A Season in Europe


Francis Noordanus retired as Chaplain in Eindhoven in the Diocese in November and has now returned to his native New Zealand.  He provides a reflection on his ministry among us in this piece:

It’s early December and I am sitting in a managed isolation hotel in Christchurch New Zealand after 18.5 years as Chaplain in Eindhoven and the Diocese in Europe.  As the jetlag is subsiding it’s a good moment to provide the reflection I have been asked to share.


Photo: Trinity Church, Eindhoven

The question I wish to consider is what was this actually all about and, what was it not about?  What provides the vein of significance to celebrate and hold dear?  In my 2001 interview for the Eindhoven position with Bishop Henry Scriven I was asked only one short question.  In response I only had one question:  “Can you tell me this is not about looking after homesick ex-pats?”  The energetic response was the one I needed:  “No, as a diocese we are about mission and …. “

Consequently, that answer and other questions of purpose then puzzled me for years.  Beyond keeping it all together, the question of our corporate purpose at both congregational and diocesan level, along with clarity over what the operating governing values and priorities really were seemed foggy and a bit random. 

My own resolution of all this was to consider the basic task assigned to us as ‘International Ministry’.  Many people assumed that because I was in The Netherlands I was there to reach the Dutch.  Many Dutch assumed that we were there to serve the community where we worshipped.  What I came to see was that actually I was there to advance the gospel among English speakers from around the world who were in our region.  That became the purpose for me to focus on with other things being incidental.

If I had been more institutionally orientated, I may have agreed with the sometime voiced view that we were on Continental Europe to be the classic via media between Reformed and Roman branches of the Western Church in an ecumenical mission.  I could also have accepted the priority of ‘providing’ worship appropriate to English nationals on the continent in the styles they were accustomed to – typically from decades past, while conforming to the canons of the Church of England.  Despite their promotion these agendas were too difficult to commend to younger internationals, even to global Anglicans as they arrived from around the world.

Instead, the precious opportunity Barbara and I began to recognise was that when people move, when people embrace a spouse from another culture, when people return to church after a long absence, they are often ready to grow and go deep with God.  There is what I came to term the ‘Abraham dynamic’.  Abraham’s journey as an economic migrant conditioned him for God’s transforming works in his life.  The priestly figures Abraham met on his journeys provided the sort of significant ministry I saw happening in chaplaincy.  In consequence I had the privilege of baptising many new believers and deepening the baptism of many returning believers. 


Photo: F. Noordanus

God seemed to send waves:  Chinese students, two pews filled by the core of a Dutch student fellowship and many Indian engineers with their families plus more.  They were primed for what God could do in an English speaking Anglican chaplaincy.  Over the years a new genuinely international church emerged based in part on a shared experience of turning to God in changing circumstances and either finding Christ or going deeper.

God is always moving people and peoples.  I believe that even among the locally settled, chaplaincies in the Diocese in Europe are well placed to engage those people movements to do small or large significant work among those the Lord leads to our places of worship.  I would commend that mission priority.


Photo: F. Noordanus


I pray that the generous hospitality extended by the Church of England on the European continent in the many chaplaincies continues to enable the Gospel to advance among people whose migration involves a journey into God through English language ministry.