From Normandy to the Kennet

by Gerry Lynch last modified 04 Nov, 2014 09:45 PM

Whitton Benefice welcomes visitors from twin Diocese of Évreux in Normandy

From Normandy to the Kennet

Parishioners from Whitton and Notre Dame share many issues in common

The Whitton Benefice in Wiltshire recently received a party of twenty two visitors, including two small children and a group of teenagers, from the Parish of Notre Dame des Bois, for a weekend together to enrich their twin relationship. Notre Dame des Bois covers 16 villages outside Louviers, in Salisbury’s twin Diocese of Évreux in the French Roman Catholic Church. After facing the Friday half-term traffic on the M25 they arrived exhausted, three hours later than planned, to stay with host families in the area. 

Saturday morning saw the visitors brighter and breezier, and proceedings began with an Open The Book worship session, something they had never experienced before. This was followed by presentations from both sides of the Channel on the life of the church and its mission in a largely unchurched society. Although one is Anglican and one is Roman Catholic, the two Dioceses share an enormous amount, both covering rural areas of market towns and small villages, and both operating in some of the most secularised societies on the planet. 

Whitton-Notre Dame 3After lunch, it was off to Salisbury for a guided tour of the Cathedral, which included the Magna Carta exhibition and Choral Evensong, followed by a return to the north of the county for a meal in Ramsbury.  One Aldbourne parishioner remarked, “It is remarkable how much sharing meals is a vital part of the twinning process!” 

On the Sunday, visitors attended a bilingual Benefice Eucharist at Holy Cross in Ramsbury, with the Epistle read in French, a bilingual sermon, and the visitors from Normandy leading intercessions in both languages. 

After coffee, there was an illustrated talk in French by one of the Whitton parishioners, aged over 90, on the parish’s fallen in the Great War. He then kindly hosted the party in his home with an aperitif and canapés before lunch.  Sunday’s activities also included an afternoon barge trip on the Kennet and Avon Canal and, for some, Messy Church in Aldbourne. 

The Revd Candice Marcus, Team Vicar in the Whitton Team, said, “We all got a lot out of the visit.  Both the hosts and guests joined in the programme eagerly. Our visitors appreciated the warm hospitality and smoothness of the visit, remarking on the beauty of the Cathedral and its worship. 

Whitton-Notre Dame 2“We shared much over the meals we had together and the home team enjoyed remembering and practising their school French.  We learned a great deal from our visitors’ developing lay ministry, in a situation where priests are few and the laity carry responsibility for most aspects of church life. 

“It was exciting to see how love for those in their communities and the spreading of the Gospel are the driving force behind much of what they do. 

“This visit was ecumenism at its best, sharing and learning from each other and treasuring what we have in common and valuing what we have to contribute together as we walk the Way of the Cross.  We look forward to our continuing journey together.”

Learn more about our Diocese's long-standing relationship with the Diocese of Évreux and how to get involved on the Évreux page.

French speakers might like to visit the Diocese of Évreux's website or follow its Twitter account.

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