|CTBI trustees review how its resources on refugees are being used|
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Thursday, 12 January 2017
Wednesday, 11 January 2017
"Crossing Barriers" is the theme of this year's Week of Prayer for Christian Unity. In the northern hemisphere, including in this Diocese in Europe, that week is observed from 18-25 January.
Friday, 6 January 2017
As part of my continuing education I have been participating in a programme called "Equipping Christian Leaders in an Age of Science". Today, the Feast of the Epiphany, by happy coincidence one of the topics in our sessions turned our gaze to the stars and galaxies as we explored issues related to SETI, the search for extra terrestial intelligence. A wonderful lecture was given by the Revd Professor David Wilkinson, of St John's College Durham, a noted astrophysicist as well as theologian, with doctorates in both fields.
Professor Wilkinson, from a scientific point of view, would surmise that at present we are likely the only intelligent life in this galaxy, although with 100 billion stars in the galaxy, with about 70% having planets, and 100 billion galaxies in the universe one cannot be sure! As a theologian, he maintains that SETI is important for Christians for a number of reasons:
- It invites us to observe and wonder at the complexity and vastness of the universe, God's creation.
- It is in the thought and imagination of the public, including many young people.
- It is "a fun sand-pit for theological speculation". In the sand-pit we can explore themes such as the Incarnation, the Fall, Redemption and the uniqueness (or not) of human beings in the light of the possibility of other beings on other planets....
We thought of the Sydney Carter Christmas hymn "Every Star Shall Sing a Carol" with this evocative verse:
Who can tell what other cradle,
high above the milky way,
still may rock the King of heaven
on another Christmas day?
Professor Wilkinson is one of our keynote speakers for the Diocesan Readers' Conference in May. Should be interesting!
Other themes for the current sessions have been equally fascinating: Being Human in a Digital Age, Artificial Intelligence, Robotics (including issues raised by a topic rarely discussed by bishops - sex with robots!). We were alerted to the fact that there is very little theological engagement with the huge issues raised by artificial intelligence, issues which are coming at us like an express train: ethics (do machines have rights? Is it permissible to torture a robot?); the erosion of ontological differences between animals, humans and machines; work and employment as jobs, especially among the poor, will be increasingly threatened; the nature of relationships and community in a digital world, and so on.
|Andrew Graystone lectures on AI and Robotics|
|Visit to Durham University Robotics Lab|
Saturday, 24 December 2016
The lands of the Bible, places we know from the stories of the Patriarchs of the Old Testament, and the soil of the Middle East where our Lord Jesus Christ was born and lived and where Christianity first took root, are still ravaged by war, violence and terror. It is hard to imagine what our sisters and brothers in Syria and Iraq, two countries which border on our Diocese in Europe, have witnessed this past year, and most recently the attack on the Coptic Church in Cairo underlines the fragility of life for minority communities across the region. Terrorism has of course also touched our own continent, most recently in Berlin.
Nevertheless the celebration of Christ's birth, the Prince of Peace, gives us hope. There are few finer words to summarise this hope than those of a Syrian Teacher of the Faith, St Ephrem the Deacon, (commemorated in the Church of England on 9 June). He died in 373. Here is an extract from one of his Christmas hymns:
The feast day of your birth resembles You, LordA happy, blessed and peaceful Christmas to all Eurobishop readers!
Because it brings joy to all humanity.
Old people and infants alike enjoy your day.
Your day is celebrated
from generation to generation.
Kings and emperors may pass away,
And the festivals to commemorate them soon lapse.
But your festival
will be remembered until the end of time.
Your day is a means and a pledge of peace.
At Your birth heaven and earth were reconciled,
Since you came from heaven to earth on that day
You forgave our sins and wiped away our guilt.
You gave us so many gifts on the day of your birth:
A treasure chest of spiritual medicines for the sick;
Spiritual light for the blind;
The cup of salvation for the thirsty;
The bread of life for the hungry.
In the winter when trees are bare,
You give us the most succulent spiritual fruit.
In the frost when the earth is barren,
You bring new hope to our souls.
