Father Leslie licensed as Archdeacon of the East, Germany and Northern Europe

On 17 th October our chaplain, Canon Dr. Leslie Nathaniel, was licensed as Archdeacon of the East, Germany and Northern Europe by the Bishop of Gibraltar in Europe, The Rt Revd Dr Robert Innes.

The ceremony was held in Holy Trinity Cathedral, Brussels during the concluding Eucharist to the annual Bishop’s Council for which members from around the Diocese had gathered.

Father Leslie takes up his new responsibilities with immediate effect.
There will be an opportunity to bid him farewell on Sunday, November 17. He will be the celebrant and preacher at this Eucharist at 10.30 in our English Church, St Thomas à Becket. We hope many friends will be able to be present.

We will miss Father Leslie, but pray for God’s rich blessings on this challenging ministry.

Letter to the community of St. Thomas à Becket – from Father Leslie

Dear Sisters and Brothers

Never have I left a position with more sadness than leaving St.
Thomas à Becket. Julie, my wife, feels the same way.

I went through much soul-searching before deciding to apply for the role of Archdeacon of Germany and Northern Europe as well as the East. I have done so at the encouragement from persons I respect, and because I felt called to offer my particular international and ecumenical experiences of working for the church to the wider Diocese in Europe. Things happened very quickly between the advertisement of the post and the interviews, the outcome of which was anything but a foregone conclusion. I received the formal confirmation on 2nd September and on 12th the Diocese announced it on its website.

This offers me the opportunity to say how much our community has come to mean to me. As your chaplain I regard you as my extended family with all the joys and sorrows, the ups and downs, the celebrations and the struggles that close and committed relationships involve.  Through my ministry here in this great city of Hamburg, and our very special church community, I have learned a good deal more which, no doubt, will inform my future ministry as archdeacon. In this role I look forward to keeping in touch.

Let us take forward the work and witness of our Englische Kirche in Hamburg during the remaining weeks before my departure. I am assured that there are so many of you who will be continuing your engagement in this spirit after I leave as your chaplain. May the next incumbent experience the same excitement and challenge in taking up his or her role among you as I did.

You remain in our prayers. God bless you all.

Leslie Nathaniel


New Archdeacon of the East, Germany and Northern Europe

Post will be based near Stuttgart.

Our Chaplain, Revd Canon Dr Leslie Nathaniel, has been invited to take up the post of Archdeacon of the East, Germany and Northern Europe, which means that he will be leaving St Thomas à Becket this autumn. Father Leslie is a man of many talents, with the knowledge and competence the Archdeacon must have. He speaks several languages and has wide experience in ecumenical matters, developing close relations with the Nordic churches, the Old Catholic Church, Oriental Orthodox Churches and the Roman Catholic Church while serving as the International Ecumenical Secretary at Lambeth Palace and European Secretary at Church House, London. He knows the German context particularly well as he is a member of the Council of Anglican and Episcopal Churches in Germany.

Thus, although we are very sad to be losing him as Chaplain, we welcome him as Archdeacon and know that we will be able to turn to him for help and advice in the future. Fr Leslie has stressed that he has been greatly enriched by our vibrant congregation and the wide ecumenical relationships that we enjoy in Hamburg. So let us congratulate him, wish him all the very best in his new role and continue in the spirit of outreach, inclusion, growth, stability and joy which has marked his time with us.

Wearing his Archdeacon’s hat, Fr Leslie will be with us for the bazaar on 16th November and his farewell service will be on Sunday, November, 17th.

An article by the Diocese in Europe on the appointment can be found here.

Letter from the Chaplain in August 2019

Dear sisters and brothers in Christ,

From 20th of this month I start my short summer break in our South German home. Many of you have returned from your holidays and the children are back at school. I trust that this summer has brought to you all refreshment and much joy of meeting loved ones and friends, experience of new places or revisiting old haunts. And even if you remained in Hamburg may you look forward to the time ahead with fresh confidence.

