who are with us on the way, Father, Son and Holy Spirit, our God for ever. Amen.
The Protestant Kirchentag takes place every two years. This year’s Kirchentag, in Berlin and Wittenberg, brought together some 140,000 German Christians and another 7,000 international visitors. The theme verse – ‘You see me’, taken from the story of Hagar’s encounter with God in the wilderness, was represented by pairs of eyes on an orange background. Going around Berlin, the pairs of eyes looked out at you at every turn, like here at the Brandenburg Gate where several of the biggest events took place.
This year’s Kirchentag marked the 500th anniversary of the Lutheran Reformation. We took the opportunity to visit Martin Luther’s House in Wittenberg. Here you can get fascinating insights into how Luther actually lived – combining his duties as a university professor with marriage and family life – and his ‘extended family’ in fact ran to some 50 people. Helen and I were struck by the remarkable contribution of his wife, Katharina Luther, who bore six children, organised daily catering for the extended family and ran some extensive family estates. The theological changes that Luther initiated can be hard to grasp at our distance, but seeing the tangible impact on everyday life in Wittenberg brings these dramatic changes to life in a new way.
The Kirchentag involves hundreds of stalls and many talks and concerts. The highlight this year was a dialogue between Angela Merkel and Barack Obama, in which they related their personal faith to international relations [watch here]. At a more modest level, I took part in a service using the ‘Lima Liturgy’ – so called because it was first used at a significant World Council of Churches meeting in Lima, Peru in 1982. It was a great pleasure to share in this service with bishops from the Old Catholic Church of Germany, the Evangelical-Lutheran German Church and the Evangelical-Lutheran Church of Sweden. There was a real sense of ecumenical fellowship and togetherness.
On the Sunday, I went to St. George’s Berlin for a service of baptism and confirmation. The large and spacious church of St. George’s was filled to capacity, numbers swelled by Kirchentag visitors. With Kirchentag events, it had been a very busy week for the chaplain, Christopher Jage-Bowler, but the service was nonetheless beautifully organised. I particularly appreciated an introit sung in Urdu by a Pakistani refugee member of the church. Christopher has been Chaplain of St. George’s for 20 years, and his long-term commitment to the church and to Berlin shines through.
After church there was opportunity for coffee with members of the congregation in the hall and church garden.
I particularly enjoyed meeting Mr. Bill Sheckleston OBE, the most senior member of the congregation. Bill had come to Berlin as a young soldier in 1946. He eventually become Vice-Consul. His experience of war-time devastation convinced him that the disaster of European war must never happen again. He is passionate about international relations and in particular about Anglo-German relations.
After coffee, we went for a parish lunch at a nearby restaurant run by Egyptian Copts. Deliberately choosing a Coptic restaurant seemed to me an excellent way of giving practical encouragement to a community which is suffering persecution in its homeland.
It was a truly memorable and full visit. The Kirchentag in Berlin on the 500th anniversary of the Lutheran Reformation was very special. There was opportunity to meet and greet lots of people. And lovely to visit the thriving international community of St. George’s with all the signs of life and faith represented by the people in my picture below.
My visit to St. Michael’s Paris had been planned a long time ago. But I was thrilled when it turned out to coincide with the installation of President Emmanuel Macron. The Champs-Elysées was decorated with flags for the occasion. St Michael’s Paris is just around the corner from the Elysée Palace where the passation took place, so we felt very much at the centre of the action.
To get a sense of a church’s history, there’s no better place to start than meeting its most senior member. Rene (pictured below) is a former architect who joined St. Michael’s Paris 65 years ago. She described to me one crucial event in 1973. Anglicans and Methodists in Paris had gathered to decide whether they should unite into one church building. The proposal was controversial. It was decided to take a vote. Rene was in favour, but had visitors staying for the weekend so didn’t attend the congregational meeting. In the event, the vote was lost – by one vote! Today the Anglican St. Michael’s and St. George’s remain as separate congregations, each flourishing in its own way, though the Methodist chapel is no more.
