Easter Season Is Past But The Cross Lives On

A timeless account of a choir concert in Franconia, northern Bavaria . . .

It will be a long time before Christians in the Franconian town of Ebern in south Germany forget Palm Sunday this year when Roman Catholics and Lutherans, led by their respective church choirs, gathered in the Roman Catholic church of Sankt Laurentius to sing together a complete performance of Sir John Stainer's oratorio: “The Cucifixion”. Well known and well-loved in England, this was possibly the first time, certainly in recent years, that this work has been performed in Germany. The initiative for it came from the Reverend Alan Stockbridge, former British Army Chaplain and later Rector of two parishes in the Diocese of Canterbury, now living with his wife in Germany. To enable the oratorio to be followed in depth, copies of the whole text, translated into German by his wife Erika, were distributed to all members of the large congregation. “It is wonderful music”, enthused Wolfgang Schneider, the Roman Catholic choirmaster immediately after the first rehearsals.

       The occasion was marked by the presentation to the assembled Roman Catholic and Protestant parish clergy of a replica Coventry Cross of Nails, inscribed on the base with the names of their two parish churches (Christuskirche and Laurentiuskirche). The presentation was made by the Reverend Kenneth Dimmick, Area Dean of Anglican churches in Germany, who had travelled up from Stuttgart for the occasion. “It is one cross for both parishes to share” – he told the congregation. The cross will be held for a year by each church in turn and presented with the Easter candle which the two churches already give to each other each year on Easter Sunday.

     Rev Alan Stockbridge adds; “The cross, central to the Christian faith not only points to the reconciliation between God and mankind brought about by Christ, but also to reconciliation between human beings with one another. This is reflected in Christian music. “When it comes to spiritual music, we are one with each other”, as the Lutheran Area Dean commented in his short address. On that memorable occasion music and the cross jointly succeeded in bringing together in the Laurentiuskirche people from more than just the three   denominations present. As an interdenominational musical joint venture it was a first but also present were Muslims from amongst the many asylum seekers temporarily accommodated in Ebern. They all sat side by side – together, no questions asked. “That was good! We should do that more often”, said a member of the congregation at the end of the concert.