Last Sunday, 18th August, the New Testament reading was the paradigmatic 11th chapter on faith in the Letter to the Hebrews.  What a panorama of individuals who placed their faith in God the writer of this letter sets out from the earliest times of biblical history! The author refers to them as ‘such a cloud of witnesses’ which surrounds other people of faith, and that includes us today.

The stories go back to the earliest figures in the Book of Genesis, to Abel and Enoch and Noah. Then we have the testimony of victory and freedom. By faith Moses leads the people through the Red Sea. This is followed by Joshua fighting the battle of Jericho and bringing down its walls. These are stories where the ‘good’ triumphs over the bad and there are losses only among the’ bad’ people.

The chapter, however, becomes difficult as we read along. From the accomplishments of triumphant stars the reader is suddenly confronted with grim situations. Reward to the ‘good’ and punishment to the ‘bad’ is not so equitably distributed. These stories seem to tally better with our own experience, just as the distinctions between ‘good’ and ‘bad’ become more indistinct.  

Friends, the letter to the Hebrews is telling us that our faith journey is part of the bigger, complex picture. Our individual faith story is not just for ourselves; it follows on and links in with the faith stories of people down the ages and across the world.  

The letter to the Hebrews reminds us that each one of us is part of the bigger picture and, like all the heroes of the past as well as all those whom history has not lifted above the mainstream, our faith is connected in, is vital to the body of the whole. Or to take the picture of a relay race, ours may be a place somewhere in the middle where no great achievement is noted, yet we are an essential runner in the big race.

Dear friends, we may be just one participant, but we are of significance. Our task is to run to the best of our ability, persevere and then carefully and safely pass on the baton. I am aware that in St. Thomas à Becket we have entered a phase when quite a lot of baton-changing is in the offing.

A lot has happened over the past months of this year in our church. Our Annual General Meeting was conducted in good spirit and elected a Council that has experience, youth and diversity. We can be thankful for God’s enduring mercies to us and for our church community whose members give of their precious time and energy, so contributing towards making our church a friendly and welcoming church for the glory of God. The 180th anniversary of our church, for which so much well-spent, creative effort was invested, is behind us and we are the richer for all we discovered, put together and experienced in connection with this commemoration. With these reminders of our church’s memorable story, we are now already into the eighth month of the year 2019 and there is more to report. 

The newly elected Chaplaincy Council met on 1st June for an Away Day and there was general agreement that this was a worthwhile experience. Many ideas were shared, matters to be taken forward and given priority discussed and listed. These include encouraging and equipping the youth and younger people to volunteer for tasks in the church, to build a younger team of apprentices for the various bazaar stalls and to get to know each other better. One idea that I have begun to implement is to mention the names of those who come forward for their birthday blessing and the birthday song.

We also decided to retain the name of the church as St Thomas à Becket and to use this name whenever the church is referred to or mentioned, since this was the name our church was given at its dedication and it is the legally correct name. The Bishops of the Diocese in Europe, the Chaplain’s licence, all diocesan faculties, our bank account and the constitution only use this name.

Our most recent Chaplaincy Council met on 7th August and made a number of key decisions concerning the future. It put in place a plan of succession with a number of fresh personalities for those who after running the race so successfully are now passing on the baton to others. As some of you will have witnessed on Sunday, the leader of our Junior Church passed on the baton to her successor safely or in safe mode. This, as with the other changes, was not a sprint to win, but a relay race, a team effort, so that the next person can carry the baton confidently. We win the race together. This outlook is indeed the something better that the letter to the Hebrews is talking about. No one is left out; those who have contributed enormously in the past and those doing tasks now and in the future all continue to be part of the strong narrative. It is together that we are stronger; it is together that we can make an impact. The whole story of faith is the key, not just our story.

One of our congregation members, in keeping with a calling for full-time ministry, will be going through a process of discernment and then training and study in the Church of England on the way towards full-time ministry as priest.

