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Queen Elizabeth marks Quadra centennial of Amsterdam church

Services for four hundred years

Tags: Excerpts from the Windmill

AMSTERDAM - Queen Elizabeth II marked the 400th anniversary of Amsterdam's English Reformed Church, the oldest English speaking congregation outside Britain, in a low key visit to the Netherlands recently. The British monarch attended a one-hour church service together with Queen Beatrix.

The English Reformed Church meets in a 16th century chapel in central Amsterdam made available to the English Protestant community by the city in 1607.

The church held its first English-language service on February 5, 1607 and services continued regularly with only a short interruption during the Nazi occupation of the Netherlands during World War II. The commemorative service included hymn singing, reading from the Bible and a sermon by Reverend Alan McDonald, the moderator of the general assembly of the Church of Scotland.

Churchgoers said the service was very basic with the only difference from Sundays being that the congregation concluded with "God Save the Queen."

Over 38 nationalities from different Christian denominations attend the English speaking church's services and on Sunday its 450 seats are nearly full. Every five years, half of the congregation revolves although it also has strong ties with the local community.

The congregation has been part of the Netherlands Reformed Church from the beginning but established strong ties with Scotland in the 18th century. Since then every serving minister has come from Scotland. Together with another English-speaking congregation in Rotterdam, it belongs to the Church of Scotland's Presbytery of Europe.

Even though the English Church - known locally as the Engelse Kerk - has been led for the last 17 years by Scottish pastor John Cowie, it presents itself as "ecumenical and international".

Dutch-speaking Lowlanders in London have a similar arrangement, dating back still earlier to 1550 when there was no Protestant Church yet in the Netherlands. The congregation at the Austin Friars chapel is considered to be the oldest Dutch speaking one in the world.