Chairperson’s report for 2018-2019
After the AGM in 2018, services continued regularly until June, when on 10th June we said goodbye to Iffy, Mikayla and Jonathan, and their helper Mary. We were sad to see them go, not only because they had been a joy and a blessing to all of us, but also because they were the last of the various American and other embassy employees who had been our members over the previous 4 years or so. With their departure the congregation was reduced to a handful and the children’s group became defunct, but we hoped for an influx of newcomers in the autumn, as had happened in the past.
Unfortunately that influx did not take place. There have been some newcomers, but they are very occasional in attendance, so it has been hard to plan or organize anything beyond services. There are now five of us who live permanently in Zagreb, and two who come to services from Slovenia. They divide their time between Slovenia and the UK and cannot always be with us. Therefore the chaplaincy has been reduced from a thriving fellowship of 30 or so adults, with a lively Sunday School and women’s Bible study group, to a handful of regular worshippers.
Before the summer break, we heard the exciting news that our churchwarden and treasurer Mark Davies had been awarded the British Empire Medal in the Queen’s Birthday Honours for services to the British community in Croatia. His services include his involvement in the chaplaincy for over a decade, for which we are grateful, his work with the British Council, and of course his passionate cricketing… He was presented with the award at a special ceremony held at the residence of the British Ambassador on 26th October. Once again we congratulate Mark on this well-deserved award.
The next notable event in our year was the Remembrance Day Service. In a change from our usual custom, and since 2018 marked the 100th anniversary of the Armistice at the end of World War One, a special service was arranged in Zagreb Cathedral, with the participation of ambassadors from many countries. Our chaplaincy also attended, proudly wearing our poppies, but unfortunately the service was completely in Croatian and made only a passing reference to the centenary celebrations. We were rather disappointed and it was unclear why this was the case. Nevertheless, a group of ten of us enjoyed socialising over coffee after the service.
On 16th December we held our annual Carol Service. This was the smallest service of this kind we have had in recent years, but we still enjoyed singing our favourite carols and remembering the true meaning of Christmas. Suitable refreshments (mince pies and mulled wine) were served afterwards.
Since the New Year we have continued our regular pattern of two services a month, on the 2nd and 4th Sundays of each month, with Holy Communion once a month. As the weeks have passed, we have become increasingly aware of the fact that our regular congregation has shrunk to single figures; with 4 or 5 regulars and some visitors. On one occasion, two young women came who had learned about our services from the web site – proving the worth of that site – for which we thank Cliff.
On the Sunday after Easter we were visited by Rev. Oliver Preston from Janet Berković’s home church in Bolton and his very helpful and charming young daughter Betty. It was a joy to have them both and we appreciated Olly’s fresh approach and encouraging message.
We now find ourselves approaching the end of another season in the chaplaincy. The entire work of running the chaplaincy, including administration, finances, organisation, services, and diocesan requirements, now falls on the shoulders of just three people. We have come to question the viability of the chaplaincy in its present form and the potential for continuing as we have been doing. We have a major decision before us about the future of the chaplaincy, the organization of services, our registration with the Croatian authorities as an NGO, and many other things. We pray that God would give us all wisdom to know what he has for all of us and how we should proceed in the future.
We would like to express our thanks to the parish priest and congregation of the Church of St. Blaise for generously and kindly allowing us to use their premises for our services. We particularly thank Rev. Robin Fox for his faithful ministry to us, making the tiring journey from Belgrade on a monthly basis to celebrate Holy Communion. We also thank Janet B’s home church for their support in many ways – not least in prayer. We thank Maja and Cliff for their musical talents in accompanying our singing. And last but not least we thank Janet Berković for her tremendous work and service to us all, in organizing, preparing and running services, for her inspirational and challenging sermons, and her commitment to the chaplaincy over the years and this past year in particular.
Janet Tuškan, Chaplaincy Chairperson