From the morning of Sunday 5th July, through to the morning of Monday 13th July, Sybille and I had the pleasure of having Lea Williams staying with us at the Chaplaincy Flat, as part of his ‘Long Summer Placement’. Lea is training for ordained ministry in the Church of England at Ripon College, Cuddesdon, just outside Oxford. As part of his training, he is required to spend at least four weeks, gaining experience in a parish setting, in advance of his final year of theological study.
Because prior to commencing studying at Cuddesdon, Lea had worked for three years in a parish setting as a full-time Children’s Worker, it was thought that he ought to experience a contrasting setting for his ‘Long Summer Placement’. Therefore, the recently appointed new principal of Cuddesdon, Bishop Humphrey Southern, suggested Lea should go and spend his time with my colleague Rev’d Clive Fairclough, the Anglican Chaplain in Moscow. Clive had been Bishop Humphrey’s curate when Humphrey was an Incumbent in the Diocese of Salisbury. But because Clive and his wife Joanna, could only host Lea for three weeks, it was agreed that he should spend the balance of his placement time with me.
Observant readers of my blog may have noticed that I mentioned enjoying lunch and having meetings at Ripon College, Cuddesdon, during my recent visit to the UK at the beginning of June. This was in order to meet with the Placements Tutor, Rev’d Dr Jane Baum, as well as to discuss practicalities and expectations with Lea. But at this point, I should say that I already knew Lea and his Czech wife Petra, because I conducted their wedding at Bouzov Castle near Olomouc, in July 2009. It was, as the blogpost is entitled, ‘My first Czech Wedding‘
As explained in a most helpful booklet produced by Ripon College, Cuddesdon, the placement is, ‘a significant milestone in the transition from lay to ordained ministry. It is a chance for the student to observe and experience for themselves the role of an ordained minister, and to reflect on what it will be like for them to exercise this role.’ Whilst the eight days Lea was with me were far from being typical, there were fortunately, plenty of interesting things going on. And I hope that he gained some insight into what is like being an ordained priest in charge of a continental European Chaplaincy.
Whilst Lea is on placement, (I use the present tense because he is currently in Moscow until early August), Petra, together with their two children, is staying with her father and other family members in Olomouc. On the morning of Sunday 5th July, Lea travelled by train from Olomouc to Prague, to be at our 11.00 Sung Eucharist. He then travelled with me all the way to Brno, for the regular monthly evening service there, at which he led intercessions, before we made the return journey together back to Prague. As a result, Lea did see rather a lot of the Czech Republic in one day!
On Monday 6th July, we attended a whole series of events marking the sixth hundredth anniversary of the martyrdom of Jan Hus about which there will be a separate blog post shortly. Tuesday 7th was mainly taken up with admin, whilst we took Wednesday 8th as our ‘day off’.
We spent Thursday 9th in Dresden, visiting the Frauenkirche and meeting the two Protestant Ministers who work there. This was the first step in preparation for me taking responsibility, from January 2016, for the monthly English Anglican service that is held there on the third Sunday evening of each month. This is also to be the subject of another blog post
Then we spent Friday morning, attending the last part of the Fifth Conference of representatives of the Cross of Nails Community in Central and Eastern Europe which was being held in Prague that week. The conference ended with a Festive Service at which the Dean of Coventry Cathedral, Very Rev’d John Witcombe, gave a address on the theme, ’75 Years of Peace Efforts by Coventry Cathedral – Turning enemies into friends’. This in turn, will be the subject of a third forthcoming blog post!
Lea’s Prague placement culminated with him being the preacher at our 11.00 Sung Eucharist on Sunday 12th July. He experienced what I often call the ‘Discipline of the Lectionary’ in that the Gospel reading set was Mark 6. 14-29, which tells the rather unedifying story of the beheading of John the Baptist. But he bravely tackled the story head-on and received much positive feedback from several members of the congregation who I asked to complete ‘Sermon Evaluation Sheets’ for him. We posed for the photograph at the beginning of this post, in the chancel of St Clement’s Church, following the service.
However, it wasn’t all work. Being married to a Czech lady, Lea was already aware of the delights of Czech beer. Here he is, enjoying another 0.5l of his favourite Cerný Kozel.