St Ursula's Church
Berne, Switzerland

A Church of the Anglican Communion, welcoming all who seek the Lord Jesus Christ

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St Ursula's Church Hall and House - A Brief History

The site donated in 1905 by the English-Berne Land Company at Jubiläumsplatz was relatively large. The church built upon it occupied a central position. At the time it was built, no attempt was made to use the space behind it. The chaplain lodged in town, and building permanent accommodation for clergy had a low priority.

In 1943, however, plans were drawn up for a one-storey bungalow. An appeal was sent out.


The financial year is drawing to its close, and once more we venture to appeal to you for your generous support to enable the Church to carry on.

Much has been achieved thanks to you during the last twelve months; the walls of the Church are clean, the sanctuary enriched, the altar is cared for, a supply of flowers assured, the choir has increased its numbers, and the new organ, which is still only on loan, may eventually belong to us completely.

Offertories have greatly increased, but we still need Frs.5000.- to enable us to cover the Chaplain's stipend and the permanent running expenses of the Church. Our difficulties this year have been greater than usual as exchange regulations have prevented transfers from our account in the United Kingdom.

For these reasons, we ask you again to help us with your subscriptions which may be made on the enclosed postal cheque form (account No. III 4416) or in cash to the Church Warden.

Accompanying this appeal is a message from the Chaplain concerning the proposed building of a Church House on the ground behind the Church. Should the S.P.G. consent to the land being used for this purpose, we hope that the Padre will be able to realise his plan.

Jackson Smith
Church Warden

E.B. Dawson-Moray
Chaplain's Warden

Leland Harrison
U.S. Minister

Clifford J. Norton
H.B.M. Minister

Lees Mayall
Chairman of St Ursula's Church Council.

October, 1943.

From the Rev. George Moore
British-American Chaplain

Steinerstraase, 47
Tel. 3 08 78

I am grateful to have the privilege of adding this pastoral letter to the Churchwarden's Appeal, and to have so good an opportunity of sharing with you my plans for the immediate future. We are concerned with a much deeper issue than keeping the English Church from closing down; it must open up, extend its work, bear vital witness to our resolve that Christian principles shall survive. Two world wars in a quarter of a century are but a poor advertisement for our much vaunted progress, and it is clear that man without God cannot build a world worth living in; we therefore, who in our various ways are on the side of God, determine that the Faith of Christ shall survive, knowing that when that goes, the way of life based upon it will soon follow. That danger of course threatens, but we, who at the moment can do little else, can at any rate not only hold our bit of the line, but go forward, as indeed we must.

St. Ursula's is playing its part in training an increasing band of vital Christians for the task which claims our generation, that of creating human fellowship on the basis of life in Christ... there is a stirring of new life, and more than that: people are meeting, thinking, discussing, worshipping, uniting in a corporate effort to make the Church a "lively" force in our community and to do the work which is entrusted to us here.

As I see it, the great need and first claim upon us at this juncture is the building of St. Ursula's House. It is no longer possible to envisage the chaplain's job as taking a service or two on Sunday, and then disappearing from public view for the rest of the week; he must be available as friend and adviser, be able to dispense a modest hospitality and carry on his work as educator in Christian principles: the children must be able to find him in a house where they can be noisily happy on occasion, the Church's activities going on all the week round, in a house with an ever open door. Here would be held the classes, discussions and meetings which I am trying to carry on in conditions of most hampering difficulty in my tiny would take place the concerts, plays, dances, singing practices; here would come the youths and maidens to spend their off duty time in the evenings, many of whom have nowhere at the moment except often lonely "digs". I see a building on the plot of ground behind the Church which shall be the social and religious centre of every kind of cheerful activity. It will give the chaplain not only a modest billet, but also a workshop where contacts can be made, and Christian work go forward unhampered by the limitations of my present quarters, which are considerable. It is a fact not without a certain ironic significance that every "Minister" here in Berne is provided with house and equipment for the effective carrying on of his work, except the "Minister" of Almighty God! Yet there is an immense amount of vague goodwill for the particular ministry which I am commissioned to exercise here, and of course no lack of the money needed to make that ministry effective.

To that end, a church house, manse, presbytery, call it what you will, is simply an essential piece of equipment. Such a house is already planned; a one-storey bungalow, with four or five rooms, one of which is a very large common room (a scale model of it awaits your inspection in the Church), the Town Council have accepted the plans, we await only the "nihil obstat" of the S.P.G., and with your co-operation the thing can be done.

