Our Story, Our History
Our History; Proclaiming Jesus as Lord in Amsterdam for over 400 years
"IN THE CITY, FOR THE CITY"
Christ Church Amsterdam is located in Amsterdam, in the Netherlands province of North Holland. Our community spans from residents with membership of 20 years or longer to an expat-based community – where members float in and out with the waves of business, to English-speaking students and visitors to Amsterdam.
Amsterdam is a complex and ever-changing city, with a history dating back to the 1300s with an international orientation. It has many faces, some challenges and many more opportunities.
Deep in the heart of the Amsterdam city centre, the roots of Christ Church Amsterdam were founded over 400 years ago, following the Union of Utrecht (1579), when personal freedom of religion was declared in the struggle between the Northern Netherlands and Spain.
The Union of Utrecht was an important step in the establishment of the Dutch Republic (from 1581 to 1795). Under Calvinist leadership, the Netherlands became the most tolerant country in Europe. It granted asylum to persecuted religious minorities, such as the Huguenots, the Dissenters, and the Jews who had been expelled from Spain and Portugal. The establishment of a Jewish community in the Netherlands and New Amsterdam (present-day New York) during the Dutch Republic is an example of religious freedom.
At the southern tip of the old centre of Amsterdam stood the military hospital, where English chaplains in the 1570s ministered to the English troops who fought for the Dutch in the Eighty Years War against Spain and its allies.
As the English Episcopal Church of Amsterdam, Christ Church Amsterdam became a formalized congregation in 1698. We were uniquely granted to worship within the city walls of Amsterdam during William III ‘s reign (William of Orange) as the Stadtholder of Holland and other states of the Dutch Republic and King of England, Ireland, and Scotland. The first church services were held in an upstairs room on the corner of Oudezijds Achterburgwal and Huidevettersloot and later in the Agnietenkapel.
1771 Our own Church building at the Groenburgwal
The first actual congregation used a building over a foul-smelling ditch in the heart of the city. Next, we appear in 1771, in a room of the Drapers’ Guild. We are thrilled to have celebrated our 250th year in this historic landmark.
The city council granted us permission to move into the former cloth hall and former house of the Dutch Architect, who defined the city Skyline for centuries, Hendrick de Keyser
At the time, the Guild room also contained group portraits of the samplers. One of those group portraits was by the Dutch master Rembrandt van Rijn. Rembrandt had painted in that room a portrait of the guild, assessing the quality of cloth leaving Amsterdam. We wish he’d left it behind…
Rembrandt’s “the Syndics of the Drapers’ Guild” (De Staalmeesters) is permanent on display at the Rijksmuseum Amsterdam.
1827 Finally, it looks like the church building as we know it today
Some decades later, the Napoleonic wars broke out, and there were no funds to pay a chaplain: the church building closed. But, in 1817, the churchwarden, adapting to the image of the times, invited the “London Society for the Propagation of the Gospel among the Jews” (“Christian Ministry among Jewish People”) to send a minister as our Chaplain, and to assist the local Jewish population, who were socially in dire straits.
Van Gogh and Sunday School
The Society sent the great Charles Simeon, who stabilised the church and preached in support of the Jewish people, which included initiatives resulting in the construction of the missionary Episcopal Zion’s Chapel in the Barndesteeg, where Vincent van Gogh assisted in teaching Sunday School for a while, during his period considering pastoral ministry!
As a fun fact, this location is still one of our mission partners today, Shelter City Christian Hostel, resides on this location in the Barndesteeg Young people from all over the world know where to find the Christian youth hostel, because of the location, atmosphere and the price.
In 1827, the church was extended by the creation of the neo-Gothic facade, which allowed the meeting room to be integrated into the church space. The ceiling was also raised, allowing height for the current stained glass windows.
Meanwhile, Simeon had laid the foundations of gospel ministry for years ahead, working in little what he worked in great measure at Holy Trinity Cambridge for over 40 years.
