Farewell speech for Father Andrew
So, back in 2011 we heard the name Andrew Sillis for the first time and you and your family prepared for what felt like jumping on a train and being the driver (so we heard in the Christmas newsletter of that year).
After arriving safely in Germany you soon had your first encounters with German bureaucracy however also learned that life here can be much fun and you started loving carnival / Karneval although the amount of sweets brought home were a bit in conflict with the subject of keeping a Lenten discipline.
When it was your first Sunday at St. Boniface and All Saints surely the congregation watched carefully for some impressions and I remember that the rather large black folder got some mention and we noticed you preaching not standing behind the lectern at All Saints but pretty close to the folk in the pews. Shortly afterwards the official licensing happened and beforehand you had your first press interview in German which was very different from your lessons with a Bavarian German teacher. You also had to smile at the camera, only finding out afterwards that the newspaper even had enlarged the photo over almost the entire page.
It did not take too long to discover your passions and interests. Your vast knowledge of the Bible and your enthusiasm in speaking about it became soon very evident, not only during the Wednesday Bible Study sessions but also during the sermons and the one or other contribution in our newsletter. The observation of Palm Sunday, Easter and Pentecost were brought in the wider picture of the Bible and topics like the Incarnation or Grace were explained. Frequently we were reminded about the importance of reading the Bible. Illustrations in sermons had many forms, more recently we saw you with the shepherd's staff, but also an impressive amount of tins with beans, a water bowl and some sweets made their appearance. Your passion for teaching and evangelism simply couldn't be missed.
We all lost count how often you used the words Mission, Mission Action Planning and Vision when speaking. Quickly we were reminded that "becoming more accessible relevant, rich and contemporary" is an important issue and that we must "meet the needs of people who are not members of our Church" (September 2012 newsletter).
Very often you reminded us about the importance of prayer and gave us valuable recommendations and encouragement for our daily prayer practices.
Worship preparation came always together very thoughtfully. After a while more contemporary hymns and liturgical settings were introduced. In your own words: "the toughest job to tackle on Sundays will be improving our musical skills and repertoire" (AGM report 2013). Thankfully this happened some members will say, while others were less happy with this change. Children's Ministry has featured in many discussions and surely the first ever First Communion celebrations in the Chaplaincy will be remembered by many, in particular your own daughter Hannah. Confirmation in 2013 was also a joyful occasion. We have seen many Baptisms and Weddings during your time here and you always took such a delight in leading them. Families with little church background valued the extra help. Many first time visitors and guests also found the orders of service with explanations very helpful. For our youngest members it is always a special moment when they come forward for a blessing and we have seen many smiling faces when you prayed for these children. But there also the big occasions for which you prepared a lot: the Ordination Service or presiding at St. Boniface Day in presence of Bishop Geoffrey.
At our various events open to the public like Bazaars, Summer Fetes, concerts and Kirchennacht you welcomed many guests and answered lots of questions by people who never have been to an Anglican Church before. Opportunities for fun and fellowship and not only raising funds are a concern of yours. When we had the Clown at one of our Fetes you willingly took part when he asked for a volunteer and you had quite an impressive amount of balloon creations on your head.
So now it is the time to say good bye and thank you. You are leaving from Cologne and Bonn to Stourbridge. Stourbridge is much smaller than Cologne and Bonn - a population of 65000 inhabitants. Instead of the scenery of the Rhine we send you off to watch the flow of the river Stour. We hear that Stourbridge is famous for glass, our area has the Glasmuseum Rheinbach. When we go on about All Saints being founded in 1850 this is nothing compared to St. Thomas' Church dating back to 1736. The routine with two services on Sundays doesn't stop from next month. Stourbridge allows an extra half hour with 10.00 am start however adds a Choral Evensong at 6.30pm. The Autumn Fair will wait for you on 14th November so do remember your times at Bazaars here.
We thank you for your time with us and we wish you all the best for your new role in Stourbridge. You and your family will be in our prayers in the forthcoming year.
