Wednesday was a long but productive day, spent visiting various churches and projects in and around Hamburg. We were met at the station by two young people, Edward and Rachel, from Britain and Florida respectively. They work with the international Methodist congregation here. They took us around some of the sights of Hamburg before we all caught the U-Bahn to Hamm, where we had lunch in a cafe at the church, run by a business which employs staff with various disabilities. There was an ingenious system for ordering, which consisted of taking a card from the menu with a picture of the food or drink item which was required. No writing necessary – brilliant!
After lunch the pastor, Rev Edgar Lüken, showed us around the church and talked about the food bank which operates from the building every Monday, and the work which the congregation has started in order to occupy the children while the parents queue for food. Many of those who come for food will be refugees or migrants. The church also offers a cooking club, to help people learn how to use the ingredients provided by the food bank.
Just before we came to Germany on this visit there was much publicity about the new Elbphilharmonie, the state of the art concert hall recently opened in Hamburg. I did not imagine for a moment that we would get to see it, but we did! Our hosts, Edgar and Ed, took us up the curved escalators and around the spectacular viewing areas and there was a tangible sense of excitement as we mingled with others who were viewing the hall for the first time. Unfortunately we were not able to gain access to the concert hall itself, but we have seen that frequently enough on the media over recent days!
From the Elbphilharmonie we went to meet Rev Karsten Mohr at the beautifully designed Hamburg ecumenical forum, with its café, chapel, conference rooms, apartments and offices. An excellent example of Christians working together. Karsten then drove us to Inselarche, the real object of our visit. This children’s work, at the Methodist church on the island of Wilhelmsburg, caters for about 25 children from the area, whose overall population is made up of 80% refugee and migrant families. We met with the children, surveyed the building extension which is in progress and then walked around the area to see the container homes which house many of the refugee families.
Our time in Hamburg has raised lots of thoughts and questions in my mind about how we might perhaps support this work at Inselarche in particular? The staff and volunteers who work here are able at the moment to cater for about 25 children. The extension to the church will allow that number to increase to about 35. It appears to be a work which contributes in so many ways to the peaceful life of this diverse community.