Chris Lyon, a community figure for more than a decade, is looking forward to a very active retirement.
Anglican church chaplain Chris Lyon is smiling even more than usual when I meet him at the church office at Centre Jean XXIII. “I just became a grandfather for the first time,” he explains.
2017 is a year of enormous change for Lyon. In addition to the birth of a granddaughter, on 12 February he gave his last service as a vicar at the church he led for almost 15 years.
“Since I made the announcement that I’m retiring, I realised I’ve worked weekends pretty much without a break, apart from a year, since I was 14 when I worked in a chip shop,” he says. “This concept of a weekend, having two days of leisure in a row, is going to be really nice.”
Rev Lyon joined the church through an unconventional route, graduating with a degree in law at Strathclyde University in 1975, working as an accountant, then night watchman in Nancy, and spending two years with the Conservative Party before training to be ordained in Edinburgh. His decision to join the church, he says, was twofold: because people tended to confide in him and he had several near-death experiences as a teenager. “I felt I had been looked after by God.”
Lyon served in Scotland until he came to Luxembourg in 2002, joining a congregation that could not be more different. “Pastorally it’s been the most challenging place I’ve ever worked in because people are so far from home.”
His role changed in 2004 when the Anglican church became a member of the government-recognised body of religions in Luxembourg. From then on his pastoral duties began to extend beyond the immediate congregation to providing spiritual guidance to people outside of the church. “I’m paid to be an Anglican priest for all people of Luxembourg. That’s our mission. The church isn’t just there to recruit new members for itself, but to help transform the society in which it is set.”
This mission to build a “good and just society” is not one that Lyon will abandon once he hangs up the dog collar. He plans to remain in Luxembourg, to read and study questions of human dignity and social cohesion. Separately he is helping develop an ethics training course for independent board directors in collaboration with the ILA, a trade group for board members. In addition, he will continue teaching religious education to secondary school students at the European schools I and II.
“The thing that interests me most is the community, not the church… I said to someone I feel like I am going to move from retail to wholesale, because I might write a blog,” he says. He also plans to learn Luxembourgish and get dual Luxembourg nationality.
Not normally a fan of transitions, Rev Lyon says he feels good about his decision, particularly since he knows that the church in Luxembourg is in a good place. Later this year it moves to Cents, Evelyn Sweerts will begin as lay pastoral assistant, supported by locum priests and, within a year, a replacement chaplain should be appointed.