IT SURVIVED an RAF bomb in 1945 and a devastating fire in the
1960s, but today the English Church in Wiesbaden, Germany, stands
on the brink of closure.
The Church of St Augustine of Canterbury is part of the
Convocation of Episcopal Churches in Europe. The building is now
owned by the Bishop of London, the Rt Revd Richard Chartres, after
the Presiding Bishop of the Episcopal Church in the United States,
Dr Katharine Jefferts Schori, wrote to Bishop Chartres last month,
returning the church to him.
The Bishop in charge of the Convocation, the Rt Revd Pierre
Whalon, has urged the congregation to "move on", highlighting the
financial challenges that face it. Last week, he spoke of an
estimate for repairs to the building of €500,000 over the next ten
to 15 years. Repairs required immediately would cost €50,000.
"Is this a wise course for a congregation of 150 people, to work
to spend such large sums to sustain a building they do not own, an
effort that would leave so little for ministry and for outreach
initiatives?" he said. "Is it appropriate to direct most of St
Augustine's financial resources to the maintenance of a building at
the expense of our clear and compelling mission as the Church of
In a letter to the congregation last month, he wrote: "Instead
of sinking lots of money into stone, imagine what you could do for
yourselves and everyone around you if you were free of this
constant anxiety. . . Raising millions for an inadequate building
Members of the congregation remain firmly opposed to leaving the
building. Hilary Norman, who lives in Britain, attended the
church's annual general meeting in Wiesbaden on 8 February. She
said that more than 80 people had attended the "passionate"
"There was an overwhelming desire to stay in the church," she
said. "We have been fund-raising in the past, and we will continue.
We are all very passionate about it, and all the people who spoke
all love the church. . . It's not just about bricks and mortar. I
have seen so many emails from former members saying 'This is our
On Tuesday of last week, a statement from the office of Bishop
Chartres said that, "in concert with the diocese in Europe, [he]
will be consulting local interested parties and taking advice from
the municipal authorities before identifying a way ahead".
St Augustine's was built in 1863 in response to requests from
British people visiting the spa waters at Wiesbaden. After the
Second World War, it was used as a military chapel by American
forces personnel, who continued to make up a large part of the
congregation in the subsequent decades.
It joined the Convocation of Episcopal Churches in Europe in