Christ Church in the Manche - Our history

Beginning

In 1999 two British ladies, Pat Laws and Pamela Campbell, felt strongly that there should be an Anglophone church in the Manche. The nearest was at Dinard, in Brittany, a three-hour round trip from the Coutances area. After meeting other like-minded Christians a committee was formed which later became know as the ‘gang of eight.’ This body of people included Mike Brooke, and his wife Linda, who became one of the first Church Wardens along with Vic Briggs. They began the search for the pathway which would lead them through the complicated, often confusing and strict French Laws, with their obvious language complications. Once the paperwork was completed the committee became The Association of Christ Church Coutances.

In 2002, with the help of two retired Anglican priests, John Marvel and Mark Vidal-Hall, the first of four services that year was held in a small chapel near the village of Lengronne. Then In 2003 an opportunity arose for them to speak to Bishop Geoffrey Rowell when he visited Dinard. This was followed, in January in 2004, by the first Annual General Meeting of the church being held when they were visited by Rev. Canon Anthony Wells, the then Archdeacon of France.

Growth

The next major move was when Linda Brooke managed to gain permission to use the chapel in the Lycee/College Saint Germain in Coutances, where she worked. This arrangement was accepted by Bishop Rowell and we became, officially, a 'Congregation within the Diocese in Europe'. Services were held once a month, taken by alternately by the Reverends John and Mark. However, as the church was growing quickly, there was an urgent need for a permanent minister. It was at this time that Peter Hales, a C of E Reader of 25-years standing, arrived on the scene. He had felt called to live in France and, even though he was still working, he and his wife Pippa bought a house here, in the south of the Manche. Peter was able to take one service a month, so Christ Church Coutances now had two services a month. During Bishop David Hamid's visit in May of 2005 Peter was made Minister-in-Charge.

By then Peter had already formed a good relationship with Père Louise Deschamps, who is the Roman Catholic Ecumenical Officer for the Diocese of Coutances and Avranches, and was developing good ecumenical links with the Roman Catholic Church in the area. In July of that year the new Bishop of Coutances, Stanislas Lalanne was ordained. Peter with Reader Mike Brooke were invited to attend, along with the newly retired priest Rev Jan Taylor and her husband, Rob, who was also a Reader.

In the summer of 2007, during Bishop David's visit, the Churchwardens asked if it might be possible for Peter to be ordained a priest and take over the role of Chaplain to Christ Church Coutances. Peter had previously started training for ordination but, due to circumstances beyond his control, had been unable to complete the course. The Bishop agreed to put Peter forward for ordination. In 2008 Peter was accepted by the Diocesan Discernment team and later by the Bishops Advisory Panel. He started a year’s course of studies and was ordained a Deacon in September 2008 and a Priest in October 2009. Peter retired at the end of May 2014 so the position of Chaplain is now vacant.

Because of the dedicated hard work of so many in the Church it continues to grow and a daughter church was started in the south of the Manche, initially at Vezins, and it has now moved to Virey. Services are held every Sunday to minister to those who live in the far South of the Manche and find Coutances too great a distance to travel.

Gratot-Hommëel

The Church began to long for its own home, so in 2011 the Roman Catholic Church offered us a Church of our own in Gratot-Hommëel, to the west of Coutances. Thus a small mustard seed has now grown into a large bush and with God’s blessing it will bear much fruit.