Thursday, 2 October 2008

Rhur view Dougal!.

It seems aeon's since I blogged last. The computer in the hotel in Dortmund sadly only spoke German - which I don't (Well, "Vo ist die toiletten, bitte?" is about as far as I go - but it's awfully useful!)

Superb hospitality and real openness were my abiding impression of the Evangelical Church in Westphalia. (BTW, Evangelical means Protestant (e.g. Lutheran /Reformed), not Fundy type Evangelical). It faces much of the same problems we do: declining numbers financial constraints, aging active membership. Ecumenically, it seems all rather good at the Institutional level (joint representations to the Govt.), but less of a reality on the ground. Massive Social Service programmes funded by a 9% Church Tax. Big emphasis on justice issues (ecology, developing world etc). Churches well maintained due to the tax. I felt quite at home with the worship and theology: Lutheranism is not so very far from Anglicanism. Sunday morning was a bit like Mattins rather than CofS morning service. Candles and colours are in use. I even managed to preach a sermon (in English) which was translated and will appear on the Shuren parish web-site.

What hit me at personal level though was looking at the cities of Dortmund and Munster where we went on the Saturday as tourists. Lovely medieval Churches - only they weren't. All rebuilt in the 40's and 50's because the RAF and USAF had utterly flattened 90% of the cities in the Rhur. We go on about the Blitz, Coventry and Clydebank, which were horrible events. But it was as nothing compared to the retaliation we gave in 1943/44. Seeing WW2 from the other side of the water was a revelation. Also in the Catholic Cathedral in Munster there was a display about the Catholic martyrs and heroes and heroines of the faith who resisted Hitler: Edith Stein (Carmelite convert from Judaism killed in Auschwitz), Karl Lessing (ordained in Dachau concentration camp) and Cardinal Graf von Galen who preached against Hitler's racial policies and is now beatified. Up there with Bonhoeffer and Niemoller for courage and faithful witness. We don't here about them at school. There was also a very powerful set of Stations of the Cross. The 5th where Simon of Cyrene helps Jesus with the Cross had, not a black man, but a prisoner in concentration camp uniform helping Christ. That struck me deeply.

All in all, a fascinating and very worthwhile trip. Now to persuade the peeps to go with the link.

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