The Diocese of Salisbury has been twinned with the Roman Catholic Diocese of Évreux since 1987. The link provides opportunities for parishes and individuals in the Diocese of Salisbury to link with those in Évreux. There are already links between parishes in the two Dioceses, with highly successful exchanges in both directions. There are yearly diocesan visits to study various pastoral and other issues so that we can learn from each other.
For 35 years the Diocese of Salisbury has had an active, mutual and well-developed link - now a twinning - with the Roman Catholic Diocese of Évreux, in Upper Normandy. The Catholic Church in France is the established or parochial church, roughly equivalent to the Church of England in this country.
In many ways, the nature of the Diocese of Évreux is similar to that of Salisbury. It comprises the Cathedral city of Évreux (about an hour's train ride north of Paris), a number of smaller market towns and many villages and hamlets spread over extensive agricultural areas.
Thus, the churches in both dioceses have many common points of reference related to pastoral work, rural ministry, lay training, work with children and young people and the role of and deployment of clergy and laity. Not surprisingly this has resulted in much exchange, discussion and debate in the many years we have shared this link.
Led by the Archdeacon of Dorset, the main part of the Salisbury team took the night boat to Cherbourg on Ascension Day, a smaller group from the Whitton Team had travelled out during the day. The Archdeacon’s group were late arriving for lunch after his car broke down two miles off the ferry, necessitating recovery and the use of a hire car for the weekend. We had a splendid lunch attended by Bishop Nourrichard and spent Friday afternoon discussing occasional offices (Baptisms, funerals and weddings) and the role of lay ministry within that (for instance baptism preparation. This included an interesting exploration of the ministry of ‘Consecrated Virgins’ which is better translated as lay people who’ve taken a vow of celibacy. Friday evening was spent with our host families enjoying typical French hospitality.
On Saturday we re-convened at Prieuré Canappeville a former monastery/agricultural college and continued our discussions about lay-ministry. We noted that formal lay ministry can be an important way to help people make a public confession of their faith but there can be tensions between lay and ordained vocations especially when the former does not get much prominence. We heard from a large parish which had an episcopally appointed parish manager who ran the parish freeing the priest (a former paratrooper) to exercise his priestly ministry without the burden of administration.
The afternoon concluded with a visit to the Abbey of Bec, where after a guided tour we joined the community for Vespers. The Abbey has a particular charism to promote Roman Catholic/Anglican relationships drawing on their heritage as the medieval Abbot Lanfranc became Archbishop of Canterbury. The Archdeacon was invited to robe and join the monks in the choirstalls. The following morning, we joined the community of Acquigny for their morning Mass and a very joyful baptism led by Father Nicolas. After a picnic lunch together, we departed for Cean where the archdeacon dropped off his group to be foot passengers while he continued to Cherbourg to recover his car and return the following morning.
It was a great joy after a three-year Covid interruption to rekindle relationships with our friends in Evreux and we look forward to welcoming them in 2023 in the third week of October for a visit based in the Witton Team.
If anyone would like to get more closely involved in the Evreux link please contact the Archdeacon of Dorset