The Engelskirchen Link

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Fr Richard Wyber of Wanstead Parish talks about Wanstead's ties with the German town of Engelskirchen and why he believes such international friendships are now more important than ever.

Over the Easter holidays, two Wanstead churches hosted a party of 10 visitors from Christus Kirche, a Protestant church in the German town of Engelskirchen, which lies about 17 miles east of Cologne. The party was led by the church pastor, Johannes Vogelbusch, who came with his wife and son.

These annual visits are the main expression of a friendship, which originated over 25 years ago, between Engelskirchen and Wanstead United Reformed Church. Subsequently, Wanstead Parish (St Mary's with Christ Church) was invited to join. The visits alternate: last year, a group from Wanstead travelled to Engelskirchen, where they stayed with local church members. The purpose of the visits is to enjoy each other's company and thereby get to know a church community in another European country.

Our visitors arrived at Stansted Airport early on Wednesday 4 April and flew out on the evening of Sunday 11 April. In between, they were offered a varied programme of activities, as well as spending time in their hosts' homes. An early highlight was attendance at choral Evensong at St Paul's Cathedral, sung as it happened by a guest choir from Belgium.

Friday, a rare fine day, was spent around Hampstead Heath, beginning with a visit to Kenwood House, which offers beautiful views over London and an exceptional collection of paintings. For younger visitors, there was a well-resourced dressing-up area. From Kenwood, we moved on to an ancient (1585) Hampstead pub, The Spaniard's Inn, which we discovered to be under the same management or ownership as Wanstead's Cuckfield. The menu is very similar, but prices are higher in Hampstead!

The visit concluded at Wanstead United Reformed Church with supper on Saturday evening and worship on Sunday morning. Fine Easter candles were presented to both churches. Before departing for Stansted, a number of the group also fitted in a visit to St Mary's, which is looking very well after fairly recent redecoration.

There is no doubt about the benefit of friendships formed and sustained in this way, and in the opinion of the writer, it is never more important than now as our country works out how it should relate to our European neighbours post Brexit. It is therefore important to ensure the link continues to flourish and that younger generations are drawn into it. It was thus a delight to welcome two boys among our visitors and also to attract some new hosts.

We now look forward to a return visit to Engelskirchen during Easter 2019.

For more information on the friendship link with Engelskirchen, call 020 8530 8743

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