Who are we?

The Chaplaincy of Aquitaine first came into being in 1825, when a church community was established in Bordeaux. In south-west France it seems that there have always been people seeking to worship God in the English language, and so for almost 200 years we have been able, as the Psalmist puts it, to ‘sing the Lord’s song in a foreign land’. (Ps 137:14)

We are a diverse bunch! It would be easy to focus on our differences in nationality, age, denominational backgrounds; life experiences; church traditions and convictions. Yet, we believe that there is one person who can unite us…and his name is Jesus Christ. As a result, what we share is far greater than what potentially could keep us apart. Jesus’ death on the cross and resurrection stand at the centre of our life as faith communities in this part of France. As followers of Jesus we recognize that he is in us and we are in him.
Actually, we are on a ‘shared journey: growing in Christ.’ We are far from perfect, yet we strive to love, pray and live like Jesus. We are convinced that if we open ourselves to Jesus, by listening to his Word and the Holy Spirit (and act on that!!), we will bear much fruit (John 15). We hope that many will join us on that exciting journey…including you!

Committed to Christian Unity

We enjoy excellent relations with our French Roman Catholic hosts and have formed strong ecumenical links with several different Christian churches in the region. Each year French/English bilingual celebrations are held to mark the Week of Prayer for Christian Unity, (18-25 January) and these provide a focus for our commitment to true ecumenism, a shared journey in faith.

Our role is to minister to the spiritual needs of English-speaking people in the Dordogne, Lot-et-Garonne and Gironde. As an Anglican Chaplaincy, part of the Diocese in Europe, and working in partnership with the Intercontinental Church Society (ICS), we are home to Christians from all denominations. We also welcome those who are exploring questions of faith, or who are simply looking for companionship or support. All are welcome!


Currently congregations comprising many different nationalities meet in a dozen or so worship centres in an area the size of Wales. Worship services in English are led by a growing team of clergy, lay readers and congregational worship leaders, and include Holy Communion, Morning Worship, Prayer and Praise, Family Services, and Evensong.

Annual themes to inspire and encourage our walk with Christ

2024: Yesterday, Today, Forever - Hebrews 13:8

Dear friends,


2024 is going to be a year of change for all of us.

Over the past 12 months we have, to quote the old adage, lived through ‘interesting’ times. However, one of the greatest joys that I have always derived from being in this Chaplaincy is the inspiring way in which you collectively react to any challenge that comes along – with prayer and generosity. It is, in particular, this prayerfulness that underpins everything that we do and I hope that that will continue long into the future.


With my announcement earlier in the year that I will be retiring from my role as Chaplain at the end of May 2024, I guess that you are wondering about what the future holds for this Chaplaincy. This, of course, comes alongside much more general and rather greater concerns about the current state of our world. 2023 has been a year of conflict – warfare in Ukraine, Palestine, Israel and too many other places, political and industrial unrest and ongoing protest and concern about the way that we are abusing our planet. All in all, it would not be unreasonable to be feeling somewhat adrift on unfriendly tides.

And so it has come to my last opportunity to choose a theme for the coming year. Following on from last year’s theme of ‘Renewing Hope’, I thought that I would like to continue this idea of setting our eyes, not on the mess that is around us, but on the greater and eternal hope that is set in our relationship with Jesus Christ. And so it seemed appropriate to choose a verse from the Letter to the Hebrews that reminds us that, however unsure we are of what’s going on in our lives and in our world, there is one thing that never changes.

“Jesus Christ is the same yesterday, today and forever.” (Hebrews 13:8)

I’ve never been very good at remembering Bible verses, but this is one that has lived with me since my school days and I have always found it both challenging and comforting. Challenging because, if things seem to be going awry in my relationship with God, it reminds me that it is me that has changed not Jesus. If my view of the world isn’t in line with Jesus’, it’s likely to be me that’s wrong. If God doesn’t seem to be speaking to me, it’s most probable that I’m not listening properly. God [Jesus Christ] is the same yesterday, today and forever. The comfort is that this reminds us that Jesus is the firm foundation, the fixed point, the pole star that allows us to chart a course through the storms of life.

By this time next year, you will probably have a new Chaplain. By this time next year, we hope and pray that there will be a cease to the fighting in Ukraine and in Gaza. By this time next year there will be a new President in the United States and quite possibly a new Government in Britain. These things we can speculate about, but whatever happens, isn’t it good to know that Jesus Christ is the same, yesterday, today and forever and on that fact we can safely build our hope for the future.. May I wish you and your loved ones a blessed and hope-filled New Year.

2023: Renewing Hope - Romans 15:13

Firstly, can I wish you all a slightly belated Happy New Year and I hope that you will have been able to spend a pleasant Christmas period despite the amazing number and variety of cold and flu bugs that seem to be doing the rounds.


It’s at this time of year that I have always announced our theme for the coming year and this year I have chosen the theme “Renewing Hope” along with a verse from St Paul’s letter to the Romans. In Chapter 15 verse 13 we read: “May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you trust in him, so that you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit.”

