A wonderful Sunday at the Frauenkirche, Dresden

Frauenkirche, Dresden © Ricky Yates

As is explained here on the Frauenkirche website, the monthly English-language Anglican service of Evening Prayer for which I am responsible, is made possible because of the Meissen Agreement. This is an ecumenical agreement, made in 1988, between the Evangelische Kirche in Deutschland (EKD) – the main German Protestant Church, and the Church of England. The implementation of this agreement and seeking to take it to the ultimate goal of full communion between the two Churches, is overseen by a body called the Meissen Commission.

In August last year, having ascertained that Rt Rev’d Dr Jonathan Gibbs, Suffragan Bishop of Huddersfield, is the current Anglican Co-Chair of the Meissen Commission, I wrote to him asking whether there was any space in his episcopal diary when, wearing his Meissen Commission ‘hat’, he could come to Dresden and be the preacher at the English-language Anglican service. Knowing that bishops can have very full diaries, I gave him all the dates of the 2019 services to choose from. He kindly replied a few days later, saying he would be very pleased to accept my invitation and that he would confirm a date very soon, once he had reviewed his 2019 diary commitments.

Bishop Jonathan’s reply arrived the same day as I was attending a meeting of the Predigerrunde in Dresden, to plan all the Frauenkirche evening services in the first four months of 2019. So I mentioned to Frauenkirchenpfarrer Sebastian Feydt, that I had invited Bishop Jonathan to preach at one of the English-language Anglican services in 2019 and was awaiting confirmation of a suitable date. He was most pleased & asked me to let him know when I had an agreed date. If the chosen date didn’t clash with an existing booked preacher, he would then like to invite him to preach auf Deutsch at their 11.00 service that morning.

Therefore, to cut a long story short, and to ensure that this blog post does actually get published, two months ago on Sunday 17th March, I spent a long but most enjoyable day in Dresden with Bishop Jonathan and his wife Toni.

For the 11.00 Morning Service in German, I sat with Toni Gibbs in the congregation. The service was led by Sebastian Feydt and Bishop Jonathan preached. Toni had the complete English text of her husband’s sermon on her tablet so we both were able to easily follow what he was saying in German. Bishop Jonathan explained to me afterwards that he had first written the sermon in English, then translated it into German, before sending it to a German native speaker, to double-check his grammar and sentence construction 😉

The sermon was based on John 3. 14-21 including those well-known words in verse 16, ‘God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son…’ He challenged the congregation as to how we show the love of God to every human being, including those who are different to us. He said, ‘As we approach 29th March, the date of Brexit, we as Christians need to be speaking up for a better way of living, one that demonstrates the love of God for every single human being, both in Europe and throughout the world. We need to lift up Jesus Christ, not as a tribal symbol of a Christian sub-culture, but as the Lord and Saviour of the whole of humanity.’

If you can read German, then the complete text of Bishop Jonathan’s sermon is currently available on the Frauenkirche website here. In the week following his Dresden visit, the ‘Yorkshire Post’ published an edited extract of the sermon in English, which can be found here.

Within his sermon, Bishop Jonathan gave an outline of his own life story, explaining that for six years (1992-98) he was priest of the Anglican Church in Basel, as well as priest of the Anglican Church in Freiburg-im-Breisgau. He then said, ‘As perhaps you can hear, it was in Basel that I first learned German!’

These words were picked up by Sebastian Feydt when giving the notices near the end of the service. He reminded the congregation of the Anglican service that evening, at which Bishop Jonathan would once again be preaching, this time in English, but with a Swiss-German accent. The whole congregation collapsed with laughter!

Frauenkirchenpfarrer Sebastian Feydt & Bishop Jonathan Gibbs © Ricky Yates

Following the Morning Service, Sebastian Feydt gave +Jonathan, Toni and I, a personal guided tour of the Frauenkirche. This was followed by a most enjoyable lunch in a nearby restaurant, at episcopal expense 😉 +Jonathan was also very keen to climb to the top of the Frauenkirche dome to enjoy the spectacular views across Dresden, something I had done two and a half years ago. So after lunch, that is what we did.

It is interesting to compare this photo taken by me back in August 2016……

Neumarkt, with construction work continuing © Ricky Yates

.with this one that I took on Sunday 17th March 2019.

Neumarkt, with construction work complete © Ricky Yates

Then after a brief break, starting at 18.00, I led the English-language Anglican service of Evening Prayer at which +Jonathan preached. This service continued the theme of Versöhnung leben – Living reconciliation, which as I explained in my earlier post, has involved preaching our way through the Coventry Litany of Reconciliation. +Jonathan thus addressed the line, ‘Our indifference to the plight of the imprisoned, the homeless, the refugee, Father, forgive.’

