New beginnings: Getting our message across in Europe

Last week we progressed as a family to the next step of securing Belgian ID cards at the local commune; and we had our obligatory visit (quite early on a Saturday morning …) from the local policeman, who explained self-effacingly, that he is a minor movie star in Belgium!  Good news:  I’m advised we should all have our ID issued ahead of Christmas.  This will be a familiar experience wherever you are across the Diocese in Europe. It has got me thinking about identity, who we are, and the different roles we play in life and work.  For me, getting my ID will be a new identity and a new role in a familiar country, given 9 years previously living and studying, then working in Belgium in diplomatic postings for the UK Government.

We loved our first visit to what will be our new church.  It was a baptism service for a little girl gifted with her Christian identity. I paused for a moment to consider that we baptised our own children, just before we moved on, both times: our elder son in Brussels, born with a Belgian and UK identity; and our younger son, in England as the movers beckoned, born with UK identity who will now become Belgian as well.  Add to the family mix that my wife was born in South Africa and acquired UK, and soon Belgian identity.  We’re just one more example of a European family with mixed identities.  And that’s become immediately apparent, too, at my son’s new school, where the diversity of nationalities and backgrounds is not just accommodated, but celebrated.

As for my new role, these are new beginnings for me working full-time in the Church environment.  During my first weeks, I’ve begun getting to know something of the life and work of the Diocese.  I want to thank everyone for such warmth of welcome, whether in person, or on social media as I have been starting my role in October, in both my capacities as European Institutions Attaché to Bishop Robert, and as Diocesan Communications Director, leading on Bishops’ media advice and all aspects of communications. I have been meeting with a full range of new stakeholders. These include MEPs, MPs, European sister churches, and other faith-based organisations and advocacy groups in Brussels and Strasbourg. I have started to get to know colleagues at the Diocesan Office, Lambeth Palace, Anglican Communion Office, and Church House.  And I’ve had a first glimpse of the diversity of issues and activities across the Diocese. Amongst other things, I’ve seen fantastic photos of poppy displays in Yprès, discussed social media with our Diocesan twitter group on zoomlink with our dedicated volunteers, and attended an Archdeaconry Synod in Drongen, the Bishop’s Council,  and a Lambeth conference on Brexit with our friends in the German Protestant Church.  And I've been tracking closely all the twists and turns of Brexit, advising on their potential implications for our Church.

The 2018 Diocesan Review will be published both in hard copy and online on our Diocesan website in early Advent. It’s not exactly a new beginning, but it will be an opportunity to highlight and share great achievements across the Diocese, and I'd like to thank all who are contributing.  I look forward to meeting many more of you over the weeks and months to come.  I welcome your contact and views on any aspect of the work I’m here to do in the Diocese.  This includes my advocacy role across the European institutions (EU, Council of Europe and OSCE) covering key issues namely Brexit, human rights, freedom of religious expression, migration and human trafficking; or on issues affecting the Anglican Communion more widely, including trade and development and climate security.  

The same applies to communications, where I would like our Diocesan ambition to recognise fully geographical expanse as an opportunity and catalyst for good communications, really smart use of our tech, and excellent training provision.  A key message I am getting already is that we need to improve our website to make staffing, key contacts, core information and guidance more accessible and up to date.  These include things like important areas such as the Diocesan policy on preventing bullying and harassment, which was published yesterday.  That message is “received and understood and there will be more on this soon”. In the meantime, please keep the feedback coming!   

Finally, I need your help across the wide range of media and comms tools we have to build the teams needed across the Diocese.  Do you potentially have some time and talent to share, whether on copy editing, website design and maintenance, social media, or film?   I hope you might, and if so, I’d love to hear from you.

Contact:     T: +32 2 213 74 83  M: +32 470 470 283