Neuchâtel English Church has maintained a presence in Neuchâtel since 1864, serving the English-speaking community.
You can read the varied history of the church below. Testimony from long-time member of our community, Miriam Haldimann may be read here. A beautiful history by Ruth Freiburghaus of the very early years, ‘a Church in a Stable’ may be read here.
1863: Assembly of all those interested in setting up an Anglican service in Neuchâtel. The committee was asked to contact the Colonial and Continental Church Society (CCCS) in London to take the necessary steps to provide services.
1864: The CCCS agreed to provide services in Neuchâtel from 15 June to 15 October on the condition that Neuchâtel contributes the sum of £25 (625 CHF) plus collections.
After acceptance of these terms, Anglican services took place regularly every Sunday, morning and evening, during the summer months from 1864 until 1876. Various clergymen visiting Switzerland from England, Scotland, Ireland, India, China and Jamaica took the services for a month each, thus helping to make Neuchâtel better known abroad.
1870: Services held at Chaumont in the Hotel.
Services in Neuchâtel: Hotel Bellevue, Hotel du Mont Blac, in several private homes, The Oratoire (Salle des Bercles) etc.
1874: Permission is given to hold regular Anglican services in the Salle de Pasteurs, Collégiale 3, Neuchâtel. The offer of the the Terreaux Chapel was turned down as being unsuitable.
The congregation was composed mainly of English families resident in Neuchâtel, students and English and American tourists. Depending upon the season and the weather, numbers varied between 40 and 120.
1876: The English community expressed a strong desire for a permanent Chaplain and services all year round.
1877: It became very difficult to find a Chaplain and the services were taken by Colonel B.H. Byers of Dublin. It became known that many families had sent their children to study in Geneva rather than Neuchâtel on account of the lack of Anglican services in winter. Steps were therefore taken to ensure that there would be services throughout the year. The Revd B. O. Deane from India was sent to Neuchâtel and remained until 1884, taking two services every Sunday until 1880, and from then one only in summer.
1884: The first visit from the Anglican Bishop for Central and Western Europe.
Congregations gradually dwindled due to:
1. An outbreak of cholera in the west of Switzerland, which meant that there were no tourists.
2. The lack of suitable premises.
Bishop Tricombe launched an appeal to finance an English Church in Neuchâtel.
1884 – 1887: Services were held in the summer.
1887: With the increased numbers in the English community, it became urgent to have a permanent Chaplain.
1887 – 1889: The arrival of the Revd. G. W. Smith made it possible to have regular services every Sunday, morning and evening. After he left, services were taken by clergy visiting Switzerland.
1881: The Revd. Frank Dodd held two services regularly every Sunday for a congregation of 30 – 80 worshippers.
1893 – 1901: The Revd. John Best took services
1894: The Bishop, the Right Revd. T. Wilkinson visited Neuchâtel.
1895: The ‘Conseil Général de la Commune de Neuchâtel’ decided to lease a small building occupied by the Alpine Museum to the ‘Société Anglaise de Neuchâtel’ for use as an English Chapel.
1897: On the 29th January, a service of consecration of the English Church (located in the Palais DuPeyrou) took place in the presence of official delegates from the Commune and 5 local pastors. The church was full (137 present). The Chaplain from Montreux officiated as the Bishop’s representative. The editor of the ‘Anglican Church Magazine’ and representatives of the English Churches in Lausanne, Bern and Montreux also attended. The Neuchâtel English community was overjoyed.
1898: Another visit from the Bishop.
Annual collections amounted to 1500 CHF.
1900: Another visit from the Bishop. Congregation was 100.
1902: The Revd. G. A. Bieneman, took over from the Revd. John Best.
1903: First Anglican services in Yverdon.
1904: A visit from the Bishop, repeated every second year until 1928. Annual collections were 1000 CHF. There were 80 members.
1905: Annual collections came to 1800 CHF.
