News in Brief
Churches in Europe keep the spotlight on migration. Churches are one of the first places migrants and refugees to Europe turn to for help and for community. The last few weeks have seen churches campaigning in support of safer conditions for refugees, and there have been two significant surveys examining the effects of migration.
The European Baptist Federation have just completed a mapping exercise to document the involvement of baptist churches in supporting refugees. The findings of the survey will be reported at the European Baptist Federation Council meeting in Amsterdam in September.
The Churches’ Commission for Migrants in Europe and World Council of Churches have recently published Mapping Migration, Mapping Churches’ Response in Europe, based on a survey exploring the impact of migration on churches.
Timed to coincide with World Refugee Day, six Anglican and Catholic bishops on both sides of the channel signed a joint letter calling for better treatment for refugees and migrants based on an “understanding for strangers who share in the hopes and needs of all humanity”.
Methodists vote to permit same-sex marriage. In Britain, the Methodist Church voted at its conference to allow same-sex marriages. The first same-sex marriages are expected to take place in Methodist chapels from the autumn.
Celebrating the Bonn Agreement. This week is the 90th anniversary of the Bonn agreement between the Old Catholic Churches of the Union of Utrecht and the Churches of the Anglican Communion, which was signed on 2 July 1931. The Bonn Agreement established full communion between the Church of England and the Old Catholic churches of the Union of Utrecht. This communion has since been extended to all churches of the Anglican Communion.
The Lutheran Church of Sweden will apologise to indigenous people. The Church of Sweden announced that it will make an official public apology for its historical role in the “legitimized repression” of Sweden’s indigenous Sámi people. The Church will apologize to the country’s Sámi community for centuries of “mistreatment and complacency,” including the Church’s promotion of “nomad” schools, an educational system that suppressed Sámi culture, language, and separated children from their families. The Church has allocated €3.9 million for a 10-year programme to promote Sámi language and ecclesiastical tradition within the Church of Sweden.
Robert Schuman, architect of the European Union is on the path to canonisation. Last week the pope approved a decree recognising the “heroic virtues” of Schuman, the former prime minister and foreign minister of France, who initiated the formation of the European Economic Community, believing this might break the cycle of war between countries in Europe.
Faith on the field.
The football pitch has become one of the rare spaces in contemporary life we see “Public Displays of Faith” – people praying, pointing heavenwards, and crossing themselves in outward expressions of their faith. Here are some of the footballers you may see putting their faith on the field during this month’s European Championship.
Raheem Stirling, who plays for England, quotes the bible in his social media (for example, Matthew 9:29: “Because of your faith, it will happen”), and has described his faith in God as “massive”.
Belgian striker, Christian Benteke, says his trademark heaven-pointing goal celebration is done to give thanks to God. He has been quoted as saying “I am a very religious person. I pray before the game and I pray after the game… I thank Him for the good things that He has given me. Before each match I pray to Him to make sure that nothing bad happens to all 22 players on the pitch. That is important.”
Another Belgian player, Romelu Lukaku, is regularly seen praying and making the sign of the cross on the pitch, and in 2014 made a pilgrimage to Lourdes. Lukaku contributed to one of the most memorable images from the 2018 World Cup, when he knelt to pray next to the Panamanian player, Fidel Escobar, in a striking image of Christian communion.
Spotlight on Bonn.
Bonn, site of the 1931 Agreement between the Church of England and the Old Catholics (see News in Brief) is known for its imposing Munster, one of the oldest churches in Germany. Another notable Catholic church in Bonn is St. Remigius, where Beethoven was baptised and where he began his professional career as assistant organist.
Bonn is also home to an Anglican chaplaincy, St Boniface, which holds services at St Paulus Church in Bonn-Beuel Siegburger Strasse 75, 53229 Bonn-Beuel-Ost. Anglican services have been held in Bonn since the nineteenth century, when Bonn was a thriving university town and a fixture on the Grand Tour. The Anglican presence in Bonn became centred on the British diplomatic presence in the city, with a small “English Church” built close to the embassy. John Le Carré described this as “a modest piece of suburban Surrey” in A Small Town in Germany.
Another church that grew out of Bonn’s diplomatic legacy, is the American Protestant Church (Kennedyallee 150, 53175 Bonn) which for 45 years was part of the US Embassy premises. The Stimson Memorial Chapel, built in the early 1950s, was modelled on the style of eighteenth-century churches in colonial New England. The chapel was gifted to the city of Bonn when the US embassy moved to Berlin in 1999. The American Protestant Church shares the chapel with four other congregations — a Korean and a Sri Lankan congregation, a Russian-Messianic congregation and a Spanish-speaking congregation.
Another noteworthy church in Bonn is the impressive modernist church building of St Aegidius (Buschdorfer Str. 60, 53117 Bonn). St Aegidius church was designed in a high modernist style by the architecture professor and church-building specialist Johannes Krahn, and consecrated in 1980.
The week ahead.
All that jazz. This Sunday,4 July, the American Cathedral in Paris will conduct a service of Jazz vespers. The service will draw upon jazz, that most American of musical traditions, to offer prayers and thanksgiving in celebration of America’s Independence Day.
Summertime chaplaincies. This week seems the return of several of the seasonal summer chaplaincies organised by the Intercontinental Mission Society. These chaplains minister to English-speaking visitors over the summer months in several holiday destinations, including Corfu (Greece), Wengen and Zermatt (Austria), and Grindelwald and Interlaken (Switzerland).
Saint of the week.
This week the Church of England and the Roman Catholic Church remember Thomas More (6 July), Chancellor of England in the sixteenth century.
Thomas More brutally opposed the Protestant Reformation and suppressed William Tyndale’s English translation of the Gospels. His actions met with approval among allies in Continental Europe, and he was received in the cities of Calais and Bruges as an envoy, with Thomas Wolsey, Cardinal Archbishop of York. It was during his time as envoy in the low countries that More began writing Utopia, which he completed in 1516. Utopia was first printed in Leuven. It was not until 1551, some time after More’s execution, that it was published in England
More remained steadfastly loyal to the Roman Catholic Church, and was ultimately tried and executed for treason after he refused to acknowledge Henry VIII as head of the Church of England and the annulment of Henry VIII’s marriage to Catherine of Aragon. He was canonised by Pope Pius XI in 1935. In 2000, Pope John Paul II declared More “the heavenly Patron of Statesmen and Politicians”. In Continental Europe, Thomas More is remembered chiefly as a humanist and philosopher. The largest applied science university in Flanders is named after him, and More is the patron of the German Catholic youth organisation Katholische Junge Gemeinde.