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Danish queen marks Anglican parish restoration: The Church of England Newspaper, November 1, 2013 November 5, 2013

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Queen Margrethe II of Denmark joined the Bishop of Gibraltar in Europe, the Rt. Rev. Geoffrey Rowell  in the re-dedication of St. Albans Anglican Church in Copenhagen last week. In 2012 the church began a campaign to restore the 125 year old church, built with the assistance of Queen Alexandra, the consort of Edward VII and Princess of Denmark. The 20 October celebration marked the completion of repairs to the church’s Victorian stained glass windows and its Queen Alexandra memorial.

In his sermon Dr. Rowell noted the generosity of the congregation in its support for the project hoping those present would “keep this forever in the imagination of the thoughts of the heart of thy people.”

Anglican Christmas services return to St Petersburg: The Church of England Newspaper, January 13, 2013 p 5. January 21, 2013

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Altar of the English Church, St Petersburg

Ninety six years after its last service, an Anglican Christmas service was held  at the historic English Chapel in St Petersburg.

The British Consul General in St Petersburg along with English speaking Anglicans in the Russia’s second city returned to worship at the two hundred year old church for the second time since the October Revolution.  Last November, Remembrance Sunday was celebrated at the Church designed by the Imperial court architect Giacomo Quarenghi.

“It was very important to hold this service exactly in this church that once used to be the center of the British community for more than 200 years,” Mr Ward told the Moscow Times. “And it is very important for the British community to have access to this church again.”

Churchwarden Adrian Terris told the Moscow Times the expatriate community had been working for several years to worship once more in the English Church, and thanked the St. Petersburg Conservatory for their cooperation in allowing them to return.

Built by the Russia Company in Archangel, the church was moved to Russia’s new capital, St Petersburg in 1712.  From 1721 until 1917, the church was located at 56 English Embankment on land given by the Tsar to the British community in Russia.  The current Palladian neo-classical style church was built in 1875 to accommodate 2500 worshipers.  With the outbreak of the Russian Revolution, however, the church was closed and the building seized by the state.

Anglican worship resumed in St Petersburg following the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1993, with services held at the city’s Swedish Lutheran Church.  The St Petersburg English Church is supported by St Andrew’s Anglican Church in Moscow, but the city has no resident Anglican chaplain at this time.

The church’s website states services St. Petersburg’s branch of the English church does not have its own permanent chaplain; services are instead led by Anglican clergy on short-term visits from Britain or by local clergy from the Swedish and Finnish Lutheran churches.

Bishop Rowell to stay in office past 70: The Church of England Newspaper, May 27, 2012 p 7. June 4, 2012

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The Rt. Rev. Geoffrey Rowell

The Bishop of Gibraltar in Europe, the Rt. Rev. Geoffrey Rowell has been granted permission by the Archbishop of Canterbury to remain in office past his 70th birthday.

While noting that Bishop Rowell will celebrate his 70th birthday in February 2012 and according to the canons of the Church of England must retire, the diocesan website reported that Bishop Rowell and Dr. Williams had concluded “that it would be desirable for him to stay on during the process amending the Diocese in Europe Measure and other changes to allow the Church Commissioners to make further grants to the diocese for ministry and mission including the possibility of appointing four full time Archdeacons.”

The diocese on 14 May 2012 reported that Bishop Rowell had assured clergy and lay leaders that he was “committed to serving during the legislative changes planned for streamlining and updating ministry and mission in the Diocese.”

Changes to the diocese’s administrative structures are set for debate at its June synod meeting, and may be brought before the July General Synod meeting in York.

A new retirement date will be set by the next Archbishop of Canterbury, the diocese reports.  “Since Dr Rowan Williams has already announced his retirement it has been agreed that a precise retirement date for Bishop Geoffrey can be agreed, once Dr Williams’ successor is in post.”

First printed in The Church of England Newspaper.

No windfall from Prague, Diocese in Europe reports: The Church of England Newspaper, March 8, 2012 March 8, 2012

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The former Anglican Church in Marienbad

January’s vote by the Czech parliament to return church properties confiscated during the Communist era does not affect the Church of England, a spokesman for the Diocese of Gibraltar in Europe tells The Church of England Newspaper.

The Rev. Paul Needle stated that “there are no grounds for seeking to engage in any kind of discussion with the State over Anglican property in the Czech Republic.”

On 7 February 2012 the lower house of the Czech parliament approved the first reading of a bill to return to the country’s churches their confiscated assets, buildings and land worth 75 billion crowns (£2.5 billion) plus 59 billion crowns (£2 billion) in a cash compensation to be paid out over the next 30 years.

The Catholic Church and the state have been negotiating over the return of confiscated church lands since the 1989 “Velvet Revolution”, however a lack of public support for the return of the properties to their original owners in the largely atheist country has delayed an agreement.

“Seventy-four billion crowns will be returned mostly to church orders, and twenty-four billion crowns mostly to the Roman Catholic church,” the chairman of the Czech ecumenical council, Joel Ruml, told Reuters.

“But the property of a value of fifty-nine billion crowns will still remain with the state; villages, regions and so on. And built-up areas and properties on more than six-hundred hectares of lands mostly in towns and villages are not even classified there,” he said.

Church leaders have welcomed the government’s decision saying it will enable them to become independent of state support and open schools, provide support to the poor and re-evangelize the country. However the some political leaders have objected to the payout. “We don’t think that in today’s fiscal situation is reasonable to pay compensation to the church amounting to nearly sixty billion crowns,” said the vice-chairman of the opposition Czech Social Democrats (CSSD), Jiri Dienstbier.

The Church of England maintained three congregations in Czechoslovakia before the German annexation in 1938: Prague, Marienbad and Karlsbad. The diocese in Europe’s spokesman said the Church of England had always rented its facilities in Prague, but an Anglican church had been established in Mariánské Lázně (Marienbad) in the 19th century for the benefit of Anglicans on holiday or having spa treatment in the town.”

“King Edward VII paid several visits and there is a plaque on the church wall commemorating a number of his attendance at services there. Services lapsed during the course of the 20th century and the church building was compulsorily purchased by the town’s Communist authorities in 1976 and its formal connection with the Anglican church ceased,“ Mr. Needle said.

The church building is currently used as a concert hall, and Mr. Needle noted the sum raised from its sale (66,398 crowns), originally went to USPG with the stipulation that it should only be used in the Czechoslovak Republic. “It subsequently helped to fund the present ministry in Prague,” he said.

“We also used to have a church in the bigger spa of Karlovy Vary, (Karlsbad). A Czech cleric, Artur Jersák, wrote to the British Embassy in May 1990 saying that in view of the liberalisation of religion he was writing to see if the British would assist in the spiritual renewal of the country presumably by granting some funds to help with church restoration. The Anglican Church of St Luke was built in 1877 but since 1947 had been in the care of the Czechoslovak Methodist Church,” he said.

First printed in The Church of England Newspaper.