1906: March 27th registration of the ‘Congrégation de l’Eglise Anglaise de Neuchâtel’ and the adoption of its statutes.
1907: End of the connection with the CCCS, who presented the English Church with a communion plate and hymn books. First recorded donation to the ‘Sky Pilot’s League’.
1909: Foundation of the Church of England Temperance Society under the auspices of the Revd. G. A. Bieneman. It was noted that gas lamps were still in use in the church, and that the capital funds were held by the Swiss Committee.
1910: Memorial service for King Edward VII attended by delegates from the ‘Conseil d’Etat’, the national church and the Swiss Committee of the Anglican Church.
Revd. Bieneman organises services in Les Rasses and Ste. Croix. Name of the Chaplaincy changed from Neuchâtel and Yverdon, to Neuchâtel and Les Rasses.
1911 – 1912: Problems arose at Les Rasses because the Society for the Propagation of the Gospel had also arranged services in the village. The Bishop was asked to sort out the problems that had arisen because of this overlap.
1913: The Old Catholic Church arranged for a monthly service in the Anglican Chapel.
1914: Many English students returned to England, but some English refugees arrived. A committee was set up to co-operate with the Red Cross Central Committee. 4185 CHF was spent on purchases of wool, material etc. The Revd. G. A. Bieneman returned to England for the period of the war.
1915: The commune of Neuchâtel and the Parish of Neuchâtel shared the cost of renovating the interior of the English Chapel (1350 CHF and 2200 CHF respectively).
In the absence of the Revd. Bieneman (away serving in the armed forces) he was replaced by the Revd. C. Hayley.
1916: Regular services were discontinued as many English people had left. The Chaplaincy was placed ‘in abeyance’. Occasional services were taken by Chaplains from Bern, Lausanne and Montreux.
1918: Dr Swallow, a professor at Neuchâtel University, took regular services between May and his death in October.
1919: Regular services were resumed on the return of the Revd. G. A. Bieneman. Congregation of 50. The Stipend Fund was in credit to 5500 CHF.
1920: Revd. G. A. Bieneman was appointed as Chaplain in Lausanne, but continued to serve in Neuchâtel with the help of other Anglican Chaplains in Switzerland until 1924.
1923 – 1924: Revd. A. Wilson Woodhouse was appointed but was unable to come to Neuchâtel.
1926: Revd Philip Moore was appointed to Neuchâtel as a permanent Chaplain and remained until 1927.
1927: Revd. A. B. Winter, Chaplain in Bern agreed to take services in Neuchâtel, at first every Sunday afternoon, later only twice a month.
A review of the Statutes was undertaken and the amended version was lodged with the Bishop of Fulham (responsible for Europe).
Note: Exhaustive searches both in Neuchâtel and at the Archives of the Diocese in Europe, located in Guildhall Lobrary, London, have failed to find any copy of these revised Statutes.
1928: Membership gradually increased.
1933: The ‘Les Rasses’ fund was amalgamated with the Stipend fund.
1934: The Church Assembly (March 4th) took the decision to remove itself from the ‘Register of the Chamber of Commerce of Neuchâtel’ as there was no commercial activity.
1936 – 1939: On the death of Revd. A. B. Winter, the Revd. G. A. Bieneman returned from Lausanne to take regular services in Neuchâtel until he became seriously ill.
Congregations of 80 were mainly students. On Armistice Day every year, the service was attended by 130 – 140 people in the presence of the British Vice Consul (Mr Paul de Pury). Poppies were sold in aid of the Earl Haig’s Fund for invalid soldiers.
1939: During the Second World War, most students did not return to Switzerland and the English community was reduced to a minimum. (There are very few records available for the period 1940 – 1950).
1940: Death of the Revd. G. A. Bieneman.
1939 – 1945: The doors of the English Chapel remained open and many weddings and christenings took place.