In December when seeds are hidden in the soil,
The staff of life springs forth from the virgin womb
Monday, 19 December 2016
500 people attended the Service of Nine Lessons and Carols of St Nicholas's Anglican Church in Helsinki which was held in the Lutheran Cathedral in the centre of the city. The Anglican Carol Service is a major attraction in the Advent season in the Finnish capital, and is well attended by people of all nationalities and church affiliations. In the square below the Cathedral, Helsinki's Christmas Market is held. I am certain that there are also many who attend the carol service, who have been browsing around the market and who are drawn for some reason to enter the Church. Some who may have no formal Christian connection come perhaps for aesthetic reasons to begin with, or who are tentatively exploring the Christian faith, and find at the Carol Service, a warm and welcoming space for that exploration.
Our priest at St Nicholas's, the Revd Tuomas Mäkipää, deliberately keeps the format of this service very traditional, even maintaining the scripture readings from the Authorised Version of the Bible. The number who attend seems to suggest that this time-honoured liturgy can still satisfy the spiritual needs of many people. In an age of "contemporary worship", (whatever that is), we need to acknowledge that many are hungry for what this service seems able to provide: a simple and accessible, recounting of the mystery of God's plan for our salvation which culminates in the incarnation of his Son, our Saviour Jesus Christ. The excellent music provided by the St Nicholas Singers, and the familiar, yet deeply theological hymns and carols, provide an atmosphere of calm and reflection on the deep meaning of Christmas, amidst a frenetically-paced world. The lessons and carols speak for themselves - no sermon needs to be added to open up the meaning of the sacred story.
|HE Ambassador Sarah Price|
|Left to right: Bishop Irja, yours truly, Metropolitan Ambrosius, Fr Tuomas, Fr Maximus|
Sunday, 18 December 2016
St Paul's in Monaco regularly celebrates Confirmation and usually in the season of Advent. It is an appropriate time of the year to celebrate this sacrament as the Advent message of light shining in the darkness underlines the commitment of the newly confirmed to bear Christ's light in the world. In the confirmation liturgy the candidates receive a lit candle at the conclusion of the rite, and carry that candle out into the world.
The Advent confirmations also frequently coincide with the huge charity bazaar held each year, called the Kermesse. It is a major ecumenical event as well: the clergy of the Principality, Roman Catholic (including Archbishop Barsi of Monaco), Orthodox, Anglican and Protestant, gather for a festive lunch and time of sharing. The Spanish speaking parish and the Greek Church provide the food for the clergy, and this year, the Greeks broke into an impromptu folk dance at the lunch.
St Paul's has a very active presence at the Kermesse, with many volunteers from the parish working hard on various stalls. Fr Walter emphasises that this giant charity event also provides the confirmation candidates with an excellent opportunity to roll up their sleeves in service to the community - another dimension to the sacrament in which they pledge to seek and serve Christ in all people, loving their neighbour as themselves.
Saturday, 17 December 2016
Memorial Prayers at Westminster Abbey for Coptic Christians killed last weekend: faith, forgiveness and a cry for justice
It was very moving last Wednesday 14 December to join in a prayer vigil led by His Grace Bishop Angaelos, General Bishop of the Coptic Orthodox Church in the UK, at the Innocent Victims' Memorial at Westminster Abbey. The prayers were offered in honour and memory of the 25 Coptic Orthodox Christians, mostly women and children, who were killed in the bombing of St Peter's Church in Cairo last weekend.
The Reverend Canon Jane Sinclair of the Abbey welcomed all to the prayers. Addresses were given by the Archbishop Justin Welby, Bishop Angaelos and HE Mr Nasser Kamel, the Egyptian Ambassador to the UK. As the names of the victims were read aloud, 25 red roses were laid between 25 lit candles, representing the blood that they shed for their faith, and the light they will continue to represent in the memory of their family, friends, and communities.
Bishop Angaelos spoke of the tragedy of families broken apart just before the Feast of the Nativity, and of the need for faith, forgiveness and justice:
"People are indeed surprised when we speak of forgiveness at times like this, but we are called to forgive and we must continue to do so. Of course there is a call for justice but never for vengeance…reconciliation but never carelessness. In our unity as the Body of Christ, the family of faith, and the global family, we must continue to advocate for and safeguard the dignity and sanctity of every life. The importance of our mission and our ministry here as God’s children, is to continue, like these candles to be light in darkness.”
HE The Ambassador of Egypt, added,
“These heinous crimes that aim to undermine the unity of the Egyptian people, regardless of their religious affiliation, will never succeed, nor will the bonds that tie its religious establishments ever be broken. Peace and harmony have always prevailed in Egypt. Let me remind you - as we also approach the Nativity celebrations - that the Virgin Mary, after giving birth to Jesus Christ, sought refuge in Egypt to protect her newborn from tyranny and intolerance."
