Through a glass darkly – 81

Salut de Chantilly

I am writing this from Chantilly, where I have been since the beginning of September, doing a locum chaplaincy at St Peter’s, Chantilly. There has been an Anglican chaplaincy in Chantilly since the early 19th century, established to serve the needs of the English-speaking community who came here to develop the horse-racing industry. A neo-Gothic church, very English in style, was built in 1865 on land gifted by the Duc d’Aumale, the 5th son of King Louis-Philippe. The Duc d’Aumale [1822-1897] was fabulously wealthy after inheriting 66 million livres and the estate of his god-father, the last Prince of Condé; and was very fond of England where he spent nearly thirty years in exile at Strawberry Hill, outside Twickenham, after the revolution of 1848.

Not the rectory

In 1973 the Intercontinental Church Society renewed their patronage of St Peter’s, and have been involved in the recruitment of a succession of full-time chaplains. In 1991-92 a Church Centre was built on the plot adjacent to the church; with meeting rooms, a lending library, a kitchen and an office on the lower two floors, and an apartment for the chaplain on the upper two floors. More recently various fund-raising initiatives have enabled work to be carried out on a new drainage system, the introduction of a new heating system, and other work on the church roof and the church interior. So the building is in pretty good shape.

Sometimes locum clergy can feel under-employed during the week. [My annoyingly not-quite omniscient MacBook has just corrected that to scum clergy !] But life here has been busier than I had anticipated. On alternate Sundays there are two morning services: a 1662 Prayer Book Communion, and a Common Worship Service of the Word. In addition to the Sunday morning services, there have been a bring-and-share church lunch, invitations to dinner and to lunch, a Service of Prayer and Reflection following the death of Queen Elizabeth, a slightly fractious Church Council meeting, and a Golden Wedding celebration. And also the funeral of John, the Church Treasurer, and most recently two days of church opening for the Journées de la Patrimoine, which coincided with a church book and cake sale. And on Sunday evening I was invited to a splendid Son et lumière, recounting some of the history of the Duc d’Aumale and the chateau.

St Peter’s Church, Chantilly

Sarah Tillett, the previous chaplain, came to the end of her fixed term appointment in July, and she is now walking the Santiago de Compestella. The latter years of her chaplaincy were not entirely happy. Here, as in other chaplaincies in the diocese of Europe, there are two rather different models of church life. First, there is the idea that these chaplaincies should be gatherings of [elderly] expat Anglicans, who meet for mutual encouragement and support around the Book of Common Prayer, and who are keen to maintain [or recreate] the church of their childhood.  [I know who a man who, a few years back, was encouraged to go to the Anglican Church in Lyon because “you meet a better class of person there”.  But there is another model, which sees these churches as essentially gathered, multi-cultural and multi-confessional congregations, that bring people together from a wide variety of backgrounds in order to worship God in English, which might be a first or a second, or even a third, language. Both these descriptions are caricatures.  It is easy to say that the congregations should be both … and, and not  either … or. But it is easy to see how tensions arise. Which then affect such issues as liturgies, hymnody, the arrangement of the church pews etc.

Journées de la Patrimoine

Back on the home front

As I’ve been here in Chantilly, I have missed much of the national outpouring of grief and thanksgiving that followed the rather sudden death of the Queen. Had we been in Edinburgh, I think I would have attempted to witness the lying in state. I have never thought of myself as being a royalist, but at our service here on the day after the Queen died we gave thanks for her seventy years of dedicated service to her country, for her accumulated wisdom and her love of peace, and for her shining Christian faith. She was, I guess, the most prominent Christian leader of her generation. At the service here in Chantilly I recalled standing in the rain in Trafalgar Square as a seven-year-old on the morning of her Coronation. And then rushing home to watch the events on a neighbour’s tiny black-and-white television screen. It may have been the first time that I saw a television set. And I remembered too meeting the Queen at the National Bible Society of Scotland in the 1990s. And my mind going totally blank when she asked me a question.

The death of the Queen understandably dominated the British press. But I see today that Lis Truss’s government {words that I might have hoped never to write] are going to address the burgeoning economic crisis by tax cuts for the wealthy and by abolishing the cap on bankers’ bonuses. Trickle-down economics has always been a complete myth.. This may be the first government of my lifetime that doesn’t address the needs of the poor and disadvantaged, and that has abandoned any pretence at levelling -up.

More bad news

Susie is not here in Chantilly. The reason for that is that our lovely and much-loved daughter, Joanna, was diagnosed with cancer in the bowel and in the liver on August 18th. Since when she and her family have had a long planned holiday in a gite down near Beziers. And she has returned, and embarked on an initial three months of chemotherapy. It is a devastating blow for her and for all the family. I haven’t wanted to post a blog in recent weeks because I don’t like writing this down.

Joanna and Susie, Normandy, June 2022

Joanna and Craig and their two daughters are warmly supported by members of their church, King’s Church, Wycombe. And by a wide group of friends. And they are being upheld in prayer by their own church, and by groups of praying friends elsewhere in England and in Scotland, and also here in France and in Belgium. Susie is close by, staying with our son and daughter-in-law in Watlington, not far away in Oxfordshire. I am here in Chantilly until next week, and then return by train to Edinburgh. Plans are constantly under review. We pray on.

September 2022

Published by europhilevicar

I am a retired vicar living on the south side of Edinburgh. I am a historian manqué, I worked in educational publishing for 20 years, and after ordination worked in churches in the Scottish Borders and then in Lyon in the Rhône-Alpes. I have a lovely and long-suffering wife, two children, and four delightful grand-children

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