English-language Anglican worship in the Frauenkirche, Dresden

Frauenkirche, Dresden © Ricky Yates

Frauenkirche, Dresden © Ricky Yates

The Frauenkircke in Dresden is an 18th century Protestant Church featuring a 96m high dome resting on eight slender pillars. It was severely damaged during allied bombing raids on the city on 13th February 1945 and collapsed two days later. Because, following the end of World War Two, Dresden was situated in the Soviet zone of occupation which became the satellite communist state of East Germany, no efforts were made by the authorities to rebuild the Church. Instead, in 1966, the ruins were declared a ‘memorial against war’.

Following the collapse of communism and the reunification of Germany, quite appropriately 25 years ago today 🙂 , a society was formed to promote the rebuilding of the Frauenkirche and to raise funds to finance the project. Reconstruction commenced at the beginning of 1993 and was completed in 2005. The tenth anniversary of the consecration of the rebuilt Church will be celebrated at the end of this month on 30th October.

From the outset of the rebuilding project, very strong links have been established between the Frauenkirche and Coventry Cathedral, through the Community of the Cross of Nails. Their shared experience of the devastation caused by bombing during the Second World War, means that they both are involved in the work of reconciliation and the Coventry Litany of Reconciliation is used regularly at the Frauenkirche.

Since soon after the consecration of the rebuilt Frauenkirche, once a month, on a Sunday evening, an English-language Anglican service of Evening Prayer has been held. This has been under the auspices of the Berlin Anglican Chaplaincy, in particular the Assistant Chaplain, Rev’d Dr Irene Ahrens. She doesn’t always officiate as sometimes there are guest Anglican clergy from England, invited to take the service and preach. But she has overall responsibility to ensure things run smoothly!

Interior of the Frauenkirche © Ricky Yates

Interior of the Frauenkirche © Ricky Yates

Earlier this year, Irene contacted me, asking if I would be willing to take on her role from the beginning of 2016. She only works in a voluntary capacity; she is now 75 years old and her husband has had serious health issues in recent months. So during the week that Lea Williams was with me on placement back in early July, we spent the day in Dresden, meeting both Protestant Pastors, Holger Treutmann and Sebastian Feydt, together with their administrator Monika Schneider.

During our visit, we were given our own private tour of the amazing Church building, including parts that the average tourist or worshipper, never gets to see. We also spent time in their administrative offices just round the corner from the Church, discussing what normally happens each month at the Anglican service and enabling me to ask certain pertinent questions as to what to expect. All three were most pleased to discover my Coventry connections, being born and educated in the city.

Following further email exchanges and phone conversations, including one phone call when I was sitting in my hospital bed, it was agreed I would officiate at the service on the evening of Sunday 20th September. The original plan was for Irene to be there with me, to guide me as what to expect and show how things are normally done. Unfortunately, her husband’s continued ill health meant she was unable to attend.

Decorated ceiling of the dome of the Frauenkirche © Ricky Yates

Decorated ceiling of the dome of the Frauenkirche © Ricky Yates

On Sunday 20th, after both attending the Czech Protestant service, (to make a presentation to Pastor Eva who was retiring), and celebrating the Eucharist with the Prague Anglican congregation, I set out for Dresden by train, as my car was out of action having a new clutch installed & two new sections of exhaust fitted. Unfortunately, the train arrived late from Budapest and left Prague fifteen minutes later than it was meant to do so. It was then held up for a further twenty minutes just over the German border, by a broken-down train ahead of us. Thus I had a bit of a rush to get from Dresden Hauptbahnhof to the Frauenkirche.

Yours truly in the Frauenkirche following the service © Ricky Yates

Yours truly in the Frauenkirche following the service © Ricky Yates

Upon arrival at 17.30, feeling somewhat flustered by my delayed train journey, I was made welcome by a verger, who took me to the vestry where Pfarrer Sebastian Feydt and Monika Schneider were waiting for me, together with the organist, Daniel Clark. Having talked me through what was expected, they all went off to sit in the congregation, except for the organist who disappeared to the organ loft.

There was a congregation of around one hundred. As I discovered as I shook hands with people at the door following the service, they were a mixture of regular attending English-speakers, Germans with varying amounts of English – several wished me ‘Schönes abend’ as they left, together with English-speaking tourists from around the world. With Pfarrer Sebastian Feydt in the congregation, I did feel a little as though I was ‘preaching with a view’, as happens in some Protestant denominations. But he was very positive following the service and seems very pleased about me taking on the role of overseeing the English Anglican service.

Having successfully officiated in September, I’m next due in Dresden in December when the service will be one of Lessons and Carols. It will be Irene’s farewell service and our Diocesan Bishop Rt Rev’d Dr Robert Innes will also be present. Then from January, it will be over to me!