1944 – 1950: The English Chapel was often used for prayer meetings by various local groups, the Reformed Church, the Evangelical Alliance, The Christian Student Association and the Adventists (during the renovation of their own chapel).
1948: The Old Catholic Church began holding two services a month.
1951: Regular services, twice a month were resumed at the request of the Swiss Committee, for many young English students were still being sent to Lausanne, as there were no regular services in Neuchâtel. The Chaplain for the British Embassy in Bern was responsible for a service at 5pm on Sundays and a Communion service at 8.15am on Mondays.
1952: The Chaplain Revd. W. Rowland Jones, PhD, was very active in Neuchâtel, making weekday visits as well as taking services. Religious life amongst the young and the English-speaking community benefited greatly. He re-instituted a Church Committee. Decisions were taken to re-decorate the church in time for the coronation of Queen Elizabeth II. A service was held ont he 3rd May 1953. The congregation was made up mainly of students, usually about 60, from the following institutions: Iréna, the Chatélaine, the Ecole Ménagère at Monruz and other boarding houses in the region, the University and the Ecole de Commerce.
1953: A confirmation service was held on the 4th January 1953 with the Bishop of Fulham (the Right Revd. G. E. Ingle, M. A.) followed by a reception attended by a small group of local English residents and Swiss friends. Most of the students were on holiday.
The church was made aware of the desire to hold a European Chaplains’ Conference. It was noted that the Old Catholics were still using the Chapel.
The committee felt it was very important that the English Chapel should continue to exist and be active, to encourage English families to send their children to Neuchâtel.
1954: The need to find a new place for worship was actively discussed as the Commune wished to use the Palais DuPeyrou for other purposes. The Revd. Rowland Jones returned to the U.K.
The Church was moved to the Salle de Pasteurs and the Revd. R. B. Grey from Bern became involved. There was considerable discussion of the level of fees required by Bern. It was agreed to fund 600 CHF plus travel costs.
1956: It was noted that Basel was seeking its own Chaplain, so that Bern could now provide two services per month, but the funds available for this were limited.
1957: The Revd. R. B. Grey wanted Neuchâtel to be formally linked with Bern under the auspices of the S.P.G. It was agreed to maintain the independent nature of Neuchâtel.
1958: Two services per month were maintained and first mention is made of the need to have a rota of helpers.
1960: The Swiss Committee was still in existence, but only with one member, namely Mr Paul de Pury.
1961: A request was made to upgrade the lighting and heating in the Salle de Pasteurs.
The Bishop of Fulham paid a visit on the 28th May 1961.
1962: The Swiss Committee was mentioned in connection with a new arrangement at the ‘Société de Banque Suisse’. Contacts were to be established with Canadian Junior College.
1963: The church was financially in balance, the rent for the premises being paid by ‘Etude Hotz’ and not the bank. The question of size of the congregation and how to encourage growth was raised.
1964: Probably the last year involving the Swiss Committee. There was discussion of repairing the harmonium. The church was still recognised as the English-American Church. There was an increase in attendance mainly amongst students and missionaries learning French in Neuchâtel.
1965: The church was 500 CHF in debt and there was a discussion of how to make the services more popular. The church would also seek help from other churches in the region. Mr A. Wilson (Chairman) would read the services.
1966: Services continued at twice per month as there was still a link with the Canadian Junior College.
1967: The committee discussed again about encouraging church growth.
1969: First discussions were held about a new place for worship, as the Salle de Pasteurs was not ideal.
1970: The future of the Church looked very bleak, as the attendance was very small and the Chairman, Mr Wilson, had returned to the U.K.
1971: The Revd. R. B. Grey had left Bern and had been replaced by Canon S. Baggott. First mention was made of the availability of Revd. P. Hawker to come to Neuchâtel. The committee discussed the need to make the services less Anglican and attract a wider congregation.