Barbara Merkes, church warden at All Saints Cologne
Belonging together in Europe
I often thank God for Germanwings. At the end of May my favourite airline took me to Zurich, Switzerland, for four days. One month later I was on a Germanwings plane full of holidaymakers heading to sunny Portugal. No holiday for me this time, though: Both trips were connected with the Anglican–Old Catholic International Coordinating Council (AOCICC).
The AOCICC has 11 members: ten clergy, including our Suffragan Bishop David Hamid, and one layperson (that’s me). The other members come from the Anglican Church of Ireland, the Convocation of Episcopal Churches in Europe, and the Old Catholic Churches of the Netherlands, Austria and Switzerland. It’s a great mix of people, backgrounds and nationalities.
In May we gathered for four days in Zurich, hosted by the Old Catholic parish there. Our annual meetings have a full agenda. In Zurich we prayed and studied the Bible together, updated each other on the news and developments in our church families, discussed current bilateral ecumenical relationships, met local congregations to share in worship and fellowship, and shared ideas for practical projects to encourage Anglicans and Old Catholics across Europe to get to know each other better. One current example: Thanks to an initiative of Antje Kirchhofer, a Swiss youth pastor, we are planning a youth pilgrimage to Echternach, Luxembourg, in spring 2017 for young Anglicans and Old Catholics from all over Europe. Watch this space for more details.
At the end of June it was time to pack the suitcase again and head to Lisbon. The Lusitanian Church of Portugal, which belongs to the worldwide Anglican Communion, had organised a two-day conference to celebrate 50 years of full communion between the Lusitanian Church, the Spanish Episcopal Reformed Church, and the Old Catholic Churches of the Union of Utrecht. I was invited to attend the celebrations at St. Paul’s Cathedral in Lisbon and to give a presentation on the current work of the AOCICC.
Among the 50 or so attendees were members of various Anglian congregations in Portugal and Spain, a flock of clergy, and several bishops, including the Old Catholic Archbishop Joris Vercammen. For me it was a rare (and, I must admit, enjoyable) opportunity to turn the tables and address people who I otherwise usually sit and listen to!
It was a joyful occasion with interesting discussions, warm hospitality, and plenty of time to meet new people. Each day we worshipped in the cathedral, alternating between the Anglican and Old Catholic traditions. ¬And regardless of whether the service was in Spanish, Portuguese or English, the words of the liturgy were the same. To me that was a powerful reminder of how much unites Old Catholics and Anglicans, no matter where we live or which language we speak. We are all members of the same family. I often thank God for that, too.
Conference speakers in Lisbon
AOCICC members in Zurich
My experience of the words in Matthew 25:36: “ I was sick and you visited me”
Katharina and I had an appointment at the Johanniter hospital to hand over the heart cushions. We were unable to meet the Professor. We were, however, able to meet the matron and gave her the supply of heart cushions. We told her a little about the Anglican ladies group who make the heart cushions and that they are intended to give comfort to women with breast cancer.
The matron asked us if we would like to go with her to give a patient a cushion. The lady must have been newly operated and started to cry when given the heart cushion. Both Katharina and I were choked at this situation, but also grateful to have had this touching experience.
The heart cushions are a wonderful idea and I hope we can continue to give women with breast cancer a little comfort.
Heart cushions for breast cancer patients
Jill told us one Sunday about an initiative she had heard about and was keen to support with the help of the congregation: making heart cushions for patients with breast cancer.
The initiative originated in the USA and was introduced in Europe by a Danish nurse. The cushion with its deep indentation is placed under the armpit to help relieve pressure on the wound after an operation. The symbolic shape conveys best wishes for a speedy recovery from the women who have sewn the cushions.
There are already groups of women throughout Germany including the Cologne / Bonn area who donate the material and filling and then sew the cushions before donating them to the appropriate wards of hospitals in their area.
As if it were meant to be, we almost immediately found two hospitals which were more than happy to distribute our cushions to their patients. We now supply heart cushions regularly to the Jankerklinik and Johanniterkrankenhaus. Sadly the demand is so high that we need to produce round 50 cushions a month – a very sobering thought. We are now a group of about 10 women in Bonn who meet when we can – either morning or evening – with the unexpected but very positive effect that we enjoy getting together as much as supporting this worthy cause.