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Reform Magazine | November 29, 2023

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Peace from a shoebox

Peace from a shoebox

How a food parcel led to the development of a global partnership between five churches

What happens when, in 1946, you send a marmalade pudding, tins of sardines and corned beef, dried egg powder and half a pound of tea in a shoebox to Germany? Twenty years later, the birth of a unique international five-way church partnership, which has developed and flourishes to this day.

That shoebox and others were sent by Shelley Road Congregational Church in Worthing to Wolfstein in Rhineland-Palatinate, Germany, leading to the creation in 1957 of the denomination’s link with the Evangelical Church of the Palatinate. Back then, and throughout the 1960s, the impetus was reconciliation – between West and East Germany, the UK and Germany, western Europe and eastern Europe, and the US and Europe.

As part of this partnership, Purley Congregational Church developed links with Speyer in Germany, but it also made connections with the USA.

During a 1967 pulpit exchange, Purley’s minister, the Revd Cyril Franks, uncovered some highly prejudiced and stereotypical views of Germans in Hartford, Connecticut. He felt attitudes would only change if people met face to face and realised how much they had in common, whatever labels they wore. The churches in Purley and Hartford then piggybacked onto contacts already made by Speyer with Dessau in East Germany and Ostrava in Czechoslovakia, creating the five-way partnership as we know it today…

Article written by Purley United Reformed Church’s world church partnership committee. To find out more about this international partnership, visit


This is an extract from the April 2017 edition of Reform.

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