1972 – 1975: There are no dated records for this period, but attendance was very poor and discussions were held about closing the Church and disposing of the furniture. It was decided to retain the Carol Service and Canon Baggott said that he would come over to Neuchâtel, however few were present.
1976: Canon Baggott was still holding services. The congregation paid fees and quota to Bern.
1977 – 1979: No records available for these years.
1980: Revd. P. Hawker from Bern was taking services in Neuchâtel. He wanted to re-establish a more official basis for the services. The church property was listed on an inventory and sent to Bern.
The possibility of starting a Sunday School was considered and a survey was commissioned.
It was noted that the ‘Etude Hotz’ was still involved with paying the rent.
Evening services once per month were requested and a possible move to the Chapelle des Charmettes was suggested.
1981: The services had now moved to the Chapelle des Charmettes and the time of the service at 5pm was thought to meet the needs of the congregation.
1982: The decision was taken to amalgamate the Swiss account with the other capital accounts of the church. There was a discussion of the amount of quota to be paid. Neuchâtel Church was invited to nominate its own representative to the Synod.
It was noted that Neuchâtel Church had its own legal Statutes, and there was discussion of setting up an Electoral Roll.
It was agreed to maintain the quota at the 1981 level. It was noted that the Statutes called for an Annual General Assembly to be held in January of each year.
1983: An AGM was to be held in 1984. It was noted that the amendments to the Statutes in 1927 could not be found. The statutes of 1906 were distributed and it was agreed to revise them at the next AGM.
1984: First AGM for many years. The Sunday School was restarted.
1985: It was noted that the ‘Société de l’Eglise Anglaise’ was the name of the single account now held at the SBS in Neuchâtel. it was agreed to pay 2000 CHF to Bern for the quota and expenses.
1986: There was a small deficit in the acocunts. Again there was discussion about setting up an Electoral Roll. It was noted that we were not a registered body in Neuchâtel. New Hymn books were introduced. The Revd. A. Wharton (Bern) was to be involved with the services.
1987: There was a discussion about the poor attendance at House groups.
1988: It was agreed to stay at Chapelle des Charmettes, rather than move to the Junior College. It was agreed to pay Bern 2500 CHF and 720 CHF to Chapelle des Charmettes.
1989: It was decided to retain one service per month. The question of having a Chaplain in Neuchâtel was discussed. Revd. P. Hawker was to move from Bern, help was to be sought from the English Church in Vevey.
1990: The Revd. D Wotherspoon had been appointed to Bern. It was suggested that the 1906 Statutes be revised, but no change was made. The Church was to have its own page in the Bern magazine.
1991: Two services per month were started, one of them being provided by ministers of the Reformed Church. The annual payment to Bern was increased to 3000 chr.
1992: Revd. T. Whitfield was appointed as an Assistant Chaplain in Bern.
1993: The church was worried by the very poor attendance at the house groups. The Bishop, the Right Revd. E. Holland came for a confirmation service on the 13th June 1993.
1994: The church decided to give away a credit balance of 7358 CHF. The Revd. T. Whitfield was to spend some 2.5 days in Neuchâtel. The committee decided that the time had come to create a ‘Mission Statement’.
1995: Revd. T Whitfield moved to Utrecht and it was hoped that Bern could still be involved in Neuchâtel. Marien de Bruyne proposed a draft of the ‘Mission Statement’. Again there were discussions about creating an Electoral Roll. The Revd. D. Wotherspoon reminded the Church of its Anglican nature. Discussions led to no change being made to the 1906 Statutes.
Beryl Baker (Paraguay) was adopted as a supported missionary of the Church.
1996: The ‘Mission Statement’ was adopted at the AGM. It was decided that the Electoral Roll would be the members register collected at the AGM.
1997: Use of the ‘Villa YoYo’ was mentioned for the first time in connection with the Sunday school.
1998: Concerns were raised about the lack of children in the Sunday School.
