Episcopal, Church of Sweden congregations in Germany live into new full communion agreement

By Melodie Woerman
Posted Sep 14, 2023

The Rev. Scott A. Moore, an Episcopal priest serving two congregations in Germany, celebrates the Eucharist in July at a Church of Sweden parish in Berlin, following the full communion agreement between the two churches that was signed in March. The Church of Sweden priest, the Rev. Pamela Garpefors, stands nearby. Photo: Scott Moore

[Episcopal News Service] The Episcopal Church and the Church of Sweden are beginning to put into practice an historic full communion agreement signed earlier this year.

In what he believes was the first joint celebration after the signing, this summer the Rev. Scott A. Moore traveled to Berlin, where he celebrated the Eucharist in a Church of Sweden congregation, known as Svenska kyrkan i Berlin.

Moore knew some Swedish from when he was as a pastor in the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America, he told Episcopal News Service, so he was able to celebrate the Eucharist in Swedish, with the church’s rector and his friend, the Rev. Pamela Garpefors, preaching.

On Sept. 30 the two priests will be together again, this time at one of the churches Moore leads, St. Michael’s Church in Thuringia, located in Weimar. At that service Garpefors will celebrate – this time in English – and Moore will preach.

Moore, a priest serving two German congregations in the Convocation of Episcopal Churches in Europe, was in the Cathedral Church of the Holy Trinity in Paris, France, for the March 27 signing of a full communion agreement between The Episcopal Church and the Church of Sweden. Garpefors also was there, and Moore said after the signing, the two of them agreed they wanted to do something to mark the new agreement. “We need to put some flesh on these bones,” Moore said they decided. “Let’s do something as soon as possible.”

The Rev. Margaret Rose, ecumenical and interreligious deputy to the presiding bishop, in an email to ENS, praised joint efforts like these in Germany. She said, “A vital aspect of our full communion agreement is building relationships,” adding, “there is no better way of doing this than sharing worship and exchange of clergy. This sets the framework for our deeper engagement in mission and ministry.”

When asked about the impact this full-communion agreement will have, Moore said it likely will have little effect on congregations in North America (the Church of Sweden has only five churches in the U.S.), but it has potential for real impact in Europe. There are a number of Episcopal congregations in the same or a nearby city as a Church of Sweden parish, and in those places he said “there is an opportunity for ministry support or even clergy exchanges” like the one he and Garpefors are doing.

The Convocation of Episcopal Churches in Europe has 20 congregations in seven countries, and the Church of Sweden has 26 parishes in Europe.

Moore said his experience at the church in Berlin told him that Church of Sweden congregations might be open to more services led by Episcopal clergy. At coffee hour, he was approached by members who said they’d love to have him back when Garpefors was away. “They told me that if I’d do the rest of the service in Swedish, I could preach in English or German,” he said, knowing he isn’t fluent in Swedish. “It was a beautiful sentiment” and showed they were open to having clergy ministering in multiple languages.

–Melodie Woerman is a freelance writer and former director of communications for the Diocese of Kansas.