I have to admit to a slight play on words here, as the words used in the theme are slightly ambiguous. I sincerely hope that by building our trust in God we will, indeed, find that hope is renewed in us. But at the same time, God’s hope is a renewing hope – leading us to greater joy and peace and building us up both individually and as a church. Thus hope is being renewed in us and is also renewing us through the power of the Holy Spirit.

I have often spoken of how I believe that Hope is perhaps the single most important part of the Christian faith. This hope isn’t just a wish for something nice but is a deep trust in God’s goodness so that we can know that, ultimately, our future is safe in His hands.

As we move into yet another year of deep uncertainty and, indeed for some, of real fear, how much do we need to know that the future is in safe hands? I am constantly awed by hearing of the experiences of people in our Anglican Chaplaincy in Kyiv as they face the reality of the Russian aggression. Of news from the Henry Henderson Institute in Malawi where we have helped to supply clean water to the school kids living with the reality of the climate change in which we have all played our part. Of Christians in countries like North Korea or Afghanistan who live with the reality of religious persecution, imprisonment or even death. And yet, so often, these are the people who do appear to be “overflowing with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit.”

In 2022, through ChapAid you have all shown immense generosity in helping to provide help for people such as these. My prayer for us all this year is that, with the help of the Holy Spirit our trust in the God of Hope will grow and grow, filling us with His joy and peace so that we too can overflow with hope, a hope that will then, in turn, flow out over those around us locally and throughout the world so that in the darkness of war, repression and poverty we might play our small part in kindling the light of Christ in everyone’s heart. May I wish you an very hopeful New Year and I look forward to journeying with you all on every step of the way.

2022: Caring for God's Creation - Looking forward with hope

In his Christmas broadcast in the troubled days at the end of 1939, King George VI famously quoted part of a poem by Minnie Haskins, called “God Knows”:

“And I said to the man who stood at the gate of the year: “Give me a light that I may tread safely into the unknown”.
And he replied: “Go out into the darkness and put your hand into the Hand of God. That shall be to you better than light and safer than a known way”. So I went forth, and finding the Hand of God, trod gladly into the night. And He led me towards the hills and the breaking of day in the lone East.”

Whilst our current situation is perhaps rather less dark than when King George was speaking, only three months into World War II, the way ahead for us into 2022 still looks, at very least, somewhat foggy. Over the last couple of years, as we’ve lived through the COVID pandemic, I have been constantly encouraged by the way that we, as a church family in this Chaplaincy, have remained generally buoyant and hopeful throughout. We are certainly not yet free of this horrible disease, but I sincerely believe that we have, in our small way, demonstrated the truth in that poem. Through the desire to pray, worship and study together by whatever means, physical or virtual, we have walked hand in hand with God perhaps more than ever before. Over the coming months we will be continuing our current focus on prayer with an 8-week course ‘24/7 Prayer’ available to anyone who would like to join in and we will also be exploring ways in which we can rebuild our congregations and church life as, hopefully, we learn how to live more openly in this post-COVID world.

Now is also that time of year when we announce our theme for the coming year. I suspect that it will come as no surprise that we will continue to focus on the other important initiative promoted during 2021, caring for our environment. Each year we have designed an adapted Chaplaincy logo but this year we are going to revisit the logo that was last used in 2018 (and which I think is one of our best yet!) Our new theme will simply be “Caring for God’s Creation” and our bible verse for the year will be from Paul’s letter to the Romans:

“ .. in hope that the creation itself will be set free from its bondage to decay and will obtain the freedom of the glory of the children of God.“ (Romans 8:20-21)

I pray that, as we move into the unknown future, we will indeed ‘put our hand into the hand of God’ and find that He leads us into a brighter, more hopeful and more prayerful new dawn for this Chaplaincy and for the whole of creation. I wish you all a blessed New Year.

2021: United in Faith

Dear Friends,

I, along with almost everyone else in the world, seem to have been saying over and over again, “What a strange year this has been!” However, due to the vagaries of the Gregorian calendar, today marks a new beginning. 2020 is consigned to history and we have a whole new year ahead of us. I wish that I could say that all our problems were now behind us but we certainly do have some degree of light on the horizon – vaccinations have begun across Europe and a trade deal has been struck between Britain and the EU, so at least two of our on-going concerns seem to have moved into a new and more hopeful phase.


This is also the time when I try to choose a theme that will take us through the coming year. There was obviously some divine inspiration at work last year when I chose Hebrews 12:2 as a text for the year because I think that many of us have felt that it has only been by keeping “our eyes fixed on Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy set before him endured the cross …” that we have been able to keep on some sort of even keel throughout all the messiness of the past twelve months.