1999: The Sunday school had ‘fizzled out’. There was a concern about the lack of pastoral care and support being provided by Bern. The Revd D. Wotherspoon hoped that this could be improved if he had an assistant.
2000: Revd. Linda Bisig (Bern) hoped to come 3 days per month. Actually she was able to come for 2 hrs per month to be involved in pastoral care. There was a general lack of commitment in the Church. It was agreed that the services should be overhauled and a more lively approach be adopted.
Revd. D. Wotherspoon left Bern.
The committee felt that a decision needed to be made about remaining independent or completely join Bern and it agreed to remain independent.
2001: Revd. L. Bisig (Bern) was to be involved with the church. Revd. R. Pamplin (just appointed to Bern) felt that Neuchâtel had ‘to grow or else’. He wanted growth and said he would devote some of his time to make this possible, especially through pastoral care. The church funds were in balance, and support for Bern was maintained at the current level.
2002: A request was made for Bern to provide more regular support for the Bible Studies. The church appointed a member to the Archdeaconry Synod.
Revd. S. van Leer was in Bern as an assistant and would provide one day per month pastoral care. Two services per month were maintained. Discussions were held about changing the name of the church. At the AGM it was noted that the church accounts were in balance.
2003: Discussions were held about creating a website to further encourage growth in the church. At the AGM the Revd. R. Pamplin asked the church to increase its contribution to Bern. It was agreed to examine this and increase if possible by staged payments. Discussions were held about setting up a mothers and children’s club, to be called ‘Tiddlywinks’.
2004: It was agreed to increase the contribution to Bern to 4500 CHF in 2004. Neuchâtel was regarded as an investment by Bern who still expected growth.
The church was in debt to approx 2000 CHF in its current account and an appeal was launched. At the AGM it was reported that the Sunday school and Tiddlywinks were running well. It was hoped to restart house groups. New hymn books were introduced (Worship Today). The Chaplain asked the church to increase its giving to Bern to 5000 CHF next year.
2005: There seemed to be a lack of pastoral care from Bern, espcially with the Revd. S. van Leer leaving , and it was requested that Revd. L. Bisig becomes involved in Neuchâtel. Tiddlywinks was very successful and was outgrowing its premises. The Sunday School now used the ‘Villa YoYo’. Bern was providing two services per month and two to three pastoral visits. Ongoing discussions about the Neuchâtel website, as we needed to make a larger impact on the community.
The church funds were still in balance.
A discussion was launched about the exact cost of the ministry provided by Bern. Still trying to restart a regular Bible study. It was noted that Tiddlywinks had moved to Peseux.
2006: It was decided to hold a ‘Pledge Sunday’. The Sunday school was a big burden on teachers and it was decided to move to one family service per month. There was still a lack of support for the Bible study and the role of the Revd. W. Hough (Bern). The committee felt that it should create new publicity.
At the AGM it was noted that the church was in debt approx 1000 CHF on its current account, but that it still had reserves on account. The Bible Studies had ‘fizzled out’. Revd. W. Hough promised to become more involved. Sadly Tiddlywinks was to be discontinued due to lack of support.
The committee had a major discussion about the exact cost of Bern’s support, it had been suggested by Bern that the ‘true’ costs were nearer 11000 CHF (in % terms) and that at least Neuchâtel should provide 7500 CHF / annum. It was agreed to increase the contribution to 5000 CHF.
Revd. W. Hough was to come one day per month.
2007: It was decided to seek other ways of raising funds and to make the church more cohesive. It was indicated that Bern had a major financial crisis, and was expected to be in debt of approx 6500 CHF in 2006, rising to 25000 in 2007. The possibility of a short-term loan to Bern was discussed.
At the AGM it was stated that both Revd. R. Pamplin and Revd. W. Hough would be leaving Bern in the next few months.
The church accounts were in balance with reserves of 55000 chf.