Never in my wildest dreams did I ever think I would get to lead worship and preach in the Dresden Frauenkirche, yet alone on a regular basis. Maybe I need to change the title of this blog to ‘Ricky Yates – an Anglican in Prague and Dresden 🙂

The Frauenkirche looking across the River Elbe © Ricky Yates

The Frauenkirche looking across the River Elbe © Ricky Yates

13 comments to English-language Anglican worship in the Frauenkirche, Dresden

  • Oh, how I envy you having this wonderful opportunity to minister in such a beautiful church and in a different country. 🙂 I remember reading about the rebuilding of the Frauenkirche and marvelling at how wonderfully well they had succeeded in recreating what had been lost. I look forward with great interest to further reports from Dresden. 🙂

    I note that Pastor Eva is retiring. She was very welcoming to me when I arrived to take my first service as your locum in 2010 and I’m sure she will be very much missed.

    • Ricky

      It is an amazing opportunity & a totally unexpected one too. However, on a practical level it makes sense as Prague is actually closer to Dresden than Berlin, both in distance & travel time. And when Irene asked me to take this on, she had no idea of my Coventry connections which make it even more special for me.

      Yes – Sunday 20th September was Pastor Eva’s last Sunday. She is another Czech lady who holds her age very well but she turned sixty this year. Her husband, who I presume is a few years older, retired as Dean of the Protestant Theological Faculty of Charles University in 2014. The new Pastor, who is male, has been appointed & is due to take up his post this month. But I still haven’t been given a date.

  • Paul Shorten

    Wonderful positive and exciting blog and so delighted that in spite of the travel frustration you obviously inspired the congregation with your leadership and message. Do trust that you will continue to enjoy leading evening service at Dresden and wish you continuing blessing at both Dresden and Prague. Well done thou good and faithful servant !

    • Ricky

      Thank you Paul for your kind comments. Yes – I could certainly have done without what you politely call ‘travel frustration’. Sitting in a stationary train for 20 minutes, looking at the River Elbe flowing by, with no idea when we would start moving again, gave me ever-increasing visions of being late for my first Frauenkirche service. We were only told the cause of the problem, sometime after we got moving again. So much for German efficiency 🙁

      I’m sure I will enjoy leading services in the Frauenkirche, now I’ve overcome my initial nervousness.

  • Congratulations on the expansion of your ministry — A congregation of 100 at Evening Prayer is certainly respectable! How long is the train ride (when all goes according to plan)? If that ever happens again, certainly you must have a cell phone number to contact someone at the church so that they know you are at least en route!

    The photos of the church are beautiful. So much more art and images on the walls than a standard Protestant church here in the US!

    • Ricky

      Thank you, Stephen. Apparently, the congregation can be much bigger in midsummer during the height of the tourist season & smaller in the middle of winter! The train journey should take two hours & fifteen minutes leaving Prague at 14.30 & reaching Dresden at 16.45. The service starts at 18.00 so there is some leeway. Leaving the Hauptbahnhof, I saw the tram I needed & ran to catch it. It is a five minute tram journey & then a five minute walk to the Frauenkirche.

      Yes – the Frauenkirche is much more decorated than you would expect for a Protestant Church!

  • Sean Mccann

    Hi Ricky,
    Good luck with the ‘new venture’, it certainly is a beautiful church you will be ministering in. Continued good health and best wishes.

    • Ricky

      Hi Sean – The Frauenkirche is indeed a beautiful Church & it’s a privilege to have the opportunity to lead worship & preach there. Thank you as always, for your kind words & best wishes.

  • Em

    Ohmygoodness- what an honor! I visited the Frauenkirche years ago right after it had been reopened, and then again the Easter before last. Both visits were marvelous, though I wasn’t privy to an English-speaking service. I’d really like to go to Dresden to see you preach there. Please post the dates!
    Also, glad you are feeling up to speed again 🙂

    • Ricky

      It was & will be an honor, Em – actually, an honour 🙂 The Frauenkirche is an amazing place to visit so I’m glad to know you’ve been & enjoyed it. English-language Anglican Evening Prayer is normally on the third Sunday evening of each month. I’ll be there more regularly from January 2016.

  • Robert Doolittle

    Ricky: I am suffering with envy of you. We visited Dresden twice and the Frauenkirche was under reconstruction on the second trip, and we did not get to go inside. It is indeed a beautiful building, and the history of how it came to be is fascinating. I think the statue of Luther in the square nearby is quite dramatic being in that open space. We did not see that either on our two trips.
    God Bless,
    Bob

    • Ricky

      Hello Bob,

      Envy isn’t a Christian virtue 🙂 But I do feel enormously privileged to have this opportunity to lead worship and preach in the Frauenkirche. Yes – there is an impressive statue of Luther, very close to the Church. Appropriately for replying to your comment, today is Reformation Day / Reformationstag, celebrating the 498th anniversary of the publication of Luther’s 95 theses.

  • […] My previous post in early October, explains the background to the regular monthly English-language Anglican Service and how I was asked to take future responsibility for it. One important update to what I wrote then, is that Gustav, the husband of Rev’d Dr Irene Ahrens, who I mentioned as being seriously ill, sadly died on 30th September 2015, something I didn’t discover until four weeks after the event. […]