Monday, June 8, 2009


Last week we were in Italy for meetings, very close to Venice, and on Saturday afternoon, before returning to Macedonia we made time to visit the beautiful city.

Venice was as good, even better, than any preconceptions I had in my mind. It was unbelievable to park our car then walk across a bridge into a totally different world; no cars, no roads, no traffic noise, and everywhere canals. Some small, some large, and boats parked at every door.

St Mark's Basilica was as good as all the tourist guide books predicted, and the gondoliers as stylish as they needed to be to maintain their reputations! Oh yes, and the prices in St Mark's Square are as ridiculous as ever!

However, nothing can reduce the wonder of Venice, it is as wonderful as it is unique; another incredible example of God's handiwork.
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Sunday, May 31, 2009

Service of Blessing for Logan Dimitri

On 31 May, Pentecost Sunday, as part of our Sunday worship we included a service of blessing for Logan Dimitri, son of one of our regular congregants, Scott Heaslet and his wife Daniela. Scott's parents had travelled from Texas for the baptism of their first grandson last week in Ochrid, as well as the Anglican service of blessing.

The blessing coincided with the visit of our Priest in Charge, Fr Robin Fox, from Belgrade. Father Robin presided and preached at the service.

The service was another challenge of concentration and perseverence as our Roman Catholic hosts had a major service of confirmation in the main church immediately beside the side chapel where we worship. However, we survived, and by the end of the service we numbered 16-including of course the newest member of our church family, baby Logan Dimitri!

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Saturday, May 30, 2009

Weekend in Halkidiki

Not too far from Skopje is the beautiful area of Greece popularly known as the three fingers of Halkidiki. Each finger is a peninsula, equally beautiful and with plenty of places to stay, and enjoy the sea, sun, and sand.

Last weekend we visited the second finger and stayed in a wonderful family run villa close to Nikiti. It is only a four hour drive from Skopje but the contrast was incredible. It was wonderful to wake up to the sound of the cockerel crowing (took me back to growing up on our farm in England!). Then the birds took over the dawn chorus-it was nature at its most beautiful.

Our days were simple, catching the sun and swimming in the bay that was literally 30 metres from our apartment. The water was clear and warm, and hardly a wave in sight. Lunch each day was a hghlight-our local taverna had an incredible view overlooking the bay and the fish and salads were so fresh and delicious, it was like living a dream.

On Monday it was time to return to Skopje-back to life, back to reality, but much refreshed after a weekend in peace and tranquility!

Next time the first finger..............................
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Monday, May 18, 2009

Sunday worship in Sofia

On Sunday 17th May we held the mnothly service in Sofia. Following the departure for England of our Chaplain Martin Jacques we are currently starting an interregnum, where we are determined that the pattern of worship will not be affected.

It was a wonderful privilege to be back in Sofia particularly as the congregation there now has the use of a Roman Catholic chapel for their services. This was my first visit for almost three years and as I had expected almost all of the faces were new, although it was wonderful to renew acquaintances with one or two old and dear friends.

Martin had told me that my welcome would be warm and he did not exagerate. We had a wonderful congregation, eventually reaching almost thirty people, and the service was rounded off with great fellowship both in the immediate coffee time immediately afterwards and then in the second coffee break on the terrace of a nearby cafe.

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All in a day's work.......!

In that wonderful British classic "Open All Hours" Ronnie "Arkwright" Barker used to often round off the episode with a comment along the lines of -it's been a funny old day!

That comment came to mind last Sunday (10th May)-it was a wonderful and certainly action packed day. It started early with the Skopje Marathon at 9am. The early start was very well timed because even at such an early hour the sun was really powerful. A group of colleagues from the EU Mission, led by our Ambassador Erwan Fouere took part in the 5km run along with many hundreds of other fun runners. By the end of the 5km many of us were wondering where the fun part was!

After a long hot shower and a much appreciated breakfast it was time to head for church for our 1200 service. Getting there proved an enormous challenge as most of the access roads were still closed off because of the Marathon and even then our problems were not over. Our hosts, in the Roman Catholic cathedral ,were holding a major service to celebrate the election of a new Bishop and their service went on and on and on and on. In the end we made a very quiet start in the side chapel and gradually spread our wings and lifted our singing voices when their service finally ended.

The day was rounded off in spectacular style with a barbecue in our garden, very kindly provided by the family that owns our house. The house was wonderful, the food tasted great, and after the morning run a glass of beer tasted like nectar!

All in all, a wonderful, if funny old day. And yet another day when God's gifts were powerfully displayed-wonderful weather, great fellowship shared with family and friends, the chance to worship Him, delicious food and drinks. Praise be to Him!