Chaplain Alyson Lamb is a delightfully warm and caring pastor, and an immensely gifted communicator. During her ministry, she has guided St. Michael’s through a period of significant change. She was joined last year by The Revd. Dale Hanson who returned to Europe from Hong Kong. Alyson and Dale had planned our visit meticulously.
St. Michael’s has recently re-formatted its Sunday services so that the morning service is informal in style, whilst the evening service is more formal. The church was packed full for the morning service. Our worship included modern songs led by a band and traditional hymns accompanied by organ.
Alyson took an opportunity early in the service to interview me and Helen. Lots of folk have little idea of what a bishop is or does, and an interview is a great way to get some of this across.
St. Michael’s is currently running a sermon series called ‘Church Alive’ with reference to St. Paul’s visits to cities in the Book of Acts. Alyson had encouraged me to use the sermon as a significant teaching opportunity, and I was impressed with the rapt attention given by the congregation.
After the sermon, I had opportunity to receive Carolyne Powell from a Roman Catholic background into the communion of the Church of England. The ‘reception’ was both memorable and emotional. Only two days previously we had learnt that Carolyne had been successful in a ‘Bishops Advisory Panel’ and will be beginning training for ordination at Ridley Hall, Cambridge in the autumn! She was duly ‘received’ with rapturous applause from the congregation.
For the last twenty years, St. Michael’s has hosted a Tamil service. The community meets in the afternoon, and over lunch I had the pleasure of meeting some of their members.
St. Michael’s is a lively church that supports a women’s meeting (‘Eve’), a men’s breakfast, Alpha courses, a gathering for young adults (‘Celebrate’), a café for English-speaking Au Pairs, children’s, youth, music and prayer ministries. The monthly costs of mission and ministry are 39k€: the stewardship challenge is significant, but God is faithful.
In our morning service we prayed for France and its new President, aware that just a few hundred metres away the new President was being installed – perhaps at that very moment. The next phase of St. Michael’s life is likely to involve a more intentional focus on mission ‘beyond the walls’ of the church. Please do join me in praying for the next steps in mission for a Christian community that is strategically located at the very heart of one of Europe’s most important countries at a key time in its history.
Last week, Helen and I visited Christ Church Vienna (beautiful stained glass window from the church above). We had previously been staying at the ICS Conference in Beatenberg, Switzerland high up in the Bernese alps – where a foot of snow had fallen.
We decided to take the night sleeper from Zurich to Vienna. This turned out to be an excellent idea. The two berth en-suite cabin was compact but comfortable. The steward arrived with a welcome bottle of prosecco before we left and breakfast before we arrived. Compared with planes, night trains generate a much healthier psychology of travel and sense of arrival. They are still widely used in Russia and in India, and I’d love to see more of them back on the rails of Europe.
We arrived at 9:00a.m. on Saturday for a full programme of events, which began with a seminar on Brexit for members of Christ Church and other interested British nationals. This proved an excellent way of reaching out into the wider British community and demonstrating the Church’s concern. I was reminded, again, how very deeply our people feel about this subject.
I met with non-stipendiary curate Mike Waltner, who has a fascinating and demanding day job with the KAICIID inter-faith dialogue centre. After lunch with chaplain Patrick Curran and his wife Lucille, I met the confirmation candidates in the grand environment of the British Ambassador’s residence, which is opposite the church. This was followed by a meeting with the Church Council.
The Council meeting was highly encouraging. Members were invited to consider: ‘Why is Christ Church important to me?’ and ‘What do I hope for in Christ Church in the next five years?’. People spoke of a church going from strength to strength; a multi-cultural and welcoming community; a consistent, peaceful haven; a family; a home. There were presentations of different aspects of church life. Hyacinth Osterlin spoke about prison visiting. Derek Lacey introduced a programme for developing pastoral care. Alexander Rosch described the ‘soup kitchen with a difference’. On top of its commitment to these programmes, Christ Church maintains a discipline of giving 10% of its income away to mission and charitable commitments. After this, we thought about how Christ Church’s strategy and the diocesan strategy overlap – and, of course, they do in many respects. It is always a pleasure to meet a Council that is concerned with problems around how to plan for and manage growth! The formal business was followed by an excellent dinner for Council members at Patrick and Lucille’s home.
