The Anglican Chaplain
Father Walter Raymond is the Anglican Chaplain of St Paul's Church in Monaco. His job brings him into contact with many members of the community, including our interviewer, Jilly Bennett
CityOut: What originally drew you to the church and when?
Father Walter: My mother was Roman Catholic, my father, Presbyterian, but he had to agree to raise the children in the Catholic Church, so that's how I was brought up. My mother was herself the offspring of a 'mixed marriage' – a Catholic grandmother and an Episcopalian grandfather. In fact, three of four grandparents were Anglican or Presbyterian.
So, when I became an Anglican in 1985, it felt in many respects like finding my way back to my ancestral home. This said, my mother was a very devout Catholic, and my sister and I spent a lot of time at early (6 am) morning weekday masses, particularly during Lent each year. My mother’s faith rubbed off on me, and I left home to attend a Franciscan “minor seminary” (secondary school) in Santa Barbara at the age of 14. Monaco reminds me a lot of Santa Barbara ... very similar climate and geography.
Like many of my generation, my focus shifted away from the church in my later teenage years. I left the seminary in my senior year as a 17-year-old, and quickly got caught up in the 'alternative culture' in Berkeley, California, and in San Francisco (1967-1969). It was in this context that I took a position against the war in Viet-Nam and – following the sudden death of my mother – a voluntary exile to Canada. I stayed away from church, despite a few brief encounters, until I moved to Toronto in the early 1980s. There my interest in leading a life of Faith was renewed and I eventually found my way to the Anglican Church there. This was a rediscovery of the spiritual intensity of my childhood and early adolescence. I suppose it was something along the lines of 'you can take the boy out of the church, but you can’t take the church out of the boy.'
CO: If you would, tell us a little about your work immediately before coming here
FW: Shortly after making myself at home in the Anglican Church, that old sense of a vocation to the priesthood returned with full force, and in the fall of 1988, I began studies at Trinity College (Toronto School of Theology) and was en route to ordination in the Anglican Church of Canada (Diocese of Toronto) in May 1992. I served for two years as the assistant curate in an suburban parish, working under the supervision of the Revd Victoria Matthews who would become Canada’s first woman bishop in February 1994.
My next post was to serve as Chaplain at Holy Trinity School. My first career had been in classroom education, and my bishop thought appointing me to serve as a school chaplain made lots of sense. He was right - it was a super appointment for me, and my five years at the school were among the richest in my life.
But all things come to an end, and my head was turned by an invitation to apply for the post of Dean at the historic Cathedral of the Holy Trinity in Quebec City. I’d spent 8 years in Quebec City from 1975 to 1983, learning French and completing my undergraduate degree in Education at Université Lava, so taking a post in the Old City was very much like going home. I served as Dean of the Cathedral and of the Diocese of Quebec for nine years before taking up the work of Chaplain at Saint Paul’s in Monte-Carlo.
CO: And what were your first impressions of Monaco?
FW: I first visited in September 2007, the day after my interview for the post, which took place in Westminster, London. I’ll never forget how wonderfully warm the weather was in September 2007 – nor shall I forget a very nice supper, compliments of Frank and Sara Megginson, at the Black Diamond Terrace, rue du Portier. On Candlemas (2nd February) 2008, I was formally invested as the 19th British Chaplain in Monaco.
An interesting historical footnote is that the first six chaplains of Monaco served at St. Aidan’s Church in Beausoleil, because the Bishop at that time would neither allow a Chaplain to live nor a church to be built in the 'Den of Iniquity' – apparently he did not approve of the Casino!
CO: What does your work as chaplain involve?
FW: In many ways, my work here is comparable to that of a parish priest in Canada. There is a lot of diversity, which I enjoy very much. My first responsibility is 'pastoral charge' looking after people from the spiritual perspective. This means building the community here, helping new people become members of the church family, supporting those going through tough times - whicĥ means hospital and home visiting and some counselling.
I also spend a few hours a week organizing services (service leaflets, writing the sermon, working with Sunday volunteers). We have a popular weekly email newsletter that I put together on Tuesday mornings – about 300 people now receive the newsletter, including about 30 who receive it by standard post. I also try to lend support to the various ministries based at Saint Paul’s, most important of which is our children’s ministry (the Mother & Baby Group and our Sunday School). I am a member of our Chaplaincy Council and have a voice in the governance of our Chaplaincy Association. Monaco has a very strong tradition of Ecumenical partnership, and I am very grateful for the welcome I have received from the other churches here.
I also organize classes at St Paul’s for small children preparing to make their First Communion and early teens getting ready for Confirmation. I teach a French Conversation course, and lead a variety of study groups. We have a wonderful wedding ministry at Saint Paul’s, and I enjoy working with couples preparing for their 'big day'.
CO: You clearly love your work, then?