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Friday, May 1, 2009

May 1st in Macedonia

As with most countries in Europe, May 1st is a holiday in Macedonia. Although the weather was not so good, we joined many other citizens of Skopje in heading the beautiful Matka canyon.

Matka is a wonderful combination of the works of man combined with the gifts of God. A beautiful valley has been even further enriched by the building of a hydro electical dam that has created both beautiful scenery and a really interesting path for walking.

Unfortunately the day that started cold very soon had rain as an added bonus, proving once again that man can plan holidays and places to visit, but only God decides what will be the weather!

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Saturday, April 11, 2009

Easter Service in Skopje

This year we held our Easter Service on Easter Eve, completing the Easter Vigil with the beautiful Service of Light. Following readings and contemplations, we shared the light of Christ symbolically as we lit candles and gradually filled the side chapel of the Roman Cathoplic church with light.

It was wonderful to have over 20 people in the congregation to celebrate the resurrection of our Lord, particularly as many of them were with us for the first time, including a goodly number of children and babies.

Immediately after the service we shared a glass of wine and/or juice as well some cakes and dyed eggs. The eggs were red, following the local custom of symbolising the blood of Christ. This led to one very amusing moment, that raised memories of the fabled "curate's egg"!

We were "jarbing" eggs, hitting the ends together to see which egg broke first. Unfortunately (for me) it turned out that the one given to me was not even soft boiled never mind hard boiled-it was fresher than fresh even though it had a fine red hue!!! Fortunately or unfortunately depending on your viewpoint no photographs were taken but suffice to say that after much cleaning of the floor the side chapel was restored to its former glory in time for the Roman Catholic Service of Light that followed later in the evening.

A happy and blessed Easter to you all. Hristos a inviat! Adeverat a inviat!

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Spring in Skopje

Last weekend, expertly guided by our dear friend Joan Pearce, we had a lovely walk in the hills immediately on the edge of Skopje. Having grown accustomed (although never happy) to needing at least one and a half hours in the car to get out of Bucharest it is still a wonderful feeling to be able to walk out of our door of our house and head straight for unspoilt natural beauty on foot!

Our objective last weekend was to enjoy the wild primroses in the hills leading up to Mount Vodno, the spiritual retreat for the vast majority of Skopje citizens. We were not disappointed, the primroses were beautiful, the weather was warm anbd spring like, and the views over Skopje and the surrounding countryside indescribable. God's handiwork was evident everywhere we looked, and at its most beautiful!

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Tuesday, April 7, 2009

Western Macedonia

Last week we had the opportunity to spend some time in Western Macedonia in the area around the ski-ing resort of Mavrovo. Although sadly for him the blog was working rather than ski-ing, the visit did give the opportunity to see a little of the natural beauty of Macedonia!

Mavrovo is a small town that nestles in the mountains on the edge of Lake Mavrovo, and is located very close to some wonderful ski slopes that have been developed without being spoiled. While we were there, winter transformed into spring and hundreds of small waterfalls appeared bringing melt water rushing from the mountains into the lake. It was a truly spectacular sight.

A highlight of our visit was the opprotunity to see one of the many beautiful orthodox monasteries that are located all over Macedonia. This one is dedicated to St John the Baptist and exuded an atmosphere of peace and prayerfullness that could not be ignored.

Although Mavrovo is only one and a half hours drive from the capital city Skopje it is also located very close to the Albanian border-this gives an indication of how small and compact is Macedonia! However, Macedonia is living proof that small can indeed be beautiful. So, stand by and watch for more photos and commentary from this living jewel!

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Martin's final service in Sofia

First of all, sincere apologies for the long silence. Moving to Skopje has proved to be a time consuming adventure. Now, after eight months Skopje is starting to feel like home, and there are even green shoots showing of an emerging Anglican community in our new home city!

Of course, things have been happening also in Bucharest while we have been finding our feet in Skopje. Not least, has been the decision of Martin and Alex to return to England after almost three years of devoted service to the Church of the Resurrection in Bucharest. Last Sunday, Palm Sunday, was their last service in Sofia, and these photographs show what a wonderful send off the congregation there gave him.

Jonathan Dunne who sent the photos, gives the following description of them:

1- Martin's last service in the Catholic Chapel of the Annunciation

2 - Martin in good voice! (the hymn was "My song is love unknown")

3 - Gino presenting Martin with some farewell gifts (an icon of Christ and a smart fountain pen!) in the presence of Walter and Steve

4 - Elodie, Lauren, Els, Lisa and Mira look on

Martin still has two more weeks left in Romania, with his final service being on 26th April.

With God's help, the blog will now resume its meanderings around Central Europe and in particular the Balkans. So, watch this space and who knows what you might see!

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