The following day began early with a radio interview for the Austrian equivalent of the BBC’s ‘Radio 4’. We then moved to church for the confirmation service. The church building, which is of modest size, was absolutely packed – some of the candidates welcoming large parties of guests from different parts of the globe.
The picture shows Kimberley, Benita, Rebecca, Sophie, Nicole, Owen and Jan. They are a fine group of young teenagers with roots in Austria, Germany, the UK, Nigeria, Ghana and Australia.
Following the service we had lunch with Christian Hofreiter. Christian worked with the leadership team of St. Aldate’s Oxford, took a Ph.D at Oxford University, has permission to officiate in our diocese and works full-time as a Christian apologist for Ravi Zacharias International Ministries (see here). He is a fellow of the Oxford Centre for Apologetics, and he conducts university and parish missions in different parts of the continent. If you are looking for someone to lead a mission at your church or undertake a student outreach event I commend him warmly.
Our visit was action packed and full of meetings and memories to treasure. It was evident that the work involved locally in planning this visit was huge, for which we were deeply grateful. More generally, the health and vitality of Christ Church is a great tribute to Patrick Curran, who has been chaplain since 2000. Christ Church is eloquent testimony to the value of a long and faithful ministry.
For a long while, Patrick juggled the work in Vienna with being Archdeacon of the East – an inhumanly demanding combination which he kept up for more than a decade. The people of Christ Church were obviously delighted to have their much-loved chaplain back full-time, and understandably so. Patrick is now taking a sabbatical. Few clergy could deserve it more than he does.
Then I heard the voice of the Lord saying, ‘Whom shall I send, and who will go for us?’ And I said, ‘Here am I; send me!’
In recent years, the Church of England has been seeking to better encourage and support young Christians who feel called to serve and minister within it. As we look to the future, seeking to grow our Church in faithful witness to the life, death and resurrection of Jesus Christ, the gifts and skills of these younger generations will be crucial to making this a reality. In his invitation (which can be found here) to those especially in their 20s and 30s, ++Justin writes:
“We live in challenging times and so much of our society, the Church included, needs the new life that Christ brings… In the light of this need the Church wants to welcome young people and the charisms they bring, gifts which will help us to meet the challenges we face with creativity and innovation.”
In this season of Easter, we are particularly called to reflect on the transformative power of the Resurrection. I have heard it said that resurrection is not a law to be taken for granted in decline; it is a promise to be received by faith in action. The number of young vocations to ordained ministry has grown steadily in recent years. As a community of faith bound in love, we should be looking to plant the seeds of new life for our Church with tenderness and care.
To encourage younger people exploring their sense of vocation, the Church of England has established internships in many dioceses. Called CEMES (Church of England Ministry Experience Scheme), the internship scheme offers placements for anyone between the ages of 18 and 30, who is exploring a calling to ministry. Beginning in September, the scheme runs for an ‘academic year’ of 10 months to the end of the following June.
In 2016/17, 17 dioceses ran the scheme, each with its own flavour, including the Diocese in Europe. In our diocese, churches in Belgium, the Netherlands, and Switzerland hosted interns. Now in 2017/18, we are hoping to build on the experiences of previous interns, supervisors and chaplaincies, and continue CEMES for a third year (details at the end of this blog post).
Josh, Annie, Fiona and Ali, our current interns from 2016/17 finishing in June, have kindly provided some of their reflections on what they have done over the year and how CEMES has impacted on their sense of calling….
A word from Annie Bolger, interning at St Martha & St Mary’s Church, Leuven:
“CEMES has formed my sense of vocation by providing hands-on experience of both the exceptional and mundane aspects of parish ministry. When I refer to ‘exceptional’ ministry, I mean opportunities to accompany parishioners through grief, transition, marriage, and confirmation; opportunities to attend synods and hear how God is moving in the church, opportunities to speak at an ecumenical event on the topic of the Holy Spirit. But equally important has been the ‘mundane’ ministry: the ministry of punctuating each day with the prayer, the ministry of taking meeting minutes, the ministry of washing up after coffee and tea, the ministry of folding orders of service (there is so much folding in the church!). As a young person who has a sense of vocation, it would be tempting to enjoy only exceptional ministry opportunities, but CEMES offers an additional groundedness. For nearly a year, I will have lived with the mundane as well as the exceptional. Through CEMES I gained a realistic sense of the life God has called me to live. As a result, I have been able to confidently say “yes” to God and begin interviews with my DDO. It is exciting for me to have clear next steps for my discernment process post-CEMES, steps which might not have been laid out yet had it not been for this internship.”
