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Once a month there is a meeting of all the English-speaking pastors in Brussels. I suspect they invited me to join not so much as a pastor (as a sub-deacon I do precious little pastoral work) but more in order to complete the multi-confessional spectrum. This stretches from deep Protestant at one end through Lutheranism, Anglicanism and Roman Catholicism to me at the other end.  It’s about 50% American, 40% English and Irish, and 10% other.

They are a nice enough bunch of people, all genuinely committed to the Christian gospel. We meet at the big English-speaking parish in a fashionable suburb on Brussels, which is run by two Irish Franciscan fathers. I do not go in wearing a big sign saying ‘Mr Orthodox’ over my chest, but do discreetly intervene with an Orthodox slant when appropriate. The differences with the Protestants on morality which Moscow makes a big fuss on (Protestants are pro-gay, pro-abortion...) are not an issue. Women priests, though, are unavoidable…

Today’s meeting was a bit flat. The leader, an American Protestant, did a small bible study on Abraham, which could have been improved with a rudimentary knowledge of ascetic theology.

My American Episcopalian (= Anglican) priest friend, a former Navy chaplain, has left, to be temporarily replaced by a woman priest. The women priests that come our way are a pretty intelligent bunch, and leaving aside the (for us) problems of their presiding the Eucharist, probably quite good pastors. They tend to be more intelligent than pretty, most of them of the pear shape common among Russian clergy.

Father Vincent, the RC priest, had had to leave in an emergency to bury a nephew who had died young in the United States. When this was announced, the leader immediately started to pray for Fr Vincent and the family. The prayer finished with a resounding Amen, and the leader moving on to something else. There I jumped in a bit sharply: “And did you tell us the name of the young man who died?" (Protestants do not pray for the dead). “Er, er, no…”. The secretary hastily scrambled on her computer to dig out a name. No comment…

The one chap I really like, who comes rarely because he travels a lot, is a South African missionary (the white Afrikaaner church sends out a lot of missionaries, also to northern Belgium and Holland because the language is very similar) who works among Muslims. He was probably the only one of us there who has really risked his life for the faith. He was in Moscow for the first time recently and told me of the Protestant mission work with the Tadjiks there. He says foreign Protestants are in an advantage in Moscow because Moscow Tadjiks will not listen to the Gospel from Russians... Any reactions from the Russian side?.....


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October 2015

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