YP Band and Singing Company visit Germany
It was at least a year in the planning, with organisers having to overcome barriers of language and distance – but the result was a very successful week in Germany for the Young People’s Band and Singing Company of Canterbury Salvation Army. They and their adult helpers (pictured in the German sunset on the right) arrived home tonight feeling a little more weary than they had five days previously, but certainly more inspired and closer as a group. Here’s a run down of the week…
Those walking down Canterbury High Street just before 7am on the 25th July 2013 would have seen a coach parked by the entrance to Whitehorse Lane with around 35 people loading up bags, boxes and instruments onto it. Yes, the day had finally arrived for the tour to begin – which meant an awful lot of equipment had to be loaded! (See the photo on the left.)
With everything in place (though it later turned out, inevitably, that not quite everything was in place!), it was time to hit the road. Once in Folkestone, there was just time to frantically scramble for coffees before our departure on the Channel Tunnel.
Soon we were in Coquelles, and a long drive ensued along the motorways of France, Belgium (with a stop at a service station for lunch) and the Netherlands, before finally arriving in Germany. Winding roads led us to the River Rhine, and a ferry led us to the correct side of it! The River Rhine has very few crossings, something that would prove to be a problem later in the week…
An evening meal followed, albeit after a lengthy delay. We were under the impression that the hostel was cooking our food; the hostel was under the impression that we were! The problem became clear, and Ian was soon hard at work at the barbecue (as pictured on the right).
The first day of the tour was concluded with an evening walk along the river (the sunset is pictured below) and around the town, and some time reflecting on the highs and lows of the day, praying for our week together and the opportunities that would be presented to us.
Breakfast was the first thing on Friday’s agenda, with the discovery that breakfast time doubled up as lunch preparation time. Each person received a paper bag from the hostel and the instructions to make up two rolls from the continental selection.
9am saw morning prayers, in which Becky spoke on the topic of sight. Band practice was then underway. The heat made it a hot and sticky affair, and so we opened windows – but we were soon told to close them again in order to not disturb other hostel guests who might not be so appreciative of brass band music.
After a somewhat damp lunchtime (a heavy shower had broken out), we boarded a ferry (pictured on the left) which cruised along the river in fresh sunshine for an hour or two, taking us to the town of Rüdesheim. We saw all sorts of sights along the way, and realised just how beautiful this part of the world was; vineyards, castles, traditional towns and green countryside all rolled by.
In Rüdesheim, a host of attractions awaited us – cheap ice creams, a myriad of gift shops and even a Christmas shop, something that seemed particularly bizarre with the sun beating down. Tizane’s highlight of the day was managing to find, after a lifetime of searching, her name on a personalised item – well, almost, if you count Tiziana as close. There was also a Catholic church to visit and a cable car to brave.
After a short coach-ride home, we were treated to another of Ian’s barbecues; kebabs, sausages and steaks were all on offer once again! Bedtime was soon upon us, so we had a short time of reflection and prayer, thanking God for the great day we had had together, before heading upstairs.
Saturday saw the first of our playing engagements. We were staying some distance from Cologne, so after breakfast we got on the coach and travelled for a couple of hours to the city. This afforded us the wonderful privilege (!) of spending lunchtime in a service station on the edge of Cologne. By now, the group were becoming experts on the different kinds of paid toilet on the continent. This service station boasted a toilet seat that revolved upon flushing in order to clean itself.
At around 2pm, we arrived at South Cologne corps of The Salvation Army (pictured on the right). We received a warm welcome, with refreshments laid on, and were soon ready to travel to the shopping area where we were to do the open-air service, arriving there via the city’s tram network.
In the town centre, the YP Band contributed pieces including ‘Hand Me My Trumpet’, ‘Just a Closer Walk’ and ‘Star Lake’. The Singing Company (pictured on the left) sang ‘Siya Kudu Misa’ and ‘All I Know’, and the timbrelists laid on a display to the march ‘Vanguard’. Leaflets were given out, advertising the evening’s concert by the Canterbury Young People.
Once the tram ride back to the Army hall was complete, it was time for tea! Not just a break from Ian’s barbecuing, the meal proved to be rather delicious, a helping of meatballs and pasta. Soon enough though, it was time to prepare for the evening concert.
The Canterbury group gathered in the evening sunshine beforehand, sharing in prayer. We asked God to bless our ministry, to use our music to touch lives. We hoped that our work would bless South Cologne corps.
And so the concert began. The YP Band (pictured on the right), under the leadership of Keith Woodger, played a variety of pieces that included ‘Gospel Train’, ‘Kids Alive’ and ‘Ransomed’, a euphonium solo from William. The Singing Company, led by Dawn Neeve, sang ‘We Come As Children’ and ‘Easter Jubilation’; and there were further solos from Molly (‘Für Elise’) and Nathaneal (‘Rondo’ from Mozart’s second horn concerto).
Later, we discovered that there were five people present at the concert who had come to The Salvation Army that night as a direct result of our open-air service earlier in the afternoon. We viewed this as answered prayer; we asked God to use all that we would do over the weekend, and he did just that – we believe that we were his method of reaching people who were otherwise distant.