+Jonathan took as his main Biblical text, Matthew 25. 31-46, where Jesus describes the judgement of the nations, ‘When the Son of Man comes in his glory’. Jesus describes how people will be separated just as a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats. The ‘sheep’ on the right will be invited to, ‘inherit the kingdom prepared for you’. The reason for the invitation is that when they saw the king hungry, they fed him, when they saw him thirsty, they gave him something to drink, when he was in prison, they visited him etc.

The ‘righteous’, as they are called, are surprised by this because they never saw the king in any of the situations he describes. The punchline of the story comes in the king’s reply. ‘Truly I tell you, just as you did it for the least of these who are members of my family, you did it to me’. In turn, those on the king’s left receive his judgement because their failure to care for the hungry, thirsty, naked, sick, or those in prison.

+Jonathan went on to point out that this passage should not be used to preach a gospel of justification by works, as some people try to do. Taking note of the context of the story in the Gospel of Matthew, it is the last instructions given by Jesus to his followers, before his death on the cross. In other words, if you want to be my disciples, this is how you should live out your faith.

With +Jonathan & Toni Gibbs following the evening service © Toni Gibbs

In the days following Sunday 17th March, I received an appreciative email of thanks from +Jonathan and was copied in on an equally appreciative email from Sebastian Feydt to +Jonathan. In his email, Sebastian Feydt expressed the hope that +Jonathan would be willing to re-visit the Frauenkirche at some future date. So I do hope to try and arrange a similar Sunday, some time in 2020.

6 comments to A wonderful Sunday at the Frauenkirche, Dresden

  • Paul Shorten

    An excellent blog post Ricky ——- and one well worth waiting for!
    This is a wonderful example of continuing reconciliation in action and a real part of the Frauenkirche mission.
    It is always inspirational to share worship with the congregation and experience the atmosphere of “togetherness” which is Christianity in Action.

    • Ricky

      Thank you for your kind words, Paul, and for battling your way past the CAPTCHA 🙂 Looking forward to you joining us at the Frauenkirche later this year.

  • Kathy Ferguson

    A very interesting description of an obviously most rewarding and worthwhile day, Ricky. I enjoyed reading Bishop Jonathan’s German sermon. I also loved seeing your photo of the completed Neumarkt, as my visit to Dresden came a month after your ‘before’ photo and the building works were very much in evidence.

    • Ricky

      Thank you Kathy, both for visiting and for once more leaving a comment. It was a very rewarding & worthwhile day.

      I’m glad you were able to follow the link & enjoy +Jonathan’s German sermon. Sebastian Feydt was asked by several members of the congregation whether they could have a copy of the sermon. So in his email of thanks to +Jonathan, he asked for an electronic version to post on the Frauenkirche website. There was a direct link on the home page of the Frauenkirche website for a month or so, following that Sunday and I’m glad that the text is still there so I could link to it.

      It is amazing how much building work has been completed around the Neumarkt in the nearly four years that I have been visiting the Frauenkirche. Work on the last ‘hole in the ground’ in the area, just off the Neumarkt in Rampische Strasse, has also now been started a few months ago.

  • Sean Mccann

    Hi Ricky,
    “So long as you did it to one of these least of my family, you did it to me.” Surely we are all equally the least of Gods family, each having their own strengths and weaknesses; their own measures of success and failure; each with virtues we can be proud of and vices we are ashamed of and try to hide. There, but for the Grace of God, go every last one of us poor weak human beings. What a pity we all lose sight of this truth from time to time.

    Fear and hatred seem more commonplace in our dealings with ‘OTHER’ people these days than any attempt at a shared humanity. Otherness is easier to see than sameness, especially when you are dedicated to finding only difference.

    We seem to be such a long way off from Christ’s prayer that we ‘All may be one’. Reconciliation is urgently required in all sectors of society.

    On a lighter note Ricky it’s always nice to find the boss buying lunch, ‘well done oh good and faithful servant’ 😉

    • Ricky

      Hello again, Sean!

      I concur entirely with the sentiments you express in the first three paragraphs of your comment. Sadly, so many people do see otherness, rather than our common humanity.

      Strictly speaking, +Jonathan isn’t my boss – +Robert Innes, Bishop of our Diocese in Europe is. But it was nice to have my lunch charged to +Jonathan’s episcopal expenses account 🙂