We were asked by the clergy in Leipzig yesterday about how we expeienced Kirchentag–both in Wittenberg and Leipzig. It’s a question I continue to think about.

For me, Kirchentag was defined in moments that captured what it is to be the church in the world–across cultures, countries, and languages. While there were many moments that achieved this, two were particularly illustrative for me.

The first was the moment you’d expect–the one that was probably even planned. The Zum Licht program, a visual, musical, artistic display of the church in the world, began with a reenactment of the Reformation Disputation in Leipzig. The tension built through the confessions of the damage done through the battles fought with the belief (on both sides) that God was with “us.”

It didn’t end there, though. The final moments of the program were spent with everyone joining their voices to sing, “Dona Nobis Pacem.” Give us peace.

As we sang this prayer, it became clear that the work of the church is not done yet. There are better practices for the earth and environment to implement, more people to care for, more understandings to achieve and perspectives to hear. We are not called to be complacent with things the way they are, not when we have been given a vision of what could be.

And the second moment–one of the little ones that just happens at events like this.

I had gone to find the brass concert in Augustusplatz, and I ended up sitting on a ledge by the sidewalk surrounding the square.

As the musicians warmed up, a woman walked up and asked whether the next space on the ledge was free. I replied in my poor German, “Ja, es ist frei,” and proceeded to move my stuff to clear a space.
I explained (in English) what I was doing, and was responded to with the brief phrase I have come to know very well, “Auf Deutsch.” 

I was beginning to apologize, and I could see her confusion, too, when the first notes sounded from the square. 

We just laughed and let the music fill the space. 

As it turns out, there are still a few languages we can all speak, like mathematics, music, hospitality, and kindness.

Ordinarily Amazing

I must have dozens of pictures on my phone right now.

This is our third day here, and we have seen so much–Leipzig, Wittenberg, Kirchentag, new friends, colleagues, churches, events, etc. My phone storage is quickly disappearing.

It’s the pictures I didn’t take that matter the most, though. These are the moments that don’t transfer to a photograph.

A picture of a train platform does not capture what it means to have traveled for twenty-four hours, sleeping one, and then hearing a string of instructions you know you can’t process. Just as you feel the familiar pressure of stress pushing out your chest and jaw, a very quiet, “Don’t worry. I’ll bring you,” is spoken. 

As many on this blog have pointed out, our hosts here have been more than gracious and hospitable during our time here. Without such kindness, our trip would be very different.

And it’s not only them. Unpictured moments of kindness seem to permeate our days wherever we are.

Today, it was the moment someone realized our group spoke very little of the language here and just began translating, because this person felt it would be good for us strangers to know what was going on.

It was the moment we were running for the tram, and the person at the bus stop pointed to the button to open the door–because in our hurry we might not have thought of that.

It’s the general respect shown to all people in the value of punctuality–keeping appointments–without rushing. It’s slowing down and being present in the times between. It’s making a meal a social event. It’s the ordinary moments when there is someone caring for someone else.

It’s being willing to look at and really see the whole picture, not just the parts we want to show off, as an earlier post pointed out. I don’t know for sure, but I’d like to hope that these things are not unconnected. The practice of truthfully acknowledging who we are and have been influences how we step into the world tomorrow. Knowing our history gives us the perspective to envision who we want to be now, and lean into ordinary actions of simple kindness and integrity.

After all, those seemingly small actions can really grow to change the world.

Dona nobis pacem.

Arriving in Leipzig

We were blessed to meet and spend some time with our host families, and then enjoyed an evening of worship at Nicolaikirche followed by supper at the School Building next door.

Bishop Ann Svennungsen preaching at Nicolikirche

Alte Nicolaischule