A word from Josh Peckett, interning at Holy Trinity Church, Brussels:
“As I came towards the end of my time at university, I had to decide what to do next. This is not always easy for students who have spent three years cocooned in the eccentricities of a university city… However, for a couple of years I had been exploring a calling to ordained ministry, and the feeling of calling, nurtured by Christian life at university, had only grown stronger. But I felt I lacked a practical understanding of how ministry plays out day by day, living and working in a church community. That’s why I applied to do CEMES. I know there are many of my peers who have experienced the same sense of being called to serve, but are unsure about to what and where it is leading them. For them, I recommend CEMES and the Diocese in Europe. I’ve been to synods, on retreat in a Benedictine abbey, led homegroups of all ages, heard about port ministry in Rotterdam, debated faith in a local bar and had fun with great new friends. Amongst all this activity, the important aspect for me is that it helps me gain a deeper understanding of the meaning and outworking of ministry in our Church, in its surprises, mundanities, and eccentricities.”
A word from Fiona Hill, interning at St John & St Philip’s Church, The Hague:
“I formally began to explore what my vocation might be, and whether it lies in the Church of England, in February of 2016. My university chaplain recommended CEMES to me, and it seemed like a great opportunity to discern where God is calling me to serve. CEMES lasts 10 months, and I have been using these months to figure this out through practical experience with the aid of pastoral and theological supervision. During that time, I have been involved in many aspects of life in The Hague and gained greater insight into the opportunities and challenges that exist within the Church. After leaving here in June, I will be taking up the role of Disability Officer for the Diocese of Leeds, which I am very excited about as it combines my previous experience of working with people with disabilities and the experience of working for the Church as a CEMES intern: two of my passions rolled into one job! As I continue down the vocations route, my internship will have stood me in good stead and provided firm ground to build on in the future.”
A word from Ali Speed, interning at Holy Trinity Church, Geneva & La Côte, Switzerland:
“Having 2 placements has helped me to think about the way that the church serves it very diverse members with so many different traditions. I have seen how different styles of church can be important to try to reach as many people as possible in such a multicultural area. In the last few months I have seen how important the church is in the work with refugees and have even had the privilege of helping to prepare some for baptism and help them with their continued journey of faith. I have found that both churches are warmly welcoming to those who come through their doors and are a beacon for Christianity in this region.”
In conclusion, I believe we need to be encouraging young people to think about their future vocation wherever it lies. For some, it may lie in ordination. The CEMES scheme is a practical way in which we can give new graduates a taste of ministry. You’ve read the testimony of some of our interns. I can testify that members of our churches have also greatly benefited from the energy and fresh perspective our interns bring.
Almighty God, you have entrusted to your Church a share in the ministry of your Son our great high priest: inspire by your Holy Spirit the hearts of many to offer themselves for the ministry of your Church, that strengthened by his power, they may work for the increase of your kingdom and set forward the eternal praise of your name; through Jesus Christ your Son our Lord. Amen.
For surely I know the plans I have for you, says the Lord, plans for your welfare and not for harm, to give you a future with hope.
Details of our ministry experience scheme in 2017/18 can be found here.
If you are aged 18-29 and interested in applying, please contact: firstname.lastname@example.org
Applications still being accepted beyond deadline stated in the particulars attached above.
This year we are offering internships at chaplaincies in:
La Cote (near Geneva)
Accommodation, expenses and a stipend of £3,500 is offered.
The induction is at the end of August in Rome, there is a five day pilgrimage to Jerusalem and a concluding residential session in Canterbury at the end of June 2018.
Applications are for the scheme and should be from EU nationals or those with leave to remain.
This is a unique scheme and we would love to meet anyone discerning vocation but not sure about next steps. Local languages not necessary.