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The English Reformed Church is one of the oldest buildings in Amsterdam, situated in the centre of the city. It is home to an English-speaking congregation which is affiliated to the Church of Scotland and to the Protestant Church in the Netherlands (formerly Dutch Reformed Church). It comes under the Church of Scotland's Presbytery of Europe, and is also known as the Scots Kirk in Amsterdam. The current minister is Rev. Lance Stone.
The address of the church, Begijnhof 48, indicates its origins. The Begijnhof, an enclosed courtyard, was a 14th-century residence for the sisterhood of the Catholic Beguines, and the church was originally established as their chapel. It was confiscated from the Catholic lay sisterhood during the Reformation. For this reason, the church is invisible from the street and can only be discovered by entering the courtyard through an inconspicuous archway.
As with other city churches, the keys of the chapel were surrendered to the Municipality when Amsterdam sided officially with the Prince of Orange and formally adopted Calvinist doctrines in 1578. The church, controlled by the Beguines, was taken by the city council and closed. In 1607, the church was re-opened for worship when the Municipality presented it to the English-speaking Protestants living in the city. Since then, services in English have continued practically without interruption to the present day.
The Catholic Beguines, deprived of their former oratory and daily Mass, who continued to live in several houses of the Begijnhof, refused to re-enter the chapel as they considered it "desecrated by heresy".
The dissenting English Protestants in Amsterdam in the early days of the English Church included a number, who, within a few years of their arrival in the city, left to form a separate congregation in Leiden and to sail via Delfshaven and Plymouth (in England) on the Mayflower to the New World in 1620. These Pilgrim Fathers are remembered in stained glass and memorials both within and outside the church.
In 1817 - in the immediate aftermath of Napoleon's defeat and the restoration of rule by the House of Orange - ownership of the building was formally passed to the congregation, by then known as the English Reformed Church ("ERC"), which holds a regular Sunday morning service as well as other services and activities in the church. The ERC currently has 320 members from 30 nationalities. The church can seat 385 and attracts congregations of over 250 on a regular basis.
Since the late 1970s, the church has provided Amsterdam with an important platform for the performance of chamber music of all periods and styles with over 70 concerts a year. In particular, it has given many young artists the opportunity to launch their careers. The Academy of the Begijnhof, founded by a former church organist, is now one of Amsterdam's premier baroque orchestras.
To mark the occasion of the 400th anniversary of the English Reformed Church Queen Elizabeth and Prince Philip visited the church on February 5 2007. She attended a normal church service, accompanied by Queen Beatrix of the Netherlands.