Over 1,000 Worshippers Meet In Hamburg

The German Protestant Kirchentag is a phenomenon quite like no other. Founded in 1949, the same year as the German Federal Republic, as a movement of Protestant lay people, it is today a huge manifestation of ecumenism that takes place every two years. This year it was Hamburg’s turn to host 100,000 full-time visitors (most of them under 30!) and 30,000 active participants at 2500 events held between 1-5 May. It is a platform for intensive discussion, and a forum for critical debate involving people from church and politics held every two years. The theme of this year’s Kirchentag was ‘Soviel du brauchst’ – in English ‘As much as you need’– taken from Exodus 16:18.

Kirchentag provided an opportunity for the Anglican Church of St Thomas Becket which last year celebrated its 400th anniversary under the heading ‘Extending a Welcome’, to live up not only to this, but also to the recently adopted mission statement to be very much involved in the wider community in Hamburg. The church was host to Evensong with the Kantorei Sankt Marien, Rostock, who showed how a German protestant church has adopted a great Anglican tradition. The church was packed, as it was again when almost 400 people attended the Meissen Service to celebrate the ecumenical relations between the Church of England and the Evangelische Kirche in Deutschland (EKD) – a service in both English and German at which the Rt. Revd Nick Baines, Bishop of Bradford and Co-Chairman of the Meissen Commission, presided and Bishof Prof. Dr. Friedrich Weber, the EKD Co-Chairman of the Meissen Commission, preached. St Thomas Becket hosted a good party afterwards, with helpers still able to get up in time for the normal parish Sunday Service with Bishop David Hamid presiding, Archdeacon Jonathan LLoyd present and the Very Revd Dr John Arnold, Dean Emeritus of Durham, preaching.

Members of St Thomas Becket congregation were pleased to welcome back all six locums from the vacancy period in 2011, all regular Kirchentag participants.  The Council of Anglican and Episcopal Churches in Germany (CAECG) had a stall amongst the many in the Hamburg Exhibition Centre’s ‘Market of Opportunities’ as did the Anglican-Lutheran Society which recruited a number of new members.

Tthe Australian born Chaplain of St Thomas Becket Church, Rev Matthew Jones says ‘This has been an amazing experience. Over 1000 people have attended worship services in our church in the three days, and many others have come inside to visit and find some peace and quiet. The City has been alive with people of many nationalities and it has been great for us to be able to play our part in welcoming them to Hamburg together with our sister churches. All in all a really moving experience that has helped us live our mission statement to be A welcoming, active and inclusive church, growing in our relationship with God and the wider community ’  Even the elusive Hamburg sun shone throughout!

After Kirchentag the scaffolding finally went up on the outside of St Thomas Becket Church for renovations to begin, thanks to money raised during the 400th Anniversary year.  This too was an event that reflected a spirit of ecumenical and civic solidarity: among the well-wishers at the press launch were Father Martin Löwenstein SJ, Priest in Charge, Roman Catholic Church of St. Ansgar and Hauptpastor Alexander Röder, St Michael’s Lutheran Church, as well as members of the Hermann Reemstma Stiftung whose generous sponsorship contributes significantly to the costs and Dr Ursula Markfort Head of the Office for the Preservation of Historic Buildings and Monuments of the Free and Hanseatic City of Hamburg.

Picture (by Phil Zeni) shows the ecumenical mixture of visitors:- Dr Ursula Markfort, Office for the Preservation of Historic Buildings and Monuments, Free and Hanseatic City of Hamburg, Bernhard Reemtsma, Chairman of the Board, Hermann Reemtsma Stiftung, Dr Sebastian Giesen, Director, Hermann Reemtsma Stiftung, Rev Matthew Jones, Anglican Chaplain, Church of St Thomas Becket, Alk Friedrichsen, Alk Friedrichsen GmbH (architect), Fr Martin Löwenstein SJ, Priest in Charge, Roman Catholic Church of St. Ansgarand Hauptpastor Alexander Röder, St Michael’s Church (Lutheran) with members of the congregation.