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!
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.
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.
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 🙂