FW: I consider myself very privileged, as an Anglican priest, to be welcomed into communities as something of a member of the extended family. It is a tremendous honour to be invited to accompany individuals and families through the great 'passages' of human life, celebrating new life, adolescence, marriage, various joys and sorrows, and the final passage to the Kingdom of Light that awaits the believer.
Being part of a Christian Community is extremely encouraging. It is wonderful to watch and to assist people find their place in the chaplaincy family, to help build links between people and groups, to encourage people to be welcoming and caring, to watch people grow in their God-given gifts – especially those that call for generosity in the concern for others and for our troubled world.
I also feel particularly privileged to share in the 'pulpit ministry' at Saint Paul’s. [See http://www.stpaulsmonaco.com/sermons.htm for more details]. Preparing the Sunday sermon is a stimulating enterprise that goes on throughout the week. Because I write my sermons in my head, daily tasks like walking the dog, running errands, or even waiting for the bus provide opportunities to nurture a message. Indeed, I am very pleased to see that my latter career of Anglican priest seems a harmonious continuation of my earlier career as a classroom teacher. A great privilege indeed!
CO: Was it easy for you to settle here in Monaco?
FW: Harder than I expected it would be. There are a surprising number of tiny differences between life in North America and in Europe. I would do things in what was for me the normal sort of way, for instance take fruits and vegetables to the checkout counter at the super market, only to be scolded and sent off to have everything weighed first. Surprises also included discovering that not all light bulbs have screw bases, or – worse yet – to learn that my North American sound system was not happy with European wiring (providing a rather impressive show of smoke!).
Hardest of all was waking up to the reality that I’d cut myself off, geographically, from a very strong social network that I enjoyed in Quebec City (which included friends made 30 years ago when I was a student at university there). I was terribly lonely and homesick at first, and for a much longer period that I would have liked. But I am happy to report that new social roots have sprouted and have begun to settle deeply in the Monegasque soil. I feel truly blessed with a small but growing network of new friends, and an extended family of neighbours, fellow Christians, colleagues, golfing partners, and other friends. I recently took a visitor to see an English movie at the Cinéma du Sporting, and was amazed to realise that I knew most of the people in the audience. After two years, I can safely say that Monaco is now 'home' to me in the best sense of the term.
CO: And the highlights?
FW: Monaco is such a great place to live, if you enjoy 'events' – and I do! I really get excited about the Tennis Championship, the Grand Prix, the International Circus Festival, the opera, philharmonic orchestra and AS Monaco FC seasons. I am daily impressed with one of the most spectacular coastlines in the world. I was a member of the Monarchist League of Canada, and I must say living in a Principality fits nicely. I feel distinctly honoured to have crossed paths with the Prince and members of his family on several occasions, and I have great admiration for Prince Albert’s personal dedication to the people of Monaco. Best of all, though, has been the privilege of welcoming friends and family who come to visit Monaco and, in many cases, Europe for the first time. Lots of fun! Finally, surely one of the big “highlights” was finding my four-legged friend Sparky – a Parson Russell Terrier – in a dog refuge and making him part of my life here in Monaco.
CO: How do you see your future? Will you stay here? I know that many people would hate to see you leave.
FW: Monaco really does feel like home to me now, and I believe my ministry here is well rooted and reasonably effective. I celebrated my 61st birthday in January, so it seems reasonable to think that I would stay here until my retirement which could happen either in 2014, or possibly as late as 2019 when I turn 70. I’ve always been one who believes in following the movement of the Spirit in matters like this. I did not foresee my previous two postings, nor did I see Monaco on the horizon. This said, I do believe it is important, at this stage in the history of Saint Paul’s, Monte-Carlo, to have a chaplain stick around for a while, so a term for my ministry here that could reach at least six or possibly even 11 years does seem to make a lot of sense at this point.
CO: I suppose a chaplain is never really off duty, but what are the attractions of the place itself?
FW: Mainly that so much of Europe within ready reach (a few hours’ drive or even fewer hours flight away). I must say, much as I do love the Canadian winter – really I do! – it’s true that the weather is fabulous here: so much sunshine, such breathtaking scenery. Most exciting of all: welcoming old friends and discovering the region with them.
I enjoy my feeble attempts at the game of golf – handicap over 20! – particularly golf on top of Mont Agel. Since the arrival of Sparky, the Parson Russell Terrier, I have found an interest in the challenges and opportunities of travel with four-legged friends. I would like to have a hand at doing more internet reporting - I have a travelogue at www.epilgrim.org, and possibly some more extensive writing. I enjoy going out to eat, especially at La Terrace in La Turbie, where the hospitality more than matches the fabulous view and the Rossi family restaurants in Monte-Carlo.
Life is very good on the Côte d’Azur and the people here, especially in the English speaking community, are the region’s greatest asset.
Father Walter Raymond OGS
Saint Paul's Anglican Church,
22 Avenue Grande Bretagne,
MC 98000, Monaco
+377 93 30 71 06