When Charlotte Sullivan came to France 20 years ago she had no idea she would one day become a Church of England vicar but she is now the priest for Bordeaux and aims to expand the congregation.vicar
Ordained in Bordeaux Chapelle de l’Assomption by Bishop Robert, the Rev Sullivan said she came to her faith in her 30s while living in France and knew she wanted to work in the church. Then, in her 40s, she had the time to follow her vocation: “Some training can be done online but I also had to go to the UK for residential courses and summer school over a three-year period, which was hard to fit in with a job as well.
She is excited about her new role. “There are services on Sundays, of course, but there is also plenty to do in the week; Bible study groups, extra worship to organise, funerals, weddings and baptisms to arrange and parishioners to visit.
“It is wonderful because it is so varied. I never know exactly what the day will bring. It depends what emails I receive when I open up my computer.”
She tells people in Aquitaine chaplaincy she is there to help: “Even though someone may not come to church regularly or does not live in Bordeaux, I or a congregation member would be happy to visit someone poorly in hospital, for example, as people come here to be treated for serious conditions from other areas and it can be comforting to have an English-speaking visitor.”
Aquitaine has the European diocese’s greatest number of churches as 14 offer English services. At the same ceremony in Bordeaux, Tony Lomas was made Area Dean of the new South-West with the Vendée deanery.
He had been a chaplain in Aquitaine for two years after being a vicar in a Gloucestershire parish but now has 41 churches in an area from the Pyrénées to the Loire Valley.
It means he drives 3,000km a month but adds: “This is not necessarily a disadvantage as I do not have to rush from one service to another and if I take a Sunday service in an outlying parish I tend to stay on and we often have a meal together. I spend more time with people.
“Secondly, we are here for a congregation who are not necessarily Church of England but may be Baptists, Methodists or from churches in Germany, Belgium, South Africa, America or Australia. I find this hugely exciting and so vibrant.”