Three of our congregation members will be doing the formal reader’s ministry training in the Church of England. The Church of England sees this particular formal training as a necessity for all those who wish to take some responsibility in an official capacity as readers in parishes. The course also involves being immersed into what Anglicanism is all about.

Church expansion: The Council approved this project at its meeting on 7th August. In the meantime most of you will have seen the impressive selection of plan’s and artist’s impressions of our church as it would look following a planned expansion of the space under the roof, i.e. its third floor. This would include the installation of a lift at the west end, the essential gap at first floor level being created by removal of large organ bellows, long out of service. The plans have been prepared by our church architect, Alk Friedriksen, entirely pro bono in long months of consultation. This project will require a separate scheme of fund-raising and will not draw on regular giving.

The extra storey would be lit by crescent-style E, S and W windows attuned to similar features in nearby buildings (Even without the project, the current roof-level windows would need to be replaced. They are in poor condition). The congregation would benefit from a central open space of 82 square metres, four compartments of eleven square metres each plus other smaller ones. I see such a development as fulfilment of STàB’s urgent requirement for non-sacral space but even more so, as the embodiment of the encouraging momentum so vividly evident just now in its congregation. The work is subject to approval from the Denkmalschutzamt, and could be completed in about a year’s time, once funding has been secured.

The Council also unanimously approved that the Chair and Vice-Chair would work together on fund-raising initiatives for the project, both short- and long-term and that the wardens would be the point of contact for all matters associated with the project. Expertise could be drawn on as and when needed.

Currently all the drawings, consultations with structural engineers etc. have not cost the church anything. There may be need to use some of the funds available in the fabric account to fine tune and get approvals. For the project itself a separate scheme of finance will be prepared with funding from other sources. This was also unanimously approved by the Council.

I am grateful to all congregation members who engaged with this project on Sunday. Please continue to discuss, keep this matter in your prayers and let us look forward with excitement to further developments in faith.

Finally, regarding the finances the Council affirmed that expanding the donor base was an ongoing task. Some steps in this connection have already been put in place. Council also affirmed the current stability of the finances with grateful thanks also to the many co-workers who may not be able to contribute financially but do still contribute through their time and free services, thereby reducing costs.

Let me now close this letter in Pentecostal mode:

What the Apostles – gathered in an upper room, uncertain and anxious about the future after their Lord had left them – experienced and were overcome by, was an inexplicable transforming energy and power. Like a fresh wind it swept over them. It fired them up. A new spirit entered their lives. No longer can they hold back; no longer are they tongue-tied and timid, they find their voice and take courage. Where they had feared being misunderstood and not being able to communicate, they find the message about Jesus, their Lord, spilling out from them and it being listened to and understood by complete strangers and those who spoke completely different languages. It was suddenly a message to the world at large and for all time.  The event of the Pentecost and St. Peter’s sermon resulted in three thousand people becoming believers and being baptized. And so, the first Church was founded as the Body of Christ, and it changed the course of humanity.

Today, over two thousand years later, Christians around the world, including us here in Hamburg, still gather in His name. In many parts of our globe such gatherings are as hazardous as they were in the early church. We in our part of the world are fortunate that we can meet in freedom and need fear no reprisals for living our faith. May we not take this for granted; instead may we wait on God’s Spirit to inspire us and move us forward, celebrating our differences as a way towards genuine inclusion and being witnesses to the good news in our very own neighbourhoods. Our agenda is on the move. As we continue to grow and mature in our faith, and contribute towards building the church, let us remind ourselves that we are a pilgrim people and live to be renewed and fostered spiritually every day by the Holy Spirit.

And in the spirit of the letter to the Hebrews: Therefore, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us also lay aside every weight and the sin that clings so closely, and let us run with perseverance the race that is set before us, looking to Jesus the pioneer and perfecter of our faith.

Leslie Nathaniel                                                                           August 2019

Mabel Wulff: Caretaker of the English Church for over 40 years

While doing research for our exhibition last year Madeleine Resühr, one of our dedicated church wardens, became more than a little interested in the story of Mabel Wulff, who was caretaker of our church from 1924 until the late 1960s.

