Recently, I’ve had various questions and enquiries about my involvement with the regular monthly English-language Anglican Evening Service held in the Frauenkirche, Dresden. So I thought it was time for an update, particularly now I’ve finally finished writing here about our October Polish adventure.
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.
As I mentioned in that post, having led the service and preached on Sunday 20th September, I wasn’t expecting to be in Dresden again until early December. However, on Thursday 29th October, I suddenly got an email inviting me to an evening meeting only five days later, to plan all the evening services, including the Anglican ones, for the first four months of 2016. Deciding that it would be best to be there to avoid things being decided on my behalf, I cancelled what I was meant to be doing in Prague, and booked a train ticket.
Therefore on the evening of Tuesday 3rd November, I sat through a meeting lasting nearly two hours, conducted predominantly in German. I should add that all the other attendees were German Protestant ministers & theologians. Need I say more 🙂 To be fair, I did understand a good deal of what was being said, but struggled to respond in grammatically correct German. Sybille had firmly said that I should go to the meeting alone, as it would improve my German 😀
When an answer was directly required of me, Pastor Sebastian Feydt did always ask me in English. Probably the funniest moment was when he asked in German, ‘Was ist Palmsonntag auf Englisch?’ ‘Palm Sunday’, I responded, and everyone laughed.
The tradition at the Frauenkirche is that the evening services follow a set theme over a series of weeks. The English-language Anglican Services are not regarded as an exception, but rather as part of the agreed theme. Therefore, whilst on the first three Sundays of January 2016, including the Anglican Service on Sunday 17th January, there is no set theme, from Sunday 24th January – Sunday 20th March inclusive, the theme is to be ‘Das Kreuz verbindet’ – ‘The cross connects’ or, ‘We are connected by the cross’.
The idea is that each service will focus on one of the numerous crosses that are within the Frauenkirche. On Sunday 21st February, I have been specifically asked to preach about the ‘Cross of Nails’ that connects the Frauenkirche with Coventry Cathedral. My theme will be reconciliation and my text 2 Corinthians 5. 18 – ‘All this is from God, who reconciled us to himself through Christ, and has given us the ministry of reconciliation’. What a wonderful opportunity but also a great challenge. I will also have the joy of preaching on Palmsonntag Abend – Palm Sunday evening.
I always enjoy my Dresden visits, not least because the Frauenkirche authorities kindly organise and pay for me to stay overnight at the nearby Hotel Martha. On my early November visit, I was particularly struck by this banner displayed outside the Church. For those who cannot read German it says, ‘Building bridges, living reconciliation, strengthening faith’. A pretty good mission statement for any Church!
As explained in my earlier post, when I was next expecting to be in Dresden, was on the evening of Sunday 6th December. For reasons that I’m still trying to fathom, in December, the English-language Anglican Service gets moved from the third Sunday, to the first Sunday of the month. This causes me problems, as the monthly Brno service is also normally held on the first Sunday evening of each month. This year, I sent my Reader Jack Noonan off to Brno, to conduct their Service of Lessons and Carols, where he promptly had the biggest congregation we’ve had in Brno since beginning services there, four years ago. I obviously need to get him to officiate in Brno more often 🙂
The evening service in Dresden was also one of Lessons & Carols at which my Diocesan Bishop, Rt Rev’d Dr Robert Innes, was the preacher. It was his first visit to Dresden and the Frauenkirche. At the end of the service, just before we gave a great rendition of ‘O come all ye faithful’ and Bishop Robert gave the Blessing, there were two presentations made by Pastor Holger Treutmann.
The first of these was to Rev’d Dr Irene Ahrens, to thank her for her ten years of overseeing the English-language Anglican Service. After she had spoken in reply, it was my turn to be introduced as the new coordinator. As well as welcoming me and thanking me for taking on this task, I was given two gifts which you can see in the title photo of this post.
The book is a beautifully illustrated history of the Frauenkirche from 1726, when building commenced, right through to the consecration of the re-built Church in 2005. Reading it has both improved my knowledge of German Church history, as well as giving me a wonderful insight into the design of the interior and how it illustrates Lutheran theology and ecclesiastical understanding. The circular box contained some most delicious sächsische Schokolade. I love the way the creator of the chocolates is a Schokoladenmanufaktur – all one word 😀
Following the service, I stood at the Church door with Irene, as we bid farewell to the congregation. I wanted a photo of myself with Irene but in the end, the only reasonably decent photo I got was this one with an Argentinian couple who regularly attend the service and have recently had a baby. The prominent scab on my left cheek is from where I was treated with liquid nitrogen by my dermatologist, four days previously. It has now healed.
After bidding farewell to everybody, Bishop Robert and his wife Helen, together with Irene & I, were all invited to a splendid evening meal, hosted by Pastor Holger Treutmann in the adjacent Coselpalais restaurant. After a much needed good night’s sleep at Hotel Martha, I enjoyed briefly exploring some Christmas market stalls as I made my way to the Hauptbahnhof and my return journey to Prague on Monday morning.
The next English-language Anglican Evening Services in the Frauenkirche will be on 17th January, 21st February and 20th March, all starting at 18.00. The details can also be found in both English and German, on the Frauenkirche website.