The Archdeacon of France, Ven Meurig Williams, often finds himself at Bruxelles-Midi station at an early hour. On a Saturday at the end of February it was to travel to Strasbourg on the 07.17 TGV, his first ever visit to the city where the European Parliament meets and to St Alban’s, the Anglican Chaplaincy in the city.
The visit was not just an in-house, Anglican affair. Meurig spent some time with the Reverend Christian Krieger, President of the Synodical Council of the Reformed Protestant Church of Alsace Lorraine. With the Bishop of Warwick, John Stroyan, Christian is co-chair of the Reuilly Commission (of which Meurig is a member), promoting dialogue between the Church of England and the French Protestant churches. “Given Strasbourg’s part in the on-going momentum of the Reformation, and the exchanges between the Reformers of that city and (what became) the Church of England, our meeting had a particular resonance”, Meurig commented.
The major part of the visit was to the Anglican congregation in Strasbourg as they prepare to advertise for a new chaplain. “This is a wonderfully vibrant international community” Meurig remarked. “It deserves a gifted priest, who will not simply be a chaplain to regular worshippers, but will also reconnect the church with the European institutions and encourage a much wider cultural engagement with the city.” In a city as beautiful as Strasbourg, this should be achievable!
Because of the city’s history as part of Germany until 1919, the French secular constitutional stance, Laïcite, does not feature here and there is a kind of church-state relationship with the Lutheran and Evangelical churches.
On the Sunday before Lent, the Eucharist in St Alban’s was a lively celebration of the mystery at the heart of the Church, with an international congregation of 80 or so people. Meurig says that he will long-remember the Malgache community at St Alban’s leading the singing of the Gloria as well as wonderful refreshments prepared for the after-service communal meal.