… to the priests and people of St. Thomas Becket Hamburg on the occasion of the 400th anniversary of the Anglican presence in Hanseatic Hamburg.
The original reason for the Senate’s grant to the English merchants of a chaplaincy in the City near the old Dom was as much commercial as spiritual generosity. “Alles geht um’s Geld!” So the Hanse enjoyed reciprocal privileges of Lutheran worship in London. But there’s more to it than that.
In recent times St. Thomas has moved on from being essentially a church for British ex-patriates, to one welcoming and valuing the presence of people from all over the world-with of course Germans! Nowadays we are regarded as standing alongside the two main churches, the Lutheran and the Roman Catholic, in witnessing to God’s love in Christ. Indeed confessional boundaries have become somewhat blurred, thankfully. And of course the regard the City Authorities have for the Church and Congregation and their support in maintaining the structure has been much appreciated.
Despite the fact that the church building has to be used for both secular and sacred activities, it is still primarily a sacred space. Those who have gone before us, those who worship now and those who will come hereafter form a timeless pattern of praise to him who creates and redeems us in his Son. We come old and new to St. Thomas in the search for what T.S. Eliot calls ‘The intersection of the timeless moment,’ in a place ‘where prayer has been valid.’ (Little Gidding-the last of the Four Quartets) The dignified beauty of the nave and sanctuary can provide glimpses of the eternal.
I learned much during my time as chaplain of the love and service of my post-war predecessors, together with talented people, both past and present, in the congregation. But I look back on my 10 years in office with equal appreciation and regard for the many unsung people who have worshipped, prayed and undertaken Christian service, in church and out.
May your anniversary year bring blessings to all who prepare and work for the special events, and to those who visit you and share in the celebrations. May all this be to many a springboard to a deepening and widening ability to share in life’s purpose and goal; waiting upon God, and receiving grace to effectively live out faith in action. St. Thomas Becket was the patron saint of the medieval Merchant Adventurers. Most of us aren’t merchants but we can still embrace the Christian adventure!