On the way home, each member of the group shared something that they were thankful for as part of prayer time. A clear theme of each sentence was the sense of God blessing the trip and those who were on it.
By the end of the journey, the group were incredibly thankful for a skillful bus driver. Following the satnav had led the coach to be on the correct point along the river – but the wrong side of it. This would mean catching a ferry (prayers were being said that it was still running this late, around 11pm!) to avoid an extra two hours driving to the nearest bridge. Arriving safely at the ferry port, however, still meant numerous hair-pin bends, and driving through under one incredibly tight bridge – only inches bigger than the vehicle itself. After his hard work, Jeff the driver had earned himself a round of applause. Finally, we made it back – very late, but aware that it could have been much later – via the ferry, and it was time to sleep.
Due to the adventures of the previous night and rules around coach driving hours, we were not permitted to leave the hostel until 8.30am. This made travelling time very tight, and caused us to be ten minutes late for the morning service at South Cologne corps. Still, this didn’t get in the way of a great morning.
The YP Band played the pieces ‘A New Dimension’ and ‘Three Songs of Worship’, and the Singing Company (pictured on the left) offered up ‘Prayer For All Mankind’. Lucy and William gave testimonies; though written independently from each other, they both contained a similar theme of the impact of music to them.
Lieutenant Matthias Lindner – kindly translated into English for the benefit of the group from Canterbury – spoke powerfully about the many songs contained in the Bible. He described how, though old, the psalms were timeless and he encouraged each person gathered to seek out a favourite, meaningful passage. Lucy then movingly sung ‘But By The Blood’ as the congregation reflected on the message of the service.
Lunch soon came around, after some good conversations with members of South Cologne corps. Amongst the congregation were the owners of a Korean takeaway, who very generously provided our lunch from their business (pictured below on the right). Rice, chicken, noodles and fish were all on offer, and delicious it was too – many people went up for more, yet still managed to find room for an ice cream for dessert.
The weather was poor, so the planned open-air service in the park couldn’t go ahead – but when the skies looked a little brighter, we embarked on a walking tour of Cologne courtesy of South Cologne corps member Klaus. He showed us the sights – the Roman city wall, the river, the modern housing developments, the town hall, Cologne’s padlock bridge and, of course, the Cathedral (pictured below). We walked a fair distance, taking in much of what the city has to offer. After saying goodbye to the tour guide and his wife and the other new friends we had made in Cologne, the party headed back to our hostel – that is, after making a stop for tea in the town of Bad Ems.
Bad Ems is an old spa town, and much fun was had both tasting the water and splashing each other with it, before it was time to head back to the hostel once more. By now it was relatively late and being in bed at a reasonable time seemed like a good idea, bearing in mind the busy day ahead of us. Of course, young people and reasonable bed times rarely mix…
The big finale to our trip to Germany was our visit to Phantasialand, a large theme park located in Brühl. The day began disastrously, with first difficulties finding the park, then problems using our tickets to enter – topped off by a heavy downpour whilst we waited for them to be reprinted.
Before long, however, everyone was in the park. There was all sorts to do – rollercoasters, carousels, water rides, shops, shows and cafés.
Perhaps the funniest moment of the day was six-year old Fabian and his mum deciding to have a quick ride on the train before leaving the park – not realising that they were in fact boarding one of the fastest, adrenaline-fuelled rollercoasters in Phantasialand (pictured on the left). Of course, once on, there was no way off.
We arrived back at the hostel for the evening, in time for a meal. Tonight there was no barbecue – instead, a selection of dishes to choose from. It was also chance to say thank you to Keith and Dawn for all their hard work over the week as leaders of the YP Band and Singing Company – and to sing ‘Happy Birthday’ to Amy and to present her with some cake!
Our final night in the hotel was drawing near, but there was just time for a final evening activity: a picture hunt. Using digital cameras and phones, we worked in groups to take photos of various items until we had built up a collection of one photo for each letter of the alphabet. Some clever methods were used to achieve this – such as staging a queue to photograph to represent the letter Q. (The marking process is pictured on the right.) Several commented on how the game was a good way to look more closely at the environment around oneself.
After a prayer time looking back at the week, it was time for bed.
The week had gone quickly, and it was now time to travel all the way back across Europe to home. After breakfast and packing, we left the hostel.
On the coach, there was time for more thank yous; to those who had looked after pastoral matters, to Mandy for her organisation of the week and to others who had made things possible. Even coach driver Jeff said thank you to us for being a colourful bunch, describing the pleasure as all his.
A break at another service station and the Channel Tunnel punctuated the journey, until safely arriving back in Canterbury, where it had all begun.
An inspiring week
It had been an inspiring week with many funny and happy memories, some honest reflection and an immense feeling of gratitude for a wonderful opportunity. God made his presence felt throughout – as seen in the way he used our open-air ministry to bring new people into his house; the way he gave ideas to those who gave testimony and led prayer times; and the way he carried us safely through.
Aside from any ministry as a group, members ministered to each other through friendship, and as a result, the group is an even closer community.