A History of Church Twinning – a Personal View
If I were speaking about Civic Twinning, this task would be easier. There is a discernible history of city, town and village twinning from the beginning of the 20th century. Following the second world war, civic twinning became popular and widespread during those years of relationship-rebuilding, and in 1972 was incorporated into the activities and under the umbrella of the British Council on the basis of international cultural and social development. Times changed, however, and from 1984 civic twinning became absorbed into the Local Government Association, with an emphasis increasingly focused on economic and business partnerships between Local Authorities and increasingly directed towards eastern Europe.
But in the case of Church Twinning, there is no such organisational base, nor any discernible authoritative code of practice. Of course there are many examples of good practice, but each twinning relationship is autonomous and self-regulating. Various guides to church twinning have been published, and European Links Officers by whatever name have been appointed by denominations, but Church Twinning has never become a movement.Continue reading “Church Twinning – a Personal View”
Experience of European Interchange
Salford / Lünen
Contact between the Churches of Salford and this town in Germany’s Ruhrgebiet began in 1980. A Lünen minister invited a group from Salford to come and explore the possibility of a link based on the civic twinning which had existed since 1966, and soon a partnership was formed by the Deanery of Salford and the Kirchenkreis Lünen. There have been attempts to broaden it out ecumenically on both sides, which has worked better here than in Germany. But it is fragile on both sides as it is based on the enthusiasm of particular individuals.
There have been youth exchanges and adult visits. The youth exchanges were good, but have now ceased, for a number of reasons. (a) It was possible to hold visits only during school holidays, but they are at different times in Salford and Lünen. (b) Funding was obtained from Brussels, but the conditions for it put heavy responsibilities on the leaders – and though the Germans had paid youth leaders who were able to bear them, it was not easy to find volunteers on the UK side who were able and willing to do so. (c) Recruiting was not easy, as England and Germany are less attractive destinations to young people that, say, Spain or Greece. (d) Churches in inner-city Salford tend to have few young people anyway.
The adult visits, which have been consistently successful, have been of 3 main kinds: study visits, holidays and extravaganzas.Continue reading “Experience of European Interchange, Salford-Lünen”
The Experience in Exeter
The Twinning Partnership between Southernhay United Reformed Church, Exeter and Christuskirche, Bad Homburg
The partnership between these two churches came into being following an enquiry received by the Exeter Twinning Circle from the minister of a church in Bad Homburg. Initially, it was decided to proceed on a trial basis and each church appointed its own twinning committee. The first group visit was made to Exeter in the Autumn of 1987 and during the following five years, groups from both churches, including many young people, as well as individuals, accepted invitations to visit, mainly on a social basis. A rapport was soon established and a number of close and lasting friendships were formed.
It then became apparent that something deeper was needed for the association to prosper and grow. Discussions were held and the councils of both churches agreed to form a partnership for an initial period of five years. A document to this effect was signed by representatives of both churches in May 1992, in Exeter, in which it was agreed to explore the implications of partnership in terms of Worship, Fellowship, Learning and Service. There was then no hesitation in renewing this document in 1997 and beyond.Continue reading “The Twinning Partnership between Southernhay URC, Exeter, and Christuskirche, Bad Homburg”
Notes on Inter-Church Links in Malvern (particularly C of E)
I belong to Malvern Priory in the diocese of Worcester. Our partner parish is Wolmirstedt near Magdeburg. One other church in Malvern is linked to a group near Wolmirstedt. Other Malvern churches are linked, and have exchange visits, with Baptist Church in Volgograd, Russia and a Roma community in the Ukraine. Churches Together support an annual holiday of Belarusian children organised by Chernobyl Children Life Line. Churches in Malvern are also seen to support charities working in Romania, Albania and other parts of Eastern Europe.
The Worcester /Magdeburg-Halberstadt partnership originated in the early 90’s. In fact Bishop Tony Dumper, and his German born wife Sybille, visited Magdeburg before the wall came down. Their friendship with Prasis Urmoneit and his wife led to the initial discussions about our churches being linked in some way. For Worcester Diocese this was not a new idea as there was already an arrangement, organised by Industrial Chaplains, in the 1970s for exchange visits with a college? in Berlin.Continue reading “Notes on Inter-Church Links in Malvern (particularly C of E)”
Quakers in Europe
The Quaker movement (or Religious Society of Friends) began in the religious turbulence of seventeenth century England. As practised in this country it has kept its defining features. These include experiential Christianity (‘the inner light’), silent worship, freedom from (sorry, I mean absence of) paid clergy, and ‘testimonies’ of peace, equality, simplicity and truth. These features, together with a robustly spirit-led business method and a fit-for-purpose organisational structure ensured its survival but kept it as a minority denomination.
Outside Europe, Quakerism followed the British colonial diaspora, particularly to North America. There it met varied versions of Christian culture, which led to growth of programmed worship, paid pastors and an evangelical approach. Whilst the traditional form also flourished, the fundamentalist, mission-oriented, version was exported to central Africa (not a promising location for silent worship) and Latin America. It has since flourished in both.Continue reading “Quakers in Europe”
Some Personal Observations
From 1987 to 1995 I was minister of a United Reformed Church in North-West Ipswich which had been twinned with a congregation of the Protestant Church of the Palatinate in a satellite village of Neustadt an der Weinstrasse since 1982. The twinning continues strongly to this day and last year they celebrated the 25th Anniversary.
It was profoundly moving and challenging to live the Fall of the Berlin Wall through the eyes of German friends and fellow-believers, to help them in their attempts to support congregations in East Germany and Kenya, and, speaking personally, to be invited to preach on Volkstrauertag (the German Remembrance Sunday) in 1991. The strength of the twinning owed a huge debt to the efforts of my predecessor and her German colleague to link the right hosts with the right guests in the initial visits. This led to the development of deep friendships which helped cement and sustain things in the inevitable ups and downs over the years. The presence of two or three bilingual folk in each congregation also helped, as did preparing worship far enough in advance for everything to be translated. It seemed to go so much better when everyone knew what was going on.Continue reading “Some Personal Observations”
Current Best Practice in Church Twinning as it has Emerged in the Experience of St Albans Diocese:
Helen Hutchison is Chair of the Europe Group in St Albans Diocese with a background in press and public relations, and formerly Senior Press Officer at the Equal Opportunities Commission.
I begin this talk with a quotation from Martin Kitchen, writing in 2003 as Vice-Dean of Durham:
We live in days when it is becoming increasingly clear that we must either unite or perish. Ancient animosities do not provide us with the tools for global social harmony, so we must learn to listen, to look and to serve our neighbour, to grow up in our relationships, to speak good news and to think clearly across the boundaries of race and religion, sex, gender and orientation, wealth and poverty, social class and caste. Ordinary Christians must do this and so provide an example for those in positions of leadership to follow.
When I relate this paragraph specifically to our European work it seems to me that the work of twinning communities, whether civic or church-based, is as vital today as it was in the early days of the last century.Continue reading “Current Best Practice in Church Twinning as it has emerged in the experience of St Albans Diocese”