A marathon worship service held by a church in the Netherlands to shield a family of asylum seekers has garnered worldwide attention. The feat has proved impressive for its longevity alone – now going on six weeks.
But it also represents a unique ecumenical moment among Christians in the tiny European nation.
Dutch law generally prohibits officials from interrupting a religious service, so Bethel Church in The Hague has kept worship going non-stop in order to turn its church into a sanctuary for an Armenian family who face expulsion. The congregation – part of the Protestant Church of The Hague and the country’s largest denomination, the Protestant Church of The Netherlands (PKN) – could not pull off the almost 1,000 hours of worship on its own, so its leaders have tapped more than 500 pastors from across traditions to participate.
“What this church asylum is teaching me in the first place is how enormously connecting and boundary-shattering the most basic compassion can be,” Axel Wicke, a pastor at Bethel, told CT.
“Here in the Netherlands, we have a huge amount of different Christian confessions, some of which originating in very ugly theological or liturgical fights. However, here at the church asylum in Bethel, none of this matters and everyone is working together…,” he said. “Very often, one pastor hands over the service to another colleague, with whom he would never be able to share anything else, either theologically or liturgically.”