Recently we spoke to Astrid Hansen, Wilsden-based retired pharmacist and former Lay Canon at Bradford Cathedral, who got in contact with us having seen publicity for our upcoming ‘Faith and Politics’ event, looking at the Bradford Declaration – see below – 90 years on, to talk about a family connection with the initial visit, and also the plaque that is present on the building.
Astrid has been heavily involved with the Church for many years – name a church committee and I have been on it! – and was also the volunteer archivist at Bradford Cathedral.
“I did all manner of things. A television company were once making a programme for Australia with Aled Jones all about Delius and they wanted his baptism records, which I found and brought down for them to film. And I’ve chased up many people’s ancestors for them!”
In November 1933, German pastor, Dietrich Bonhoeffer visited Bradford and made, what would later be known as, the Bradford Declaration. In it he spoke out against the nazification of the Church and, in so doing, publicly opposed the Nazi government, an act that would ultimately lead to his execution in April 1945.
To mark the 90th anniversary, Bradford Cathedral is hosting an event exploring the complex relationship between faith, politics and ideology.
Astrid’s father-in-law, Wilhelm Hansen, had been the Lutheran Pastor of the German Protestant Church on Great Horton Road at the time of the Bonhoeffer visit in 1933. He had earlier settled in Bradford and married. Astrid picks up the story.
“He had met Bonhoeffer in London previously in London, alongside other Lutheran pastors. Bonhoeffer had met a lot of the pastors working in England, and they’d arranged this special event in Bradford; my father-in-law was the host, as it was his church.”
Like Bonhoeffer, Wilhelm Hansen was a keen musician. “They’d had a musical evening back at their house.”
Jump ahead to the start of the Second World War and times became difficult for German residents in England, with many getting interred.
“Pastor Hansen was interred on the Isle of Man, and so was his wife, which was a shock to them all, as she was a local Bradford woman. But, having married a German citizen, she was scooped up.
“They weren’t sent together – he was first – but his wife Gwyneth and their baby (Chris), who had only been born in April 1939, followed, but were in totally different camps, though mother and baby didn’t stay long as arrangements were made for them to be brought home.
“John [Astrid’s husband and older son of Wilhelm Hansen], being older, stayed back in Bradford with his grandmother.”
John, Chris and Astrid visited the Isle of Man a few years ago, fulfilling a long ambition to return.
“One of the things they went back for was to find the church in which Chris had been baptised. We have a photograph of a grown, retired man, standing by the font in which he was baptised.
“The reason that happened was because, once it had been arranged for them to come back to Liverpool by ship, any babies who hadn’t been baptised were because of the danger of the ship being sunk.”
The Bonhoeffer visit is remembered in a plaque on the German Protestant Church, and had originally been put up by Bradford Council.
“The plaque wasn’t that old but was of poor quality, and much of the writing had worn off.”
Back in 2012, Astrid’s husband John and his brother, shared the cost of having the plaque replaced, which is the one currently displayed on the building.
“They felt they ought to do it. It was important for them, that if it was to be publically remembered, it ought to look good and not be in such a shabby state.”
Thinking ahead to the event at the end of October, we asked Astrid why it is important to remember the event.
“If you look around the world, you have to wonder how much has changed, with anti-Semitism, racism, and attempting to use religious orders for political purposes. It’s still all over the place, so I think it’s rather important that we don’t forget it, and the dreadful warning of what it can lead to.”
The event is part of the Diocese of Leeds welcome of German partners from our link city of Erfurt. The afternoon will begin with a special Choral Evensong where Three Prayers by Dietrich Bonhoeffer will be sung to a setting by Yorkshire composer Philip Moore. After the service there will be lectures by Dr Noel Irwin, Dr Matthias Rein and the Rt Rev. Nick Baines, Bishop of Leeds.
Erfurt, our link city, is a place that Astrid has visited.
“I was once chair of the overseas ‘Church in the World’ group for the Diocese, so I’ve been to Sudan and South-western Virginia, so I made sure I got to Erfurt as well. I’ve got a great deal to be thankful for in my church life.”
‘Faith and Politics: The Bradford Declaration 90 Years On’ takes place at Bradford Cathedral on Saturday 28th October at 3:30pm. You can book your free places at faith-politics.eventbrite.co.uk or by contacting the Cathedral office.