Lindisfarne Ordinands have recently returned from their Summer School with the Lutheran Church in Northern Germany.
The group was based at the Lutheran Seminary at Ratzeburg about an hour’s drive east of Hamburg and close to the former East/West border. Ratzeburg is a small island city – now connected to the mainland by 3 causeways. It was here that the group attended Sunday worship at the magnificent 12 Century Cathedral. Ordinand Derek Brown writes: ‘I was prepared for a difficult hour at the prospect of a service entirely in German – even more so when I knew that it wasn’t to be Eucharistic, where the liturgy helps you to know what’s happening, whatever the language. In reality I found I was able to engage and I had a real sense of being part of the worship, except perhaps for the sermon!’
After spending a day at the seminary in Ratzeburg, the group headed off to Hamburg, where they met Fred who has lived on the streets of Hamburg for 17 years. He agreed to give the group an ‘alternative’ tour of the city, taking a morning off from selling Hinz & Kunzt (the Hamburg equivalent of the Big Issue) to guide them around ‘Hamburg from below’. Fred told the group that it is common practice in the city for businesses to support the homeless with drop-in services; the police do not ‘move them on’, he said, if they choose to spend the night in doorways, as businesses regard homeless people as unofficial ‘silent night watchmen’. At the end of his tour he said to the group: ‘It seems to me that the only difference between you and me is that I have a much larger living room.’ Teresa Laybourne, ordinand and head teacher says: ‘Fred is continuing to touch the hearts of others, even in our school, where I’ve shared some of his wise comments with staff and pupils.’
Over the next couple of days the ordinands went on to visit a range of other projects in the city. In Germany, people who earn over 17,000 Euros, and who attend church (or support its work) pay a Church tax which amounts to 8% of their total income tax. The tax is applicable to people from a range of religious communities, and the money goes to the faith group to which they are aligned. This provides funding for a wide range of activities and social services, including kindergartens, hospitals, young people’s projects and community programmes.
After the short stay in Hamburg, the group returned to Ratzeburg, where the Anglican ordinands spent time with a group of Lutheran trainee pastors. Already having a Masters Degree in theology, those training for ministry in the Lutheran Church in Northern Germany are parish-based during their ministerial training, returning to the seminary for block teaching sessions. The two groups shared in Bible study and in discussion on a range of issues, as well as in worship. Students reported that saying the Lord’s Prayer in unison – hearing Vater unser alongside Our Father – was a truly uplifting experience. On their last day together the group prepared a Eucharist using both German and English, at which Paul Philipps, Director of the Seminary, presided.
Of course there were social times together too, plenty of excellent food, a lot of fun and laughter – and even, for some, a swim or two in the lake. Ordinand Lesley Jones commented, “I will remember with fondness the warm hospitality of our Lutheran colleagues, the liveliness of the trainees we worked with, the energy of the Director, Herr Philipps, and the way in which we were received and guided. We didn’t have to worry about where to go, where to eat, which bus went where. We could simply take things in, breathe in the culture, see the Lutheran Church in mission, ask the awkward questions and have space to reflect.”
June Barras, to be ordained this Petertide, summed up the trip: ‘A very friendly welcome, beautiful place, fascinating history; a moving experience of worship in two languages, yet a strong sense of being at one with each other as we joined hearts, hands and voices, united in the presence of God. I returned home touched, challenged, inspired and encouraged.’