Declaration of an International Church Partnership
Petrusgemeinde, Dessau (Evangelische Landeskirche Anhalts)
Immanuel Congregational Church, Hartford, Connecticut (United Church of Christ)
Českobratrská církev evangelická, Ostrava
Purley United Reformed Church
Gedächtniskirchengemeinde, Speyer (Evangelische Kirche der Pfalz)
“May they all be one…” – John 17 v.21
The Story of our Partnership
Our Partnership has its European roots in contacts developed in a spirit of reconciliation between local congregations in England and the Palatinate (Federal Republic of Germany) after the Second World War. The first visit by three young people from Shelley Road Worthing to Wolfstein in the Palatinate took place in August 1949. This led indirectly to a “Communion of Pulpit and Lord’s Table” being established in 1957 between the Congregational Union of England and Wales and the Evangelische Kirche der Pfalz (EKP). The link between the Gedächtniskirche in Speyer and Purley URC developed from personal contacts between ministers and lay people in England and the Palatinate and dates from 1967.
The American connection developed after an exchange of pulpits in 1967 between Revd Cyril Franks, minister in Purley, and Revd Bob Edwards of Immanuel Congregational Church, Hartford, which revealed continuing negative perceptions of Germany and Germans in the USA. As a way of reversing these stereotypes, a first three-way conference was held in 1971 in Purley.After the partition of Germany in the late 1940s, links established between churches in West Germany and the then German Democratic Republic (GDR) included EKP connections with the Evangelische Landeskirche Anhalts. These denominational links led to contacts between the Gedächtniskirche and the Petruskirche, Dessau and, indirectly, the Ostrava congregation of the Evangelical Church of the Czech Brethren. From 1966 onwards there was an annual weekend meeting in East Berlin between members of the churches in Speyer and Dessau, to which German-speaking members of the Purley, Ostrava and Hartford congregations were later also invited: and there were two similar weekend meetings in the mid-1980s between the congregations in Dessau and Purley. Other than the Berlin meetings, however, early contacts with Dessau and Ostrava were limited by political circumstance mainly to exchanges of letters between individuals, although a number of people from Purley and Hartford paid private visits to both the GDR and Czechoslovakia during the 1970s and the 1980s, and a few people from Dessau were permitted to attend Partnership conferences from 1980 onwards. After the momentous events of autumn 1989, all that changed. A high point in the history of the Partnership was undoubtedly the conference in Purley in July/August 1992, attended by about 120 visitors, of whom nearly half came from Dessau and Ostrava.
Purley URC also maintains an informal bilateral link with Woodvale Presbyterian Church, Belfast. Whilst they do not wish to become full members of the Partnership, conferences and other gatherings in recent years have been greatly enhanced by the presence of a few Irish participants.
The Purpose of our Partnership
Partnership acts as a focal point in all our congregations for:
- Continuing our commitment to peace and reconciliation in line with the origins of the Partnership. This is demonstrated through our dealings with other Christian communities and other faith groups (“All this is from God, who reconciled us to himself through Christ, and has given us the ministry of reconciliation.”- 2 Corinthians 5 v.18).
- Developing an international Christian understanding and perspective on issues of justice, peace and the integrity of creation (“Always be ready to make your defence to anyone who demands from you an account of the hope that is in you.” – 1 Peter 3 v.15)
- Establishing deep and sustainable friendships and contacts which provide a framework for understanding, mutual support and encouragement (“…all of you, have unity of spirit, sympathy, love for one another, a tender heart, and a humble mind.” – 1 Peter 3 v.8 )
The Features of our Partnership
“Love one another with mutual affection. Esteem others more highly than yourself.”- Romans 12 v.10
Partnership seeks to achieve its purpose through:
- Annual shared worship
- Annual prayers for peace
- Mutual support by prayer for all our congregations and for individuals within them
- A three-yearly conference, hosted in turn by each congregation
- Informal small-scale visits as opportunity offers (e.g. special occasions, holidays, business trips)
- Regular sharing of greetings, planning calendars, newsletters and ad hoc news of individuals, including links between websites
The Local Church within our Partnership
“If it is possible, so far as it depends on you, live peaceably with all.”- Romans 12 v.18
Each congregation aims to enhance the Partnership as a whole in its own way. Each church’s individual contributions are based on
- Its understanding of the role of a Christian community in its society
- Its denominational and other networks, both in its own country and internationally
- The challenges it presents, both to its own members and to members of the partner congregations. These may be issues and concerns of local, national and/or international importance affecting our own churches, other faith communities and/or the world
Our Partnership Commitment
We honour the legacy of those whose original vision it was to achieve post-war reconciliation and mutual understanding, which the Partnership made possible. To sustain this treasure, we commit ourselves anew:
- to uphold the purposes of our International Partnership in a changing world
- to nurture together the development of our International Partnership in ways that ensure its relevance to present and future generations
- to explore together, theologically, spiritually and personally, what it means to be committed to one another in Partnership and what it means to be committed to the tasks of reconciliation and peace
- to promote our International Partnership within each congregation as a relationship that all are involved in, not just the few
- to be part of God’s ministry of reconciliation.
“May they all be one…” – John 17 v.21
APPROVED BY PURLEY URC CHURCH MEETING – 30 NOVEMBER 2014