On Saturday 28th January, the Archdeacon of France, The Venerable Meurig Williams, was welcomed to his new ministry at a Eucharist in St George’s, Paris, at which Bishop Robert presided. Over 100 people from the Archdeaconry attended the service.
In the city where he had been a student in the 13th Century, the feast-day of Thomas Aquinas, provided the context for a celebration of welcome and renewal of ministry.
In his sermon, the Archdeacon used the now-infamous words (scribbled on a notepad taken into a Brexit meeting at Downing Street) as a sub-text: “French likely to be most difficult.” He spoke of the challenges and opportunities for Anglicans in France, as the political status quo is questioned, and the public place of religion is becoming more prominent after recent tragedies in Paris, Nice and St Etienne de Rouvray. He encouraged our churches in France to be part of this public debate, and to make a distinctive contribution to the communities where they serve. The Archdeacon highlighted the international character of many of our worshipping communities in France. He saw this as a great strength as debates continue about migration and integration. He also offered support and affirmation to all those who were feeling insecure after the result of the Brexit referendum.
In welcoming the new Archdeacon, Bishop Robert spoke of his personal delight that Meurig had accepted ‘huge and difficult’ responsibilities. He emphasised the depth of experience, as well as the breadth of the pastoral wisdom, Meurig brings to his new role. He was an Archdeacon in Wales from 2004-2011; and more recently, served as Archdeacon of North-West Europe. Bishop Robert expressed the hope that one of the gifts Meurig would bring to his new role is facilitating good appointments to chaplaincies.
The Eucharist reflected the multi-lingual character of the congregation gathered to welcome the new Archdeacon. Prayers we offered in English, French, Malagasy and Welsh. Alongside Haydn’s ‘Little Organ Mass’ there was an anthem by the Twentieth Century composer, William Mathias (to whom Meurig’s father, a Baptist minister, had once been pastor), and several rousing Welsh hymn-tunes.
As the Archdeacon said in his sermon, “Laïcité (the distinctive French word to describe the division between Church and State) may be here to stay… But we have a role in discerning what its new meaning might be for a new situation. One thing Anglicans are good at is interpretation, and fathoming the new truth into which the Spirit is leading us."
Pictured below - Archdeacon Meurig with his PA, Caroline Gaumy