During the nineteenth century, the chaplains of Christ Church served in Amsterdam, but they also planted congregations in Haarlem, Arnhem and Utrecht; these later became chaplaincies in their own right. In 1852, we entered the lists of the then “Commonwealth and Continental Church Society”, which offered much-needed financial help
The Twentieth Century
The Second World War brought another facility closure. Many continental chaplaincies have known the effects of war very close at hand. Near our Centre building, thousands of our Jewish neighnours were taken to the camps: very few returned
On April 28, 1970, our historic building, Groenburgwal 42, became an official national monument. Whilst we feel honored to reside in this building, the combination of Christ Church Amsterdam carrying the annual maintenance costs, combined with National Monument restrictions in building alterations, would impact our capacity and growth in the following years. With the change of demographics, city layout and the rise of Amsterdam’s suburbs during the 80’s and 90’s, Church planting became inevitable, in order to serve the need of members of our congregation.
2006 Christ Church Amsterdam South
Christ Church South was planted as a new and distinct congregation which is generally represented by international families. Over the years, our South group has developed a strong root in the preaching and teaching and the faith of Christ. We have been deeply engaged with children’s ministries and experienced it as a critical part of the South congregation.
2011 Christ Church Amsterdam South East (Congregation of the Holy Spirit)
A few years later, our additional South East location was added to meet the needs of African nationals, with Anglican heritage. We are pleased to have recently celebrated the 10 year anniversary at this location. This congregation has a spirit of its own and worships with great enthusiasm.
2021 An Inclusive Modern Anglican Church, with In Person and Digital Services.
Until the year 2020, most churches weren’t very “digital savvy”. Having been forced to find other ways of continuing practicing our faith in community, we had to find solutions online and in our (new) app. We decided for a future proof approach with a “mobile first” digital strategy for our app. Today, everything that we think is practical or important, must be within reach and will need to be accessible through our phone. We felt our church should be there too.
We wondered in during 2020 and 2021, “what does it mean to use a church website for ministry and not just for advertising of location and opening hours?” As the church has moved online, our website will have to extend our ministry itself! Today, we are the next stage of this journey, in shaping our digital congregations beside our three in-person locations.. We ask ourselves questions like “how can we use the content of our church website and our app to help our community experience grace?” These are the questions that we must consider as we continue our physical gathering in a time of combined in-person and virtual church. In practice, today it has become even more important as we recognize that our ability to gather in-person was limited during the recent lockdown and 6-feet distance in services.
As a principle, we chose to stay close to recreating the already familiar church experience, not one enriched in unexpected complex and digitized ways, where one could have the Eucharist from home (launching during lockdown our “click and collect” Groenburgwal “curbside pickup” and shipping services on wafers).
Our 2020 and 2021 digital highlights productions were our Good Friday zoom service and hybrid Christmas service, with our chaplaincy musicians at Groenburgwal, and readers participating from around the world. They might not have been “an Andrew Lloyd Weber production and recording quality”, yet they connected us and brought us great joy in togetherness.
2022 and beyond
We find ourselves having a historic building in the heart of the City that we want to see used more as a base in connecting our three congregations. As we share common activities, we are united in this building that is. Beginning to as well use our building more for community outreach and involvement, together with our mission partners, following our motto “in the City for The City”.
Amsterdam has always been a liberal and inclusive base. Our hope and prayer is that more of this city, with a confident record of gospel faith stretching back many centuries, will again come to see Jesus as Lord. Amsterdam was a home and a tolerant base of operation for great philosophers like Spinoza, Locke and Descartes. The light in the Enlightenment movement shone here first. Enlightened, yet also driving man to become the measure of all things. Amsterdam is now amongst the most liberal and secular cities on the planet, as well as the most international. Many who live in Amsterdam (Dutch and other) are not opposed to faith yet are seeking how to reconnect it in their live.; our task is to ask always, “What is the entry-point for the good news of Jesus in this City?”
The symbol of this city (which used to be an old fishing village) is the Three Crosses of St-Andrew-the-Fisherman – Christian roots run deep here, and the kingdom of Christ has been welcomed at times.
Christ Church Amsterdam welcomes you and invites you to join us