She writes:

We knew very little about her – only that she was born in Newport, Wales, had a German husband and had saved the church from burning down during WWII when she put out the fires caused by incendiary bombs. Mabel Wulff was awarded the British Empire Medal in 1956 for her meritorious service during the war.

And so I started to look for her. I finally tracked her down in the town where she had been born as she had returned to Newport in the late ‘60s after her husband Max died. With the help of the Registry Office in Newport I was gradually able to piece together her story and found out from her marriage certificate who her husband was and could search for his background here in Hamburg. I also learned that they had two sons before WWI and came to Hamburg soon after the end of that war.

I was eventually able to contact Mabel’s grandson, Eddie Wulff, who still lives in Newport and he kindly shared with me stories and some wonderful old family photographs. She and Max endured many hardships and personal tragedy, often caught up in the political turmoil and the wars between their two countries.

Madeleine felt Mabel’s story should be told and you will find it in the booklet: Two Countries – Two wars, The English Church in Hamburg and an indomitable caretaker. Mabel Wulff, B.E.M.

The booklet is available in church for €6. All proceeds go to the church. Please see Madeleine in person or email us if you would like a copy.

The booklet cover image
Copyright: Madeleine Resühr (2019)

Service of Dedication of the St Thomas à Becket Stained Glass Window / Bishop David Hamid’s Sermon

About the St Thomas à Becket Stained Glass Window:

null

A few words about the window itself. The date it was made is probably in the late 19th century, but no later than 1910. The story of how it was acquired by Graham Dry, is interesting. Around 1975 he visited the well-known shop of Haslam & Whiteway in Kensington Church Street, London, specialists in Arts and Crafts movements. They had recently bought 20 stained glass windows, most of them were of dancing girls, peacocks and landscapes which easily sold. Standing alone in a corner was the unsold and, in Graham’s Dry’s words ‘rather forlorn looking’ St Thomas à Becket of Canterbury. Graham rescued him from his predicament, but the family were never able to incorporate the saint appropriately anywhere. He was clearly waiting for a much better fate and that has turned out to be our church here in Hamburg.

The St Thomas à Becket Stained Glass Window is a gift from Graham Dry and his wife Beate Dry-von Zezschwitz. The Diocese in Europe and our Church are grateful to them.

Bishop David Hamid’s sermon on the occasion of the dedication of the St Thomas à Becket Stained Glass Window:
You can read the full text of Bishop David’s sermon here..

Service of Dedication

A Christmas Message from the Chaplain

A Christmas Message from the Chaplain
December 2018

And (Mary) gave birth to her first-born son and wrapped him in bands of cloth, and laid him in a manger, because there was no place for them in the inn. (Luke 2.7)

How familiar these words are, as is the manger-scene that rises in our mind’s eye year by year as we recollect the birth of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ!
Yet I am surely not alone, especially this Christmastide of 2018, in seeing that precious family scene, which we cherish, jarred by the heartbreaking images of refugees from war, homelessness and hopelessness, seeking shelter in inhospitable places after wearisome, long treks with uncertain outcome; or of those mourning the loss of their babies and young children during the desperate attempts to cross the Aegean and Mediterranean seas in unseaworthy vessels. It literally ‘brings home to us’ and makes us contemplate afresh the ground realities surrounding the birth of Jesus of Nazareth. God’s Son was born as a frail, human child into a simple human family, ‘not in a royal house or hall’, as a well-known hymn by Edward Burns says, ‘but in a stable dark and dim’. Joseph and Mary had wanted a better place in which their son could come into this world, but there was no other option offered, as Luke makes clear: ‘There was no place for them in the inn’. The need for the family to subsequently flee by night to Egypt in order to escape the evil designs of King Herod on the child’s life can equally not be simply attributed to God’s master-plan of salvation. Why did God take into account the death of so many infants below the age of two, we would have to ask?