Friday, 16 December 2016
|The Readers and Readers in Training, with the Director of Reader Ministry, the Revd Elaine Labourel, (3rd from left)|
|Alexandra addresses the group|
In the final session we were given the example of an ideal pastoral encounter in Luke 24:13-35 as Jesus came alongside his disciples on the road to Emmaus. In their despair Jesus listens to them, he gives them freedom to react, he mirrors and reflects back, he reminds them of what they already know in the scriptures and he builds a bridge of trust. When he is recognized in the breaking of the bread, Jesus disappears and lets them move on.
After an uplifting Eucharist we also moved on, full of inspiration, to return to our own parts of the Diocese.
Thursday, 15 December 2016
|From the left: Fr Nigel, Mark Mallet-White, Fr David, the Revds Vivien and Ron Larkin|
|The entrance to St Andrew's multi-purpose building|
During the celebratory Sung Eucharist, I confirmed one of the parishioners, Mark Mallet-White.
Oh, and for the record, this was now the 3rd time in a row that I have visited St Andrew's and been separated from my luggage by Iberia! The parish is getting used to this, and are able to kit me out appropriately.
Tuesday, 13 December 2016
|Fr Howard at Diocesan Synod 2015|
Fr Howard has had a rich ministry as a priest. Ordained in 1969, he has served in the Dioceses of Southwark, and London, as well as in Egypt as Archdeacon for 14 years. In our Diocese he was Chaplain of St George's Venice and Christ Church Trieste from 2010 to 2015. He was a member of our Diocesan Synod until his retirement.
So many will miss his wise pastoral ministry, his gifts as a teacher of the Faith, his keen wit and sense of humour, and his excellent company.
God of love, receive into your presence your servant Howard whom you have called from this life. Welcome him into the company of your saints, in the kingdom of light and peace. We ask this through Christ our Lord.
Today is the Feast of St Lucy, the young woman martyred in Syracuse in 304 AD during the Diocletian persecution.
According to the Julian calendar used in Sweden until 1753, the night between the 12th and the 13th of December was Midwinter, the longest night of the year, when it was believed that extra protection was needed against darkness and evil. Hence in Sweden Sankta Lucia has become a major festival of light celebrated in churches, schools and homes. In the beautiful service St Lucy appears wearing a white gown, a crown of candles and a red ribbon around her waist as a sign of her martydom. She is accompanied by young people singing traditional Swedish songs and carols.
Each year in London Swedes and their friends come together for a great celebration of Sankta Lucia, to which I am invited, along with the clergy of Porvoo sister Churches. This year's celebration was in Westminster Roman Catholic Cathedral.
We witness the ongoing violence in Syria and Iraq, violent terrorist attacks like those of the past weekend, the bomb blast that killed 38 in Istanbul and then the attack on Coptic Christians worshipping in the chapel of SS Peter and Paul in the Cathedral compound in Cairo which killed at least 25, mostly women and children. There is great darkness in our world. Lucia is a powerful symbol of our faith, that good will prevail despite the apparent increase in evil and people continuing to behave at their worst towards their fellow human beings. St Lucy's feast day today is a reminder of the blessed light we all need, as St John's Gospel says, "The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness did not overcome it". (St John 1.5)
Monday, 5 December 2016
In the Church of England, after ordination, (or after a priest is received into the C of E from a Church not in communion with ours) a second phase of training is compulsory. This is called IME Phase 2. Various themes are covered in this training period which lasts 3 - 4 years, to assist clergy with their great demands in terms of spiritual and parochial leadership.
The Director of Ministerial Development, the Revd Canon Ulla Monberg, has recently completed directing another residential training session for our own IME Phase 2 candidates at St Columba's House, Woking. The group focussed on issues to do with observing boundaries in ministry, understanding transference and counter transference, dealing with the shadow self, safeguarding, priorities for ministry, and clergy well-being.
One of the resource persons for the sessions was the Revd Canon Philippa Boardman MBE, Canon Treasurer of St Paul's Cathedral. She invited the priests and deacons from across the diocese to bring maps from the places where they minister, which formed a cross on the floor of the chapel, providing an imaginative way to bring the participants together. This present IME Phase 2 class comes from Trondheim, Fuengirola, Athens, Aquitaine, Istanbul, Paris and Malaga.