We popped into Lille today for a bit of atmosphere and a spot of lunch. Almost Belgian in feel (the county of Flanders straddled the modern boundary), and now the seat of an archbishop, who we entertained to dinner last night. The cathedral was built as a shrine to the Virgin, becoming first a basilica and then recently in 2008 a metropolitan cathedral. I particularly admired the stations of the cross by Jean-Luc Bonduau – more perhaps of these later.
Popped down to see St Peter’s Church in Merville town. It was totally destroyed in the First World War and a major reconstruction has only recently been finished. It looks splendid.
It seats over 400, with a small glazed-in chapel in the apse. I really hope they have times when it’s full to bursting: it deserves it.
This one came out OK though, a typisch shot of the wonderfully named and overall rather wonderful Oberkirchenrat Volker Thiedemann, who was out guide and mentor for the visit. He put himself out enormously for us and we’re hugely grateful.
An Oberkirchenrat is a senior official in the Church Office, and officialdom over there is much taken up at the moment with the merging of the Landskirchen (state area churches) of North Elbe, Pomerania and Mecklenberg (the latter two were formerly in the DDR) into a single huge Nordkirche or Church of the North ‘Together on the Way’.
- The Northelbian Bishop in Schleswig, Gerhard (Gerd) Ulrich has been elected as its Chairman, and we look forward to welcoming him here for our 900th anniversary celebrations on the Feast of St Etheldreda (16th- 18th October), along with his chaplain, Volker and their new ecumenical contact, Christian.
The highlight of our Scottish tour and visit to Mull was of course a visit to Iona. I’ve only been once before – on my own during a sabbatical when I hit on a perfect cloudless summer’s day near the 25th anniversary of my ordination. Unforgettable.
This time I kept my promise to take Jean with me, and once again the weather was very kind to us and it was a really special time. I’ll let the pictures speak for themselves.
I’m just back from my first visit to one of our partner churches – the Lutheran Church of the North Elbe area, which includes Hamburg (the 3rd largest city in Germany), Lübeck, Kiel and the Schleswig-Holstein ‘bridge’ up to Denmark. This is one of the
Trying out my German in Friesland areas that our Anglo-Saxon ancestors came from: it includes the area called Angeln, and there is a persistent shaggy-dog story among linguists of the time they sat in a café in another of its territories, Friesland (whose dialect is the historically closest cousin to English), and could understand the conversation they overheard.
The English of our partners is usually very good, but I did have a go at dusting down my German and giving a few messages auf Deutsch (of a sort), and it was fun to take part in and try and follow a whole Low German service at a fest ival on the stunning Frisian coast where islands rise up off the coast like tankers at anchor.
So what were the other highlights? Lots of good food, including a real Hamburger Hamburger (actually reinvented by the chef at the tiny Oberhafen Kantine in Hamburg).
Staying at the Ansverhaus which is becoming a spirituality centre for the North Elbe Church. It’s somewhere folk from our own diocese ought to be thinking of going – those training for ministry or discerning vocation or wanting to go on retreat for instance.
Meeting Bishop Maria Jepsen and taking part in a peace prayer service with the pastor who lead the ones in Leipzig when the wall was coming down. Meeting musicians and listening to how important it is to the Lutheran identity.
I hope I’ll be able to go back again before too long, and look forward to building up some good friendships there. I hope too that there will be some good things out of this for our parishes too: the Frisian parishes seemed keen to develop their link with the Ely Team for instance (and wider), the choirmaster at St Peter’s Hamburg to get to know our music even better, and so on.
Thanks to Will Adam for the photographs
If you go over to Mull you’ll not want to miss Kilmore Church at Dervaig. We visited on a grey rainy day, but the inside had a colourburst to take your breath away, set in contrast to the sombre stone and simple white exterior.
By the late 1890’s there were complaints that the old Church was colder and wetter indoors than out. P. MacGregor Chalmers was engaged as architect. The church website says:
His preference for, and expertise in the subject of Romanesque and Scottish Medieval architecture is strongly reflected in the plan for Kilmore, but also incorporates both the simplicity of the Arts and Crafts Movement, much in vogue at the time, and more than a dash of Celtic historical flair.
His design for the tower was strongly influenced by the ancient Irish watchtowers of Cashel, Enniskillen, Clonmacnoise and Kilmacduagh to name but a few, although in Kilmore’s case, it forms an integral part of the simple rectangular church building, and is not a freestanding tower, as in many Irish examples.