St George's, Berlin (Exterior)

St George's, Berlin, Germany


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Mystery Worshipper:
Church: St George's
Location: Berlin, Germany
Date of visit: Sunday, 9 April 2017, 10:30am

The building

Much of Berlin has been rebuilt following the second World War, and this attractive little church was constructed in 1950 in what was the British sector of West Berlin. The light and airy blue and cream interior contains a simply dressed altar table with a crucifix and a pair of candles, stained glass windows depicting various saints, and traditional wooden pews that still bear the military badges from the British regiments that served there after the war.

The church

There is a weekly morning Sunday service. They also hold an evening eucharist at the Marienkirche in the centre of Berlin and (on the third Sunday of the month) at the beautiful Fraunkirche in Dresden. There is a Taizé service on the second Tuesday evening of each month. Activities such as Bible studies, evening meditations and prayer are organised, and there has been a recent Lent course. Their annual Dickensian Christmas Fair raises funds for the church. They have friendly ecumenical relations with the Old Catholic and Lutheran churches.

The neighborhood

The church is surrounded by large expensive-looking detached properties in the leafy area of Neu-Westend, which is to the west of Berlin city centre. At the time of my visit, many gardens were blooming with enormous beautiful magnolia trees and cherry blossoms.

The cast

The celebrant was the Revd Christopher Jage-Bower, pastor. He was assisted by the Revd Dr Irene Ahrens, assistant pastor.

What was the name of the service?

Eucharist with Blessing of the Palms

How full was the building?

It was quite full. There must have been well over 100 people there. The congregation were quite a mixture, both of age and colour.

Did anyone welcome you personally?

Yes. A sideslady was very welcoming and informative as she handed me the books for the service.

Was your pew comfortable?

It was a traditional wooden pew with ample shelf space to lay out all the requisite books and service sheets. The hassock was very deep so was most comfortable to kneel on.

How would you describe the pre-service atmosphere?

There was quite a lot of subdued welcoming and quiet conversation.

What were the exact opening words of the service?

We were asked to go out into the garden with our palm crosses. The service then began with "In the name of the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit."

What books did the congregation use during the service?

Hymns Ancient and Modern, the St Georges Common Worship service book, a booklet of liturgical settings, and the leaflet for the Palm Sunday service, which contained readings, hymn numbers, and all the information needed for the service.

What musical instruments were played?

I didnt actually see it, but it was a traditional organ – the pipes were at the back of the church. All the music was beautifully played by the organist, Scott Clemons.

Did anything distract you?

I tried to identify St George in the stained glass windows. St Andrew and St David were clearly named but I couldnt help wondering who a particular saint was: he had a long red cloak in which an old man was partially concealed. The two were looking at each other and I wondered who they were.

Was the worship stiff-upper-lip, happy clappy, or what?

Dignified and reverential, very middle of the road. Designed, I think, to appeal to members of the congregation who came from all sorts of backgrounds. Children left the service for their own childrens church, returning for communion.

Exactly how long was the sermon?

This was replaced by the singing of an excerpt from Bachs St Matthew Passion, which must have lasted about 20 minutes. Full marks for the soloists: Stewart Emerson, Andrew Sims, Tonio Green, Andre Ulrich-Permutti and Kate Ebisch-Burton. I wondered if they were professional singers.

Which part of the service was like being in heaven?

I have never heard the Passion sung as part of the Palm Sunday service, and it was truly beautiful.

And which part was like being in... er... the other place?

I find that churches I visit often use a different and unfamiliar tune for things like the Kyrie, the Gloria, the Sanctus and so on. This was the case here, so I thought I would follow the music in the booklet of liturgical settings. But it had disappeared! I searched around me, even on the floor, to no avail. I can only assume that it fell on the floor when we went out of church with our palms, and that someone picked it up and put it away.

What happened when you hung around after the service looking lost?

I didnt. Although several people, including the pastor, invited me to coffee, I had to get back to my hotel, which was a 45 minutes walk away, for another appointment.

How would you describe the after-service coffee?

I would have liked to have stayed because everyone seemed so friendly.

How would you feel about making another visit (where 10 = ecstatic, 0 = terminal)?

10 – I would definitely come here again if I found myself in Berlin once more.

Did the service make you feel glad to be a Christian?

Very much so. The transition from the blessing of the palms to the tragedy of the Passion is very moving.

What one thing will you remember about all this in seven days' time ?

I thought the church was lovely but the one thing that stood out was the wonderful singing of the St Matthews Passion.

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