When we start upon it we begin with the clear advantage of having already the site upon which to build - it was doubtless part of the plan of the original builders of the Church - so there is no ground to buy, only the cost of the building to raise - at the most 50,000 francs - a tiny sum when you consider that it represents the cost of approximately one large bomb! Many a small town in England has raised the price of a bomber, surely we in Berne could find enough to pay for a bomb!

The venture may well be our War memorial: if you will, an indication of a revived interest in Christianity, our Thank-offering for four years of peace in the midst of Europe at war.

Our homes are intact at a time when one house in every five in England has been "blitzed". It has surely been worth a franc a week to have a sound roof over one's head, and if ronghly 250 people would give that for every week of the four years of the war, the new building could be put in hand tomorrow.

But this letter does not ask for money at the moment; though I should be immensely grateful for promises of financial help when the scheme can go forward; rather it seeks your prayers, your suggestions, your offers of help in planning and formulating the scheme.

Would you consider the various ways and means of helping. Please cross out what does not apply on the form below and return to me (The Rev. George Moore, British and American Chaplain, Steinerstrasse 47, Berne).

I approve of this scheme.
I will volunteer as Organising Secretary of an Appeal.
I will serve on a Committee.
I will pay the cost of the building myself. I will give it in memory of ...., to whose memory it will be dedicated.

Your friend and servant in Christ,
George Moore.

In 1952, the arrival of Rowland Jones as Chaplain and the accession of Elizabeth II as Queen provided new impetus to a hall project. An architect was engaged to draw up plans for a small hall behind the church. However, the cost of the whole project threatened to exceed by far the resources of the English-speaking community and its friends.

In February 1953, the plans were submitted to the city Building Directorate. The city found them "not entirely satisfactory". Theodor Meyer and Frank Dixon, the British Consul, took the matter up with Gemeinderat Anliker, and asked if the city could provide expertise in drawing up plans. Hamish Munro was the third member of the Building Committee. The city architect's department duly drew up plans for a hall seating 132, and for a two-bedroomed house communicating at ground-floor level with the hall. (The architect who had been originally engaged and had drawn up plans constantly since 1943, G. Dachselt, was not amused, and complained of a conspiracy.) The city went further, and in negotiations, it was agreed that the city would not only provide architectural services, but also provide finance, in the form of a loan of half the cost, provided that the city education department could use the premises part time for an "observation class".

A committee was set up, with General Montgomery as its patron, led by the British, American, Canadian and Irish ambassadors, by Regierungsrat Dewet Buri, and the Stadtpräsident, Otto Steiger.

During 1954, plans crystallized. The church community would provide Fr 60,000, SPG a further Fr 15,000. The city would lend Fr 60,000, to be repaid in five years by setting it against rental for the use of the hall for school purposes. However, the six adjacent landowners had a covenant in their title deeds that the church site might only be used for building a church (Das Terrain darf nur zum Bau einer englischen Kirche verwendet werden.)

When the planning application was finally published in the Anzeiger of 10 August 1955, all six landowners objected, on the grounds that "a church" did not include a hall or a manse, and that the use of the hall by the city education department was totally excluded.

An undertaking was given that the hall would not be used for non-church purposes. It was also noted that the granting of building permission was independent of these covenants, which were a matter of private law.

The Buildings Inspectorate was more interested in the fact that the proposed staircase in the chaplain's house was only a metre wide - adequate for a private building. provided it was not used by the general public. The pitch of the roof also exercised their attention. It was steeper than the authorized norm, but this was permissible as it was in keeping with the roof of the main church building.

Building permission was granted on 8 September 1955. However, while work was not yet complete, a change in building regulations meant that permission had to be sought again. This was advertized in the Anzeiger of 18 and 19 April 1958. Permission was granted on 13 May 1958, and building began exactly eleven months later. Building work was complete on 6 January 1960. (An afterthought was the building of a garage on the west side of the church and hall. Building permission was sought and given in the course of June 1959, and the work was done between 10 July and 30 September.)

The attic space of the hall was modified in 1975 to provide access from the house.

At the end of 1991, the possibility of a Cantonal grant arose. The tax deducted at source from foreign workers' salaries had included a flat amount for church tax. Workers could in theory reclaim this, but few had done so. The Canton proposed returning the balance in the form of grants to organizations which furthered the interest of foreign residents. After discussion within the council and with the cantonal representatives, a plan was agreed in November 1992 to build a lower hall, toilet facilities, a new kitchen, an upstairs office and storage space. Between 1992 and 1994, the Canton granted Fr 900000 towards the building work involved. A church appeal (Raising the Roof) provided further funds. The work was carried out during 1993 and dedicated by Bishop John Hind on 19 March 1994.

HD - Page last modified 22 July 2005