View from the train
I am writing this travelling on a train back from the Kirchentag church convention in Germany. The Kirchentag meets every other year in a different city in Germany and has done so since 1949. It is an amazing Christian event, drawing in 100,000 people from all over Germany, Europe and around the world. Every day there are Bible studies, lectures and discussions, surrounded by a whole host of organised and impromptu concerts and street theatre. There is a carnival atmosphere with much laughter and fun as people both young and old meet up, finding old friends and making new.
There is a serious side. The Kirchentag started as a lay movement, coming to terms with what happened during the Second World War. Since then it has always engaged with the issues affecting society and is all about how to live as Christians. The top politicians attend and you might even find a member of the government leading a Bible study.
I was involved in two particular acts of worship. The first was the Meissen Eucharist, celebrating the partnership between the Church of England and the German Protestant Church, which is expressed in the links we have with Magdeburg. The second was a service around the theme of Brexit, which concerns our German brothers and sisters as much as it does us. I preached a sermon in dialogue with a French pastor, in which we affirmed the bonds of affection between us, our unity in Christ trumping political differences.
So my train journey continues. We’ve just crossed the border from Germany into Belgium. There is no sign, but you see the difference in the look of the buildings and the different road signs. It occurs to me that the Belgians are not any the less Belgian because of the European Union, nor the Germans less German. They do not lose their national identity. And as I reflect on the experience of the Kirchentag, it is clear to me that our identity as Christians comes before everything else as well.
The Kirchentag reminded me once again that this identity is expressed above all in how we live out the love of God in the world, wherever we happen to be. We take the world seriously because God does – indeed He made it! In these troubled times perhaps we need to be even more aware of that, courageous enough to speak truth to power, and hopeful enough to build up the bonds of affection between people and nations.
And now we’ve reached Brussels. It still amazes me that I’ll get on another train here that will take me right through to London. Thankfully it is not only bonds of affection that will keep us connected; we always will be part of Europe.
Archdeacon of Worcester