Thursday, April 24, 2008

Martin and Claire in Sofia

Last weekend Martin and Claire were able to travel to Sofia for the monthly service at our sister chaplaincy there using our new chaplaincy car. The car ran beautifully, although unfortunately it does not have an automatic pilot and so getting out of Bucharest and getting into Sofia proved to be quite a challenge! However, all was well that ended well and on Sunday there was a very encouraging congregation at the morning service, followed by friendship and fellowship before the return journey to Bucharest.

Claire took her camera with her, and here are someof the photos that she took, as well as her description:

" Hello, I didn't take very many photo's I'm afraid... but hopefully next time will present more opportunities. There is one of the Vitosha Mountain from Sharon's house - the lady we stayed with - (it was late so its a bit dark), one of the front of the chapel that we use (it is actually a catholic chapel), one of Dad talking to the organist, and then after the service in the coffee room where dad is talking to the ambassador and his wife (Steve and Fiona) with Gino and the mining engineer Chris (the woman Gino is talking to) in the background.

I really wish I had managed to take some photo's of Sharon's beautiful house and her lovely dog Honeybelle, and of the short walk we went on past Roman ruins and extraordinary churches/cathedrals and of the restaurant we went to. C'est la vie! Next time...Best wishes Claire."

It all sounds great Claire, we're waiting to see the photos-watch this blog!

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Sunday, April 20, 2008

Palm Sunday in Bucharest-again!

Today is Easter 5 for us in the Church of England. However, in the Orthodox calendar today is Palm Sunday, or Duminica Floriilor in Romanian. Yesterday afternoon there were services and parades all over Romania symbolising the entry into Jerusalem and today as well as church services there are markets and exhibitions in almost every park and public area in the towns and cities around the country.

These photographs are taken from the Peasants Market in Bucharest, where craftsmen had gathered from all over Romania to display the fruits of their labours. The sun was shining, the meat from the grill was tasting delicious, and everywhere there was evidence of God's goodness and glory.

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The Church of the Resurrection has a car!

For some time we have understood that the cost of flights to Sofia are becoming increasingly uneconomic for the monthly visits of our Chaplain, Martin Jacques. Recently, we had the opportunity to make a change when we received a substantial financial grant spread over threee years from CMS Ireland to support the work of the Church of the Resurrection in Bulgaria.

Following a lot of prayerful planning and preparations, this last week the Chaplaincy has purchased a Skoda Octavia for the use of our Chaplain. On Saturday Martin, with his daughter Claire, set off for Sofia in the car. They took with them a camera so hopefully the blog will soon show visible proof of the success of their visit!

Thank you CMS Ireland for assisting us in extending our mission and witness in Romania and Bulgaria.

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Monday, April 14, 2008

Back to the pension

Around the pension was a rich variety of local life and culture, including sheep and goats grazing along the roadside, small wine cellars selling excellent local vintages at unbelievable prices (and offering free tasting without obligation before making any purchases), and everywhere the most spectacular views.

After two days there, we felt as if we had been away from Bucharest for at least a week, and returned on Sunday evening feeling ready to face the challenges of a new week.

If you would like to see and read more about this rural paradise that is less than two hours driving from Bucharest (including getting out of the city) take a look at

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Muddy volcanoes

From the sublime to the ridiculous................................. After visiting a monastry and a schit, and then some hermits caves, we discovered that Romania also has volcanoes-more precisely muddy vocanoes!

We visited a large field, literally covered in mud, and saw at first hand the bubbling brew of mud that is constantly on the move as a result of its proximity to the earthquake prone fault line in nearby Vrancea county. Although more than a little surreal, this place showed yet again the rich variety of God's work in this world that we like to call ours but which in fact is most certainly His!

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Hermits caves close to the schit

While we were visiting the schit we met, by chance, a walking and talking expert on the local environment, Catalin. He showed us a place, very close to the schit, where monks had lived as hermits in tiny sandstone caves. It was astonishing, and humbling, to see how these men had communed with God in conditions of total isolation and minimal comfort.

