Adopted Scouser promoting ecumenical cause

By Simon Hart

"Hello love." It is not a greeting that Elisabeth Hachmöller found in any English textbook as a schoolgirl in her native Germany but it is certainly one that helps this adopted Scouser feel at home in Liverpool.

"I love Liverpool," she says. "I think the people are just fantastic. I love the sense of humour and the way you get called 'love'. It is so warm. There is a warmth here that is exceptional."

Elisabeth has been in Liverpool for 10 years now, living with the Focolare community in Wavertree and working as an administrator for Churches Together in the Merseyside Region (CTMR). And in the city she is happy to call home, she has just embarked on a new assignment to further the cause of ecumenism.

Since 30 November she has been working as the ecumenical coordinator for CTMR, charged with bringing different church groups together, organising meetings and ensuring the success of two forthcoming projects. "For this year the two main projects are the 'Christmas starts with Christ' campaign and the Pentecost event at the two cathedrals," she says.

"I feel it is really important the churches work together," she continues. "I think our Christian credibility depends on the way we work together and the way we show we are united."

CTMR celebrated its 30th anniversary this year and Elisabeth's wish is to help build on the strong connections already in place between different churches on Merseyside. "Church leaders have forged so many friendships. In Liverpool, for instance, I have got to know a group where people from various denominations work together for justice and peace, and how they relate to one another and respect one another is edifying. I wish each Catholic would have an experience and appreciation of the gifts there are in the other churches on Merseyside."

Her own first experience of the ecumenical movement came in the early 1970s when as a 17-year-old living in the small village of Sevelten close to Bremen in northern Germany, her parish priest "invited me to a dawn service with the Lutherans". Soon after she embarked on a theology degree at the University of Munster, after which her travels began.

"I spent a year in Italy and a year in Switzerland and then I came to Great Britain. I lived in Scotland for seven years and worked for Motherwell diocese in the pastoral office for the various diocesan agencies. Later I did retreat work for primary schools at the pastoral centre. Then I moved to Welwyn Garden City where I worked at the Focolare Centre for Unity. The centre is used by different groups for educational purposes."

In February 2005, she arrived in Liverpool where, aside from her CTMR and Focolare commitments, she also fulfils a consultancy role at Liverpool Hope University. This involves helping students volunteering for Global Hope, the university's international education charity.

Factor in the challenge of her new job, and Elisabeth could not be happier with her lot – well, apart from missing the taste of German coffee. "I really love living here, living in a different culture is so enriching," she adds. "I realise there are many ways of reaching a goal – there is not only one way." It is a lesson that will hopefully serve her well in her new role.