However, on one very important level, I believe that 2020 has been a good year for us and for our Chaplaincy. Little did I think, when Charlotte and I first started to explore how we might move our worship online, that this enforced separation would in itself bring many of us together in a way that has previously been impossible in our extended and far-flung Chaplaincy. Sharing our online Sunday worship, joining together for Morning and Evening Prayer through Zoom, virtual coffee mornings, house groups, study courses and meetings have all become an integral part of our community life and will, I suspect, continue to be so even after the scourge of COVID is passed. This new-found sense of unity through our shared exploring of our faith has pointed me towards our theme for 2021 –

“UNITED IN FAITH” with a text from 1 Corinthians 12:27 “Now you are the body of Christ, and each one of you is a part of it.” (New Living Translation)

In several of his letters, St Paul uses the image of the church as a body with Christ as the head. Always he points out that, in the body, each part has an important and God-given role. I can’t help feeling that, for us as a Chaplaincy, this image has never been more apt. 2020 has been a difficult year on pretty much every level and yet, through working together with faith and with our focus firmly of Jesus, we have come out the other side in very good shape.

We have some financial challenges ahead, but no more than we’ve faced before. We have some challenges to work out how to rebuild our Sunday and weekday worship once the restrictions are lifted. We have some challenges personally as we (or at least the Brits amongst us!) come to terms with the new political relationship between the UK and the EU. And I suspect that we have some challenges ahead that we haven’t yet foreseen!

Of one thing, however, I am absolutely sure. If we continue to live our lives with our focus and faith in Christ alone, then whatever happens in the coming year, we will as a community continue to flourish, grow and become even stronger. So I pray that you have a blessed and joyous 2021 and I very much look forward to journeying with you through the adventure that God has in store for us all.

2020: Hebrews 12:2

“Let us fix our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy set before him endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.” (Hebrews 12:2 NIV)

I can’t believe that another year has passed and we are once again embarking on a New Year. Each year since I arrived in 2016 I have made some mention at this stage about the uncertainty that is facing us in the coming twelve months. Sadly, this year is no exception. The election in the United Kingdom has now made Brexit an inevitable certainty – sooner rather than later – and we will shortly enter the period of wrangling over the exact terms of the split. France too is undergoing a period of political and social upheaval and 2020 will also bring a Presidential election (at very least) in the USA and who knows what else. All in all, the view of the horizon still seems remarkably foggy!


It is, however, particularly pleasing that 2019 has been another very positive year in the Chaplaincy. We have certainly faced our challenges, we have lost some dear friends and said goodbye to others who have moved on to pastures new but I believe that, as a church family we have grown together and enjoy each others’ company over the last year. We have also been blessed with another successful year financially due to lots of hard work by almost everyone but, most importantly, through acknowledging that it is “All Yours, Lord!” and that we worship a generous and faithful God.

Looking forward now, we start from a solid foundation but there is still much to be done. We will need to keep careful control of our money and to continue to challenge ourselves to strength our financial situation even further. However, I do feel that, over the last few years, we have been somewhat budget-driven and have perhaps lost focus on “the joy set before us”. In the past, the only real hard input that the Chaplaincy Council have asked for has been an annual budget forecast from each worship centre. This year, I would like to explore with local committees, local wardens and the ministry team how we can be more engaged with each other in sharing our faith and making the Gospel heard through Aquitaine.

For this reason, for the coming year I have not chosen a slogan, but the bible verse shown above. I couldn’t think of a short, snappy way to shorten it so our 2020 theme is simply “Hebrews 12:2”. This verse will, I trust, help us to look beyond the ups and downs of life and to focus on how Jesus leads us towards the joy of the promises of God. He was willing to face the pain and shame of the cross to show us that way and has promised us a place with Him in God’s kingdom. The future of our church family does not lie in us just working harder or working smarter. Our security can only be found by fixing our eyes on Jesus and following where he leads us.

I hope that this verse will soon be firmly lodged in our collective memories and repeated as a constant reminder to us all at every point in the year. I pray that we can look forward to many more great blessings in the twelve months to come and I am looking forward to journeying along this path with you all. Happy New Year!

Intercontinental Church Society

ICS: WHO ARE WE? We are an Anglican mission society who proclaim the Christ of the Scriptures to anyone who can speak or understand English, and we work mainly in countries where English is not the first language. Our churches are truly multi-national, and multi-denominational, with sometimes over 30 countries represented in the big cities like Paris, Brussels and The Hague. We work mainly in Europe, N. African rim, the Mediterranean and the Falkland Islands.


ICS: WHAT DO WE DO? We plant churches, put chaplains on summer campsites in France and Italy, and in two Swiss mountain churches, and we also recruit and nominate clergy to serve in these places, often in buildings owned by the Society. We also enable people to find English speaking churches abroad, not just Anglican churches, and via our website, www.ics-uk.org. This is an excellent resource for holidaymakers, business people travelling for their work, and students attending foreign universities. Many of our chaplaincies have strong links to the universities in the cities where they are placed, like Bordeaux in Aquitaine. ICS has been involved in this chaplaincy since 1873, and they have supported us through many a difficult period with prayer and finance.


ICS: WHAT IS MY ROLE? This is your mission agency; help ICS to reach more people both in France and beyond, so be sure to take a copy of the quarterly magazine for information and prayer. You could adopt a particular chaplaincy to support, be in contact via their website, and be part of what they are doing. For the price of a restaurant meal or two, become a member of the society, and make this sum part of your annual Christian giving pattern. Give and watch where it goes! It’s exciting!


Madge Olby Honorary Travelling Secretary for ICS.