|Missionary tends to congregations in Germany|
The Rev. Carol Ann Seckel, a United Methodist missionary, is blessed during her
Jan. 6 installation service in Berlin. A UMNS photo by Ralf Wuertz.
A UMNS Report
By Kathleen LaCamera*
Feb. 5, 2008
A growing number of international United Methodist congregations now
exist within Germany, where their members range from Americans to
Africans, diplomats to asylum seekers, students to business people.
Attending the installation service are (from left)
the Rev. Jay Rundell, Seckel, Bishop Rosemarie Wenner, the Rev. Kevin
Seckel, Bishop Øystein Olsen, the Rev. Clayton Childers and Üllas
Tankler. A UMNS photo by Heinrich Meinhardt.
All, according to Bishop Rosemarie Wenner of the Germany area, are welcome within the United Methodist Church in Germany.
Wenner believes that differences in language and culture need not
create barriers within the church but, rather, can offer rich
opportunities for connection and exchange. To help support these
non-German-speaking congregations, German United Methodists and the
United Methodist Board of Global Ministries have worked together to
appoint the Rev. Carol Ann Seckel, a board missionary, as coordinator
for English language and migrant ministries.
Seckel, an American, has extensive experience working in
cross-cultural settings. She has served as conference superintendent in
the denomination’s Alaska Missionary Conference, where she also worked
with Alaska Children’s Services. From 2000-2004, both she and her
husband, Kevin, served as missionaries in Latvia. He is now doing
similar work with English language congregations in the south of
Germany, starting new churches.
Seckel said she already is impressed by the commitment of German
United Methodists to support those coming from outside the country. She
recounted one recent experience where she came across two older German
women taking part in an English language service aimed at foreign
students. "They said even though they didn’t understand English, they
wanted to be there to support this ministry," she added.
While officially installed in the Frankfurt-based position in January, Seckel has been on the job for the past eight months.
Currently, about 40 international United Methodist congregations are
in Europe—20 of them in Germany. They serve a wide range of people with
diverse abilities, challenges and socio-economic situations. Most of the
congregations are small and a number serve economically disadvantaged
Seckel said these congregations face the challenge of "how to live
faithfully with limited resources, struggling to be the church we are
called to be."
English is the primary language for most of these congregations.
However, both preaching and pastoral ministry also are conducted in
French, Russian, Vietnamese and African dialects. The largest group of
these international church members come from Ghana, West Africa.
These congregations face the challenge of
"how to live faithfully with limited resources, struggling to be the
church we are called to be." –The Rev. Carol Ann Seckel
One particular challenge within the Ghanaian Methodist community is
getting parents—who are anxious about European influence and its
effects—to encourage their young people to meet and get to know young
Seckel’s responsibilities include outreach to American military
chaplains. She says many chaplains don’t realize that United Methodist
congregations are close by. She thinks she is in a unique position to
offer support as a chaplain to "the chaplains."
According to Wenner, it is important to offer pastoral care for
clergy colleagues doing a difficult job during wartime. She welcomes the
exchange of insights and perspectives that these links can bring. "We
are sisters and brothers in one church," she explained. "We must get to
know each other, start conversations about ethics, exchange insight and
In addition, Seckel will train German pastors and lay people who
desire to work more effectively within cross-cultural settings. And she
will help strengthen relationships among international English-speaking
and migrant congregations in Germany and those in other parts of Europe
including Sweden, Demark, Russia and Belgium. Under Wenner’s leadership,
leaders from these European international congregations have started to
"I have joked that I feel like I’m on this significant learning curve
that continues to go straight up," Seckel told United Methodist News
Service. Seckel began learning German only last spring. A map of Germany
is an essential tool for her work, and one is pinned to the wall of her
In Wenner’s opinion, the work with international congregations in
Germany can be a model for others, showing how to build one inclusive
church rather allowing separate parallel Methodist churches to develop.
"We have sisters and brothers who come to live here in Europe who
have made all those transitions in their lives and in their families’
lives. They are part of the church here in Europe," Wenner told UMNS.
"In future, we need to build up the (pastoral) leadership of people
within these people coming from abroad."
*LaCamera is a UMNS correspondent based in England.
News media contact: Linda Bloom, New York, (646) 369-3759 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
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