The harsh and even cruel realities surrounding Christ’s entry into our world can, however, help us to better comprehend why God made the ultimate choice of joining his lot with ours. Because we have disfigured and continue to disfigure our God-given humanity by our sin, God became one of us, taking our flesh and blood, our life in this world, even our temptations (Hebr. 4.15 – ‘one who in every respect has been tested as we are, yet without sin’) and our destiny. In his birth, life and death we can discover God’s great love for us in showing us the way back to our true humanity of walking in fellowship with God. God in Christ offers us the way to respond to God’s love with our love for God. And this love will be reflected in our love for others.

When we look again at the story of Christmas without the romanticizing overlay we can recognize the bright glow shining forth of a deeper truth, of humanity as God designed it to be. That night there were shepherds guarding their sheep; they saw this light and hastened to the stable. And having seen the child and heard his story, they could not but make it known to all around. There were the wise men who undertook an arduous journey following a star in order to pay their precious tributes to this little child in a stable. Their story is remembered and told to this day as a paradigm for the light of Christ reaching the furthest corners of our world and being humbly received also by those of great learning and high status. And then we can imagine the unmentioned ordinary folk who offered shelter and hospitality to the refugee family in a foreign land.

God relies on us humans to tell God’s story: to bring hope where there is despair, to bring succour where there is need, to bring comfort where people are sorrowing, to bring healing where there is brokenness, to bring liberation out of bondage, to give courage where there is weariness. May each of us this Christmas discover anew the joy of being God’s agent in sharing this Good News through prayer, through reflection, through our words and our actions.

We have had a full year. November was a particularly busy month. On 11 November we in St. Thomas Becket honoured another memory that goes back 80 years before Armistice Day. This was the day when we commemorated 180 years since the consecration of our beautiful neo-classical church building in the Zeughausmarkt. Together as a community we marked the day with unmitigated thanksgiving, even though this building was badly damaged during the Second World War. For this reason I chose two of the Bible readings and the Psalm that were used on 11th November 1838 when this church was consecrated by the Bishop of London. On this historic day for our church I used the beautiful Communion silver that was presented to the church by Merchant Adventurers between 300 and 400 years ago and used on 11th November 1838. The communion silver is otherwise on permanent loan to the Museum für Hamburgische Geschichte. Our remembrance thus reached back beyond that of Armistice Day; it included it of course; and it pointed to the duty we carry for the future within the remembrance of Christ’s death and passion in the Eucharist. We are united across the centuries in this sacred tradition.

November also contained other significant activities and events. Following our Remembrance Day thanksgiving, there was an excellent Arts Society lecture by Jon Cannon from Bristol Cathedral on The Secret Language of Sacred Space. Our Bazaar and Benefit Concert were once again purposeful and highly successful. The Exhibition, is another highlight in the context of our 180th Anniversary celebrations. It taught us a lot more about our church than we perhaps previously knew and will strengthen us in being present and engaged in the public square. In all this I am grateful and thankful for the excellent team work, the focus and the community solidarity.

Friends, it is in the spirit of our commemorations and the sense of growing together spiritually in all our activities and achievements this year, that I give thanks to God and pray that the same spirit will guide us through 2019.

I close by quoting the full verse from the hymn by Edward Burns with wishes for a blessed Christmas in the peace and love of God, our Father, of Jesus his incarnate Son and the Spirit which stirs and prompts us.

Tell of his birth at Bethlehem
Not in a royal house or hall,
But in a stable dark and dim:
The Word made flesh, a light for all.

Upcoming Lecture: “The Secret Language of Sacred Spaces”

The Arts Society Hamburg is presenting its November lecture, held by Jon Cannon, in St Thomas Becket Church as a fund-raising event in aid of the church.

From Chartres Cathedral to Angkor Wat, religion has been the inspiration for many of the
greatest buildings of the world. This lecture explores the architecture of the major religions
of humanity. It lays out the resulting developments in chronological order and shows how the
beliefs of each faith helped to shape its architecture and went on to be explored by designers
of genius.

To find out more about the event please check our calendar here.