The new Archdeacon of France has encouraged Anglicans to be part of the public debate in the country and to make a distinctive contribution to the communities where they serve. The Venerable Meurig Williams, during a service in Paris marking his new ministry, spoke of the challenges and opportunities for Anglicans in France, at a time when the political status quo is being questioned and the public place of religion is becoming more prominent following recent the recent deadly attacks in Paris, Nice and St Ettiene de Rouveray.
In welcoming the new Archdeacon, the Bishop of Gibraltar in Europe, Dr Robert Innes, spoke of his personal delight that someone for whom he had ‘huge respect’ was willing to accept the ‘demanding responsibilities of oversight’ for France at a crucial time of uncertainty in Europe. In his sermon, the new Archdeacon said France was facing a serious political and cultural crisis over the place of religion – and religious minorities in particular – as well as tensions directly related to migration:
“There is little doubt that there needs to be a responsible public debate about the contribution faith communities can make to the future cohesion and diversity of France. This can be done in all kinds of practical ways, as we offer hospitality, space for conversation, and grasp opportunities to be further integrated into the communities we serve. Thinking imaginatively about how our worship looks deeper into God and further outwards, towards those whose needs are not being met by our preferred style, is a good starting place. …The international character of many of our churches is one way of ensuring that we don’t sink into a comfortable cultural myopia.”
Meurig Williams was an Archdeacon in the Church in Wales for six years and has served as Archdeacon of North-West Europe for the past five years. He took his first degree in French and Welsh, before becoming a modern languages teacher. He sensed a call to ministry whilst staying at the Taize community in France. He describes himself as a ‘Welsh European’ and says his new ministry is ‘my dream job.’