Anglican Church chaplain Geoff Read, pictured, said that Brexit was a catalyst for working in the diocese of Europe
Photo: Mike Zenari
The newly appointed chaplain at the English-speaking Anglican Church of Luxembourg, Geoff Read, speaks to Delano about Brexit, burn-out and the importance of reflecting on one’s work.
Jess Bauldry: I hear you got married in Luxembourg but never lived here. How did that come about?
Geoff Read: My wife, Marie Louise, is from Bitburg. When we decided to get married in 1985, we thought, where’s the nearest Anglican church? The Luxembourg Anglican church was just an hour away. It was back in the days of passports. when everyone had to show their passport when they crossed the border. We went over the border, got married and went back to Bickendorf.
The organist who played for us at our wedding, Jean, is still here. Philippa [a churchwarden] set it up so that he played for my first service at the Anglican Church here. That was nice.
JB: What attracted you to the job at the English-speaking Anglican Church in Luxembourg?
GR: It’s a church that has good strong foundations and is now asking how do we build on those? They were looking for someone who could work with the leadership council and wardens to do that. That’s what I enjoy doing. Added to that, I think we feel that there’s a lot of experience and expertise in working in the diocese of Europe. It’s a different way of working to parishes[…]For us I think the whole Brexit thing has been a catalyst. It has a direct impact on our lives as a couple and it’s been a catalyst to say is it time to move on from the UK?
JB: Why did you become a chaplain?
GR: I was studying law at the University of Bristol when I came to a living faith. Somebody said to me in the course of my studies, have you thought of ordination? Which I hadn’t. I finished my degree and I was offered the opportunity to work as an intern for a year at Christchurch Clifton, in Bristol. It was during that time I went through the discernment process through the Church of England.
JB: Tell us a bit about your career so far.
GR: After theological college I did a curacy, assistant minister role then worked on quite a tough council estate which had a strong social concern dimension to it as well. [They were]Lovely, lovely people but often leading chaotic lives because of circumstances. The church there is about creating community, enabling people to discover that sometimes relationship breakdowns don’t mean relationship break-ups, modelling alternatives. We were there 6 years, I was team vicar then became team rector.
Then we decided it was time to go on an adventure. We had two daughters by then, Rebecca and Katya. We thought it would be really important for them to experience the other part of their identity, the German speaking part. […] We did a locum in Basel not knowing I would end up there. And then eventually one role came up where the fit wasn’t right. And then Basel came up where that fit was right. The Basel role was linked with Freiburg, leading two different churches, 75 kilometres apart. More recently, I’ve been involved in clergy development.
JB: You suffered a burn-out while in Basel. How did you cope and how has it informed your work?
GR: I found myself sitting in a room with colleagues saying when is enough enough? They were very loving and wise and helped me to get in contact with some professionals who could help me to make sense of what was happening which wasn’t depression, it was burn-out. It’s about a mismatch between work and understanding what is required. Out of that I was working 50% for 6 months, seeing a psychiatrist, spiritual director and coach and making sense of it. I’ve written a short pamphlet on burn-out for ministers.
I’ve been very open about it. It’s nothing to be ashamed of. It’s something that happens. It could be a way of opening up an opportunity to come alongside others facing those issues be it in the Christian ministry or the wider workplace. The work I’ve been doing has been around trying to support people in being effective in the work they do.
How do we create an environment where people can flourish? That’s the key. And people bring their gifts and abilities to bear into a team.
JB: How does your Luxembourg congregation compare with Basel?
GR: It feels very similar to the Dreilinden region in Basel. We had quite a lot of English-speaking people and an international community living in France, some in Switzerland, fewer in Germany. A lot of people working in chemical industry, pharma, banking. Every church and every place is unique, but I think we have a sense of the opportunities and also pressures people living in an international community away from their home countries will experience.