There was a possibility of a retired priest coming to live in Neuchâtel later that year. Revd. Prof. R. Farrar and his wife Mieke arrived in Neuchâtel in September 2007 and became the ‘Minister in Charge’ of Neuchâtel Church.
A review of the relationship to the Bern church was started, but any significant changes would have to await the appointment of a new Chaplain to Bern.
The services in the church had been completely revised and a new series of service sheets introduced based on the seasonal material available as part of Common Worship. New publicity brochures had been designed and made available to the Tourist Office.
Regular Bible studies had been restarted and were running twice per month on Tuesday evenings.
The treasurers of the churches in Neuchâtel and Bern were asked to consider the contributions to be made to St Ursula’s (Bern). It was agreed that this should be 1000 CHF for the year 2008, to be paid in two instalments.
Revd. R. Farrar suggested that he could arrange a series of training events for the church starting in 2008 and that there would be a service on Christmas Eve (this would be the first time since before WWII)
Discussions were started about the church having its own website.
2008: The church committee felt that the time had come to regularise the legal position of the church, with respect to the bank accound and the Registre de Commerce. It was discovered that the church was no longer registered with the city and that there was no legal requirement to do so as it was not trading.
At the AGM the Revd. Farrar reported that the church was stable in terms of size and that there was a real desire to grow.
The new website had been launched and was attracting a good response. There was ongoing discussion with Bern regarding the future relationship between the churches. Once the new Chaplain of Bern, Revd. P. Potter had been appointed in June 2008 a Memorandum of Understanding could be drawn up to cover the working relationship.
The annual accounts were in a healthy state and some 2100 CHF was given to the work of Beryl Baker.
Several training days were organised and covered subjects such as Biblical Theology, Prayer and Bereavement.
The church organised a day’s walk for families, which despite the weather lead to some 2700 CHF being raised for Cecily’s Fund.
Following discussions with St Ursula’s (Bern) it was agreed to Neuchâtel having its own quota payments rather than being rolled up with Bern. This meant that for the forthcoming year the church would provide 1100 CHF for the Common and Archdeaconry Funds. It was also agreed to provide a lump sum of 600 CHF to Bern in 2009 to cover their additional costs.
A Memorandum of Understanding was agreed with Bern in September 2008 and this was to be built into any future revisions of the Statutes. The committee undertook a review of the existing Statutes which had not been revised since 1906 and planned to bring them to the AGM in 2009.
The committee decided to approach Pastor Erinho Lehmann of La Rochette Churhc for help on this matter. The church was advised that we need to have in place a written policy re Children and Vulnerable Adults.
2009: The church committee agreed to re-establish the link with the Intercontinental Church Society; this was achieved in July 2009. The committee also started on a policy to cover the Health and Safety issues connected to the building.
At the AGM it was reported that the annual income had reached 12200 CHF, the church was not growing numerically (typically 30+ on a Sunday) and that Bible Studies were happening twice per month.
There had been two training days on Bereavement and Prayer.
The new Statutes and Constitutions were considered and finally approved at an Extraordinary General Meeting held on 31st May 2009.
In May the church held a half day away called ‘A Time to Think’ to consider the current state of the church and its future. It was decided that the church should move to a pattern of the 1st and 3rd Sundays with the 1st Sunday being held in the morning to encourage families. (This was enacted in January 2010 when the Chapel became available on Sunday mornings).
The ‘Protection of Children and Vulnerable Adults’ document was approved by the committee in Sept 2009.
Following the adoption of the new Statutes, the legal arrangements with the bank were modified to meet current Swiss law and practice.
In the annual Pledge letter, the possibiliy of moving to a ‘House for Duty’ arrangement for future ministry was to be raised, which would mean an increase in giving of some 20000+ CHF per annum.
This history is based on an original document written in French by Mrs K. Hotz, which covered the period 1863 – 1953. Mrs M. Haldimann translated this into English in November 2008. The Revd. R. Farrar added additional material from the church records, especially covering the period 1953 – 2009.