Hundreds of miles apart : united in Christ
I have just returned from Nuremberg as part of a group on ‘exchange’ from All Saints, Hereford to All Saints, Landauerkapelle, Nuremberg. All Saints, Nuremberg is part of the Reformed Catholic Church in Germany and has been linked with All Saints, Hereford for a number of years now with this being the sixth exchange trip between the two churches. It was another wonderful trip, with beautiful surroundings, welcoming hosts, and it didn’t hurt that the weather was a balmy 25 degrees whilst it rained relentlessly in England!
There were fascinating visits to Nuremberg Castle and the Jewish Museum, a walk around beautiful Coburg, and several stops for ice cream, the odd beer and delicious food over the four days we were there.
However, what will stay with me more than these visits, was the generous welcome we received from our hosts and the discussions we had about our two churches over the course of the visit. Nothing was too much trouble for our hosts; every person went out of their way to get to know us better, to accompany us on the trips, to practise their English (which really did not need practising) and to make sure we had everything we needed. The worship was always written in German and English, and led in both languages. This included a service in St Nikolauskapelle in Coburg, where we joined in a service of Evening Prayer led by a deacon ordained only three weeks previously. He gave the excellent sermon in both English and German, and had produced an order of service especially for us with translations and which united us as a congregation regardless of language. It truly was a lesson in generosity and welcome.
On the Friday we were invited to a meal in the church community building and asked what were the difficulties we were facing as a church at this present time compared to the difficulties facing our brothers and sisters in Nuremberg. I was struck by how similar our churches were; all the difficulties came down to numbers attending, especially of younger people, finances and use of buildings. We were able to encourage one another and pray with one another as well as see the opportunities that lay before both churches.
On the Sunday morning we joined All Saints, Nuremberg for their morning service during which I was asked to preach and concelebrate at the Eucharist, side by side with Niki the priest, and all of us together with our brother and sister Christians.
At the airport, as we were waiting to go through to our flight, the whole group of German hosts gathered together to sing a blessing upon us as we began our journey home. The heart of this blessing was: Until we meet again, may God hold you firm in His hand.
We may be hundreds of miles apart, but we are united by our faith and hope in Jesus Christ, and in our worship of God: Father, Son and Holy Spirit. What a joy to know that we are part of a worldwide family that neither distance nor language can break apart.
We look forward to welcoming our friends to Hereford once more in 2020!
The Reverend Ruth Hulse