Last Sunday evening, one week later than usual, I officiated at the English-language Anglican Service of Evening Prayer, hosted by the Frauenkirche in Dresden. At the beginning of the service, I welcomed all those attending, explained who I am, and then made three announcements.
The first was to apologise that, once more, my troublesome front crown, having managed to stay in place for the three previous months, had again become loose and then fallen out on Sunday morning. Besides making me look goofy, this also meant that speaking publicly was difficult as numerous speech sounds are made by putting your tongue to your front teeth and it is therefore somewhat difficult to be articulate, if there is a big gap 🙁
Secondly, I thanked everyone for attending, being very aware that the service had coincided with a rather important football match 🙂 Germany were playing Slovakia in the last sixteen of the Euro 2016 football competition, the match kicking off at exactly the same time as our service began.
But thirdly I said, I just wanted to clearly declare that, ‘Last Thursday, I voted to remain!’ The congregation of native English-speakers from around the world, together with English-speaking Germans, erupted in sympathetic laughter the like of which I’ve never experienced previously when officiating at the Frauenkirche.
I was originally going to write about the theme of the service and how I tackled it in my sermon, which had very clear resonances with the referendum result. But instead, in order to get this post published tonight and to keep it reasonably short in length, I just want to tell you of a conversation I had following the service, which encapsulates one very unpleasant aspect of the recent referendum campaign.
As I explained in a previous post, following worship, a small number of the regular Dresden congregation, gather for a drink in a nearby Bierstube, the Augustiner an der Frauenkirche. It being warm and dry, we were able to sit outside, enjoying the evening air and hearing a loud cheer from a nearby establishment, when Germany scored a third goal part-way through the second half of their match.
We were joined for the first time by an Anglophile German couple – Stephan and Kornelia. Stephan explained to me that he was a GP and had undertaken some of his medical studies in the UK, including his GP training, and had then worked as a GP for a few years in Mansfield, Nottinghamshire, before returning to Germany. He added that one of the reasons they had started attending the monthly English-language service was to ensure they didn’t lose their English!
But they then told me how their daughter had just finished her studies at Gymnasium, and had arranged to have gap year, before going to university. She had been accepted to work for a UK charity based in London, starting in July, providing respite care for the parents of handicapped children.
Hearing the outcome of the referendum on Friday morning, she had expressed to them her fear, that she might not now be able to do this. And even if she did, she was concerned as to how she would be perceived and received in current British society.
The ‘Leave campaign’ has released a very unpleasant current of xenophobia and racism meaning that a German young lady who wants to give something very positive to British society, is now left feeing very uncomfortable and wondering whether her chosen path was wise. Messrs Johnson, Gove and Farage – you have an awful lot to answer for!