As we grew up and moved around my parents used the Church as a focal point to meet people. Over the years this has diminished as attitudes to religion have changed but faith remains a central part of life in the Army, regardless of specifics.
Many soldiers who liberated Bergen-Belsen were deeply moved as they were of the Jewish faith and I met one Veteran at the 70th Anniversary last year who lived with the regret of not going further forward from his camp in Celle up the road to help his comrades in faith. I hope he found some solace in his pilgrimage at the age of 92.
What has fascinated me as we have moved around is the very slight adaptations to the ‘architects template’ for the Garrison Churches; many have been in former stables. It would seem that many were built in the early 1950’s as families were encouraged to accompany their serving soldier to Germany.
Whilst there may no longer be ‘sponsored Sundays’ where a unit filled a church with soldiers that were on Church Parade; the service ending with the last verse of ‘Eternal Father strong to save’; units being given a week off as it was the turn of the uniformed groups – Guides, Scouts, Brownies and Cubs; Church choirs were in abundance and carol singing around the patch at Christmas was looked forward to.
The greater mix of faiths has brought such variety and understanding to life in Germany and I will try to find out more over the next year.