An Anglican presence in Strasbourg can be traced back to the 16th century, when various groups of Anglicans sought refuge from religious conflicts in England. It was a tumultuous time, when Protestant-minded people and those loyal to Roman Catholicism struggled to assert their place in the Church of England. Strasbourg welcomed many religious dissidents during this period and has remained a centre for Protestant scholarship and debate to the present day.
However, today’s Anglican community was established much later, following the foundation of the Council of Europe in 1949. A number of British civil servants and diplomats working in Strasbourg felt the need for Anglican worship. Initially a priest would come once a month from Paris or Basel, but as the congregation grew it became possible to appoint a part-time chaplain in 1973. At that time, the Dominican community, across from the university, gave the Anglicans permission to use their chapel for Sunday morning services. The Dominicans have been our generous hosts ever since.
Over time spiritual and social connections became stronger. The congregation also became much more diverse: business people, students, migrants, refugees and asylum-seekers came from many parts of the Anglican Communion and numerous other religious backgrounds. They included people who had experienced at first-hand the terrible conflicts in Rwanda, Lebanon, Sierra Leone, Sri Lanka and Pakistan. Increasingly the children in the congregation were more likely to feel at home in French than in English. French-speaking Anglicans from Madagascar and many other parts of the world now contribute to the rich mosaic of people that we know as St Alban’s.
By the 1980s Strasbourg had become home to several other European institutions, including the European Parliament, the European Court of Justice and the European Court of Human Rights. The Conference of European Churches (CEC) also opened an office in Strasbourg. In 1985 CEC appointed the Revd Barney Milligan, a canon of St Albans Cathedral and Abbey Church in England, to be its representative to the European Institutions. Revd Milligan also served as chaplain to the Anglican community and later as the Archbishop of Canterbury’s representative to the European Institutions. By the time of Milligan’s retirement in 1995 the Anglican chaplaincy in Strasbourg had been officially dedicated to St Alban.
Barney Milligan was followed by the Revd James Barnett as chaplain and institutional representative. His successor was the Revd Alex Gordon under whose leadership the congregation grew considerably. With enormous energy and hard work, Revd Gordon gave St Alban’s a sense of identity, community and purpose. Numbers grew and support for the chaplaincy was strengthened substantially. Revd Gordon later returned to his native Scotland to become Dean of Inverness Cathedral.
From 2006 to 2009 Revd John Murray, one of the congregation’s founding members, served St. Alban’s as Chaplain. He has maintained close links with several ecumenical bodies, notably with the Conference of European Churches and the Institute for Ecumenical Research, founded by the Lutheran World Federation. Over the past forty years, researchers from this Institute have become valued members of our congregation.
In 2009 a long-standing member of the congregation, Christine Bloomfield, was ordained to the Anglican priesthood, serving as curate at St. Alban’s, building relationships with the local community and working with young adults and children.
In 2010 Canon Harold Nahabedian from Toronto was appointed priest-in-charge in Strasbourg. He gave strong support to the Anglican Malgache community and strengthened ties with other Christian churches in the region.
After Revd Nahabedian’s departure in 2013, a number of locum priests and dedicated resident priests served St. Alban’s while the congregation reassessed its future and considered how best to go forward. After an interregnum of four years a new appointment was made in 2017: the Revd Mark Barwick came from Belgium to serve as Chaplain and Priest-in-Charge of St. Alban’s Church.
The Anglican community in Strasbourg has undergone many changes since its first beginnings. Yet it has remained for many years a centre for spiritual growth, Christian community and Anglican worship. Just as in the past, St Alban’s future will be shaped by those who come and make it their home, whether for a brief duration or for many years. There is a place for everyone and all are welcome – you are welcome.