Close to the caves was a totally spectacular view of the valley of the river Buzau, no doubt a source of inspiration to those hardy souls.

After this short detour we walked back down the hill and through some more of the sculptures, we were even able to get some shots of the cows!

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A schit close to Ciolanu

After we left the monastry we found close by a number of fields that were shared by the cows from the monastry and some hundreds of sculptures, made over a number of years by sculptors who have come to the region each summer to draw inspiration from the pure air and wonderful nature in this isolated part of Romania.

However, for us the highlight of our stop was to discover that if you have the strength and perseverence to climb for 30 minutes up a not a not too steep hill and through a wonderful forest you find on the crest of the hill and standing in splendid isolation an Orthodox schit (mini monastry).

The schit is run by two resident nuns, one a mere 62 years and the other a slightly more matronly 81 years. Again, the church (for now there is only one but construction of the second is well advanced-honestly! If you don't believe, climb the hill and see for yourself. You will not regret the climb!). The place is totally inaccessible except by four wheel drive vehicles. An ancient Romanian 4x4 stood nearby the church, we resisted asking which of the nuns usually did the driving!

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The monastry at Ciolanu

On Saturday we toured the surrounding countryside, and marvelled at its beauty as well as its contrasts. Some 30km from Buzau we stumbled upon a beautiful monastry at Ciolanu. Run by, literally, working monks (including a dairy herd!) the monastry exuded peace, tranquility, and God's presence.

Of course, there was not just one church, we found at least two, and there were also beautiful living houses for the monks, and the large grounds were immaculately cared for.

We also discovered a living relic, a larger than life monk who gladly allowed us to take his photograph on condition that we sent him a copy by mail. Marvelling at the computer literacy of a man of his vintage, Ella asked for his address and was given the full postal address of the monastry! It was great to learn than in Ciolanu at least normal mail still rules ok!

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Back on the road again

Last week saw the blog back on the road, this time in the area around 100km to the east of Bucharest, close to the city of Buzau. Combining work with pleasure, we stayed for the weekend in a new rural pension in the wine region just outside Buzau. We arrived just in time for the blessing of the pension by the local Orthodox priest.

This ritual was both pleasant to observe and pleasantly short to be part of (at least by Orthodox standards!). The priest blessed every room in the pension and left the mark of the cross in various places. Maybe you can see it on the wall in the fourth photograph?
At the end of the service he left some more oils to be sprayed in each room every day until the supplies run out.

As Mihai, our genial host commented after the service, he was not certain how much it will help him to make a success of his business but he is firmly convinced that it will not do him any harm! Good luck with your venture, you certainly looked after us as if we royalty-watch this blog to see more of this wonderful pension........................

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Saturday, April 5, 2008

Back at Casa Ioana

This week the blog reeceived a call from one of the British staff at our Embassy, Joan Johnson. Her mum, who is head mistress of a school in Fife is visiting Bucharest and has brought with her some hand made blankets-made by pupils from her school.

We agreed that the Casa Ioana centre for the homeless in central Bucharest would be an appropriate recipient for the clothes, and these photographs show our visit to hand them over. The blankets and some other toys and clothes were gratefully received. One of the blankets was for a baby, and will be perfect for the youngest resident at the Centre-a one month old baby!

Thank you!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! To the Johnson family and to everyone at the school in Fife who helped to make the blankets.

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Low Sunday in Bucharest

Low Sunday and the clocks going forward on the same morning.......................... Ten minutes before the service started we had an organist, one church warden, plus the chaplain and reader and their families, and that was all! And then, in true Church of the Resurrection style the church changed from being almost empty to being almost full.

It was wonderful to have flowers in church again after our Lenten abstenance from colour (and Gloria!). The Sunday School continued their studies in the school room and at the end of the service Laffy shared with the rest of the congregation a summary of what they had covered.

Pride of place close to the altar was given over to the Pascal candle and our newly received painting of Christ on the cross
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