May 14, 2013
I had the privilege of meeting Hussain at Kirchentag. Hussain is from Afghanistan and has only been in Germany for 7 months. He spoke no German upon arrival, but with just the help of a grammar and a tiny pocket dictionary, has learned to speak German quite well. When Hussain arrived in Germany, he was befriended by a local pastor and converted to Christianity. As a result, he can never return home, since he would immediately be killed. We had some great discussions together about Islam and what prompted him to become a Christian. We also spent some time exploring Hamburg together. In the picture above, we are in the tower of St. Nikolai. This was Hussain’s first time to ever go up a church tower. He also told me that I am the first American he has ever known.
From the tower, we had a great view of Hamburg.
Hamburg was heavily damaged during the bombings in WWII:
May 9, 2013
Last Thursday for Kirchentag, we heard a stunning rendition of Benjamin Britain’s War Requiem in St. Petri cathedral, Hamburg. The music was orchestrated by a boy’s choir, soprano, baritone, and bass soloists, organ, two orchestras, and a choir. Due to long lines and