I have this news from our Bishop which is now public: Establishment of European Deanery.
On March 14th The Most Reverend Mark Haverland, Metropolitan of the Original Province and Acting Primate of the Anglican Catholic Church appointed the Right Reverend Damien Mead as his Episcopal Commissary for Europe (i.e., for those portions of Europe not in his own Diocese of the United Kingdom). Since continental Europe is not part of an existing diocese, it falls within the jurisdiction of the metropolitan.
This appointment gives Bishop Mead formal authority to deal with ACC clergy (two live in Europe at present) and persons interested in joining the ACC or forming congregations there.
The Deanery of Europe will be administered for the time being by Bishop Mead on behalf of the Metropolitan and will be treated as an ‘honorary deanery’ within the Diocese of the United Kingdom.
There is also a dedicated page on our Diocesan web site: ACC European Deanery. This need in our Diocese began with my reception into the Anglican Catholic Church in April 2013 and the establishment of the Chaplaincy of St Mary the Virgin, Hautot Saint Sulpice, France. I originally applied to Bishop Damien Mead, and he needed to obtain special permission from Archbishop Mark Haverland to establish something outside his territorial jurisdiction (the United Kingdom). We are now two Chaplaincies in Continental Europe, the other being of my brother in the priesthood Fr Gregory Wassen Chaplaincy of St Boniface / Gemeenschap van Sint Bonifatius, Orvelte in the Netherlands.
In concrete terms, little will change. Fr Wassen and I remain under Bishop Damien’s jurisdiction as before, and we will continue to attend Synod each year in England and any Deanery meetings that might come up.
Neither France nor the Netherlands are Anglican countries. The Church of England has a European diocese whose Cathedral is located in Gibraltar, and its local communities are known as Chaplaincies. There are Chaplaincies for British expatriates and tourists in most major cities including Rome and Paris. Some French chaplaincies have attracted people who were hitherto Roman Catholics and sought something different for one reason or another.
We have also adopted this concept. I have always welcomed French people to services in my chapel when they wished to come, and I have prepared a translation of Mass in French which still needs a considerable amount of revision. They have invariably been my in-laws when coming to our house for Christmas or Easter. I have always avoided any proselytism in my area, because Anglicanism is not sectarian and must not appear to be so. There are very few English expatriates in my area. They tend to go to the Vendée (where I was from 2001 until 2005) and further south-west in areas like the Dordogne.
My main ministry at present is this blog. I endeavour to promote a liturgical, contemplative and humanist kind of Christianity in accordance with the doctrines of my Church (Affirmation of Saint Louis) and a philosophical approach. On any particular day this blog is read by people in the USA, the UK and Australia, since my language is English. I usually have 4 to 8 French readers able to read English, but who have never commented on postings. Some time ago, I tried a blog in French, but it never attracted any interest.
Here in Continental Europe, it is a spiritual desert. Roman Catholicism occupies the same place in society as mainstream Anglicanism in the British Isles. It is there for occasional Sunday attendance at Mass, the main feasts, weddings and burials. Within the “unwashed masses”, there is certainly a minority attracted to spiritual themes and alternative medicine, very much a “consumer mentality”. I am not interested in “marketing” to bring in “clients”. It works in America but not here.
Why Chaplaincies in Europe? I can’t speak for Fr Wassen, but I live here and I am a priest. We are all non-stipendiary priests in our Diocese, and therefore live in our own houses wherever they are and have our own chapels. Fr Wassen’s chapel is a room in his house and mine is an outbuilding which is a part of my property. The existence of a chapel depends on the existence of the priest. That would change if groups of laity got together and decided to set up a stable chapel and an association to manage the money coming in and being spent. They would the call on a priest. Such a community would imply their being English expatriates, Anglicans and motivated to leave the Established Church to join us. Most Roman Catholics are dubious about our Orders (Leo XIII’s Apostolicae Curae of 1896). The mentality and “lie of the land” are totally different in America and the British Isles.
What of the future? I think that other priests, more or less suitable, will present themselves and any communities they might have. Many in France, Italy, Belgium and elsewhere have gone the way of the “independent sacramental movement” with various results. They require a considerable amount of discernment as to their fundamental agreement with our way in the ACC and their essential stability and sense of vocation. A few are quite dubious characters, so we have to be very careful. To what extent can we “inculturate” outside the English-speaking countries? Do we present a fundamentally traditionalist ideology which is less extreme in political terms? Our history and struggles are not theirs.
We need to be ourselves. Fr Wassen with his experience of Orthodoxy and my own interest in the medieval and Renaissance underpinnings (local rites, high culture, etc.) give us something unique to offer, a Catholic vision which is neither Protestant nor Counter-Reformation, and which is humanist and gentle in pastoral terms and our manner of dealing with people. The vision is subtle, but needs to be expressed and explained, as I do in this blog. If we have something unique to offer, and that appeals to people, they will eventually approach us, and we can be of service to them in the communion and fellowship of the Church. We are not parish priests but chaplains, priests available to serve those who call on us.