The 2016 Eastern Archdeaconry Synod in Warsaw

Members of the Eastern Archdeaconry Synod with Bishop Robert, following the concluding Sunday morning Eucharist © Ricky Yates

Members of the Eastern Archdeaconry Synod with Bishop Robert, following the concluding Sunday morning Eucharist © Ricky Yates

Between Thursday 22nd – Monday 26th September, I attended my ninth and final meeting of the Eastern Archdeaconry Synod which this year, was hosted by the Warsaw Chaplaincy. My first Eastern Archdeaconry Synod was in mid September 2008, held in Corfu, in the week before Sybille and I moved to Prague and before I commenced writing this blog. Subsequent Synod meetings were in Izmir in 2009, Vienna in 2010, Bucharest in 2011, Attica, Athens in 2012, Woking 🙂 in 2013, Prague in 2014 and Zagreb in 2015.

Our Synod meeting took place in Dobre Miejsce, a Roman Catholic Conference Centre located in delightful woodland on the north-western outskirts of Warsaw. It proved to be an excellent venue with comfortable single rooms, a well equipped conference meeting room and a large chapel for worship. The only downsides were the food, which was quite repetitive and very traditionally Polish, and a wifi network which frequently disconnected 🙁

In order to get to Warsaw, I chose to drive, accompanied by Churchwarden Gordon Truefitt, one of our two lay delegates to the Synod. Jack Noonan, the other lay delegate, was also going to travel with us but eventually chose to fly, (at his own expense), as he needed to leave Prague later on Thursday 22nd and return on Sunday evening, rather than on Monday 26th. It is an indication of the vast size of our Eastern Archdeaconry in that the Prague Anglican Chaplaincy is the nearest one to Warsaw, yet my journey was one of almost 700 kilometres.

During the Synod, we enjoyed three Bible studies led by Rev’d Neil Richardson, a Methodist theologian and Biblical scholar. He explored the ministry and writings of St. Paul and how they can be applied in the life of our Chaplaincies.

A good part of our time on Friday, was taken up addressing the issue of ‘Safeguarding’ and how we are to implement the instructions with regard to this subject, coming down to us from the Church of England centrally and the House of Bishops. We had two long sessions, led by the Diocesan Safeguarding Manager, Ian Carter, a former police officer. The training clergy and volunteer leaders are going to have to undertake, seems incredibly onerous. It is the quickest way to put off people volunteering to help in our Chaplaincies!

However, the need to do this was brought home to me in part of the address to Synod the following day, by our Diocesan Bishop, Rt Rev’d Dr Robert Innes. Here are two paragraphs from that address, which clearly highlight the problem.

‘In recent decades it has become apparent that the Church in Europe has not cared as it should have done for children and vulnerable people. As a direct result, in some countries, trust in the church has plummeted. In Belgium, (where Bishop Robert is based), a recent survey by our leading consumer magazine, showed that the RC church is one of the least trusted institutions in our country – trusted far less than the army, the social services, even politicians. I found that deeply shocking.

So our emphasis on safeguarding is about building a high trust culture. It means establishing systems and procedures that, as far as we can, give people confidence that those of our people who are in positions of trust are genuinely trustworthy.’

Late on Saturday afternoon, we had a session on growing new congregations. We heard about some exciting developments in Poland with new Polish-speaking and English-speaking congregations being established in Kraków and with plans for a new congregation in Gdansk. I was asked to speak about how the Brno congregation came into being, here in the Czech Republic.

As always, the time spent informally with colleagues over meals and evening drinks at the bar, were some of the most valuable parts of our Synod in Warsaw. Working as we all do in isolated situations, it is difficult to put into words the importance of this time spent together, once a year.

The Synod ended with a Sunday Eucharist at which Bishop Robert was the celebrant and preacher. For this service, we were joined by the Warsaw Chaplaincy congregation. Immediately afterwards, the Synod members posed for the photograph at the beginning of this post, though a couple of Chaplains are missing from the picture.

I should end this post by expressing my thanks to Rev’d David Brown, the Chaplain in Warsaw, and to his Churchwarden Patrick Acheson, who together did a marvellous job, organising the Synod. Having hosted the Synod in Prague in 2014, I know the amount of work and stress that is involved! Thanks are also due to Archdeacon Colin Williams, for whom it was his first experience of being in overall charge of the Eastern Archdeaconry Synod, having officially come into post at last year’s Synod meeting in Zagreb.

Are Czech Churches welcoming?

Salvátor Church © Ricky Yates

Back on the last Sunday of January 2016, we were joined at St. Clement’s for worship by Alex and Kathleen, a Czech-British couple, together with about fifteen of their family and friends. Alex and Kathleen live in the UK and are regular worshippers at their local parish church. But they also maintain a flat in Prague and, whenever they spend time here, they always join us for worship at St. Clements.

Alex was celebrating his ninetieth birthday, hence his family and friends had travelled from various parts of the world, to be in Prague to mark this special occasion. And attending our Church service that morning, was seen as an integral part of the weekend of celebrations.

A few months previously, Kathleen had asked me if they could invite . . . → Read More: Are Czech Churches welcoming?

A view across Dresden

The Frauenkirche from the Augustusbrücke © Ricky Yates

On the evening of Sunday 21st August, I once again officiated at the monthly English-language Anglican Service of Evening Prayer, hosted by the Frauenkirche, Dresden. But additionally, I was invited to attend a Sommerfest the following evening, being laid on as a ‘Thank you’, to everyone who helps at the Frauenkirche throughout the year, both volunteers and paid staff.

So instead of returning to Prague on the Monday morning as I normally do, I stayed on for a further day and night, in order to enjoy the Sommerfest. This in turn meant that I had several hours during the day on Monday 22nd August, to occupy myself. As the weather was fine, I decided to climb the Frauenkirche dome, in order to reach the viewing platform, 67.06 metres above ground . . . → Read More: A view across Dresden

Mariánské Lázne

The larger colonnade in Mariánské Lázne © Ricky Yates

Mariánské Lázne is a spa town in West Bohemia, located not far from the German border. Better known by its German name of Marienbad, in the nineteenth century, it developed as one of the top European spas, popular with notable figures and rulers who often returned there on numerous occasions.

To meet the needs of these international visitors, a whole series of hotels, colonnades and other buildings were constructed. These included Churches of different denominations, all located in relatively close proximity to each other.

Kostel Svatého Vladimíra © Ricky Yates

This is Kostel Svatého Vladimíra, the Russian Orthodox Church. It is still in use, though the number of Russian visitors has dropped considerably in recent times, because of the serious fall in value of . . . → Read More: Mariánské Lázne

More about the wedding of Phillip and Lisa

My postcard. Photo © Ricky Yates

One of the delightful features of Phillip and Lisa’s wedding were the individual touches they created that made every guest feel welcome. One of these was a named envelope, marking the place where each person was to sit at the reception, which contained an illustrated postcard with a personal message on the back.

Apparently, during her childhood, Lisa spent numerous holidays in Skegness, a traditional British seaside resort on the Lincolnshire coast. Phillip recreated his own version of a famous 1908 poster by the illustrator John Hassall (1868-1948), produced for the Great Northern Railway, declaring that ‘Skegness is SO bracing’.

Here is mine, declaring that Coventry, the city of my birth and the first eighteen years of my life is, ‘SO bracing’ 🙂 Whilst the artwork is a fairly . . . → Read More: More about the wedding of Phillip and Lisa