Just back from the Kirchentag, so a chance to record some reflections. Several posts required, I think, and sunhats off (it was very hot all week) to Phil who did manage to blog while we were there!
There's little to compare the Kirchentag to in terms of the UK. In terms of size, it's huge. Think Greenbelt in multiples. At least 100,000 people were there, and we took over Hanover for a fantastic time. In terms of influence, even though Germany is in the midst of a political crisis, the Chancellor (=Prime Minister) and the leader of the opposition were there. And they weren't just there to politic, they led Bible studies! Where would that leave Alasdair Campbell's 'We don't do God'?
Bishop Margot in action
As far as organised activities go, I heard Eberhard Jungel (a pupil of Karl Barth's, and an enormously important theologian in his own right) speak and debate the nature of the church with Cardinal Lehmann; heard Wim Wenders speak on why he left his church in America (they didn't even question the Iraq war); a pastor from Leipzig who was involved in the protests leading to the end of the DDR (communist East Germany). I went to two labyrinths, and followed a pilgrimage of tents within a conference hall, as well as some marvellous German singing (and a less than marvellous Anglican/Lutheran service to celebrate 60 years of reconcilliation). I heard a woman bishop speak and I hope I helped to convinced a German we met that you are allowed to have a laugh in church. (This latter was when we smuggled her and her sister into the Robbie Williams service - the highlight of the week, and something deserving a post of its own!)
Wim Wenders - note the shoes!
Another feature of the Kirchentag was the Markt den Moglichkeiten (Market of Opportunities) - two giant halls filled with stands from all sorts of organisations with some (or less) connection to Christianity. There was a stand from the German equivalent of Make Poverty History, where I signed a postcard and swapped an Englich white band for a German one; some Hells Angels turned evangelists with the warning "Turn or Burn"; you could make your own rosary (remember this was the Evangelische Kirchentag, ie the Protestant one); I won a candle from World Vision for answering a quiz correctly and obtained free chocolate from a mission organisation; a union had decided upon the 11th and 12th commandments; there was a stand where you could simply sit and have your feet washed, which was very lovely; and St Georges Anglican church in Berlin had come up with a disturbing description of Anglicanism ("Anglicans are thoughtful; but not too thoughtful; be as weird as you want; be as normal as you want"). I also managed to buy some presents for my confirmation class.
But actually I learnt most from just being there. There were new people to meet, some in the Bristol party, but mostly others. There were the translators who came to events with me, and walked around the stalls explaining things to me. One is planning to become a Lutheran minister, and was keen to talk about that. Rob and I stayed with a quite fantastic woman who came to lots and lots of events with us. I think we got through her church visits for about the next three years. Her son taught me some football vocabulary and provided one of the weirdest moments of the trip - watching a German play a WW2 video game where the object was to kill the Germans (who incidentally all spoke English with a German accent!). I have loads of photos, which Phil has promised to help me post here.
So, anyway, I'm back now and had a bank holiday to get over sleep deprivation. One of my parishioners has died while I've been away and two others have a new baby girl. Bittersweet.
Photos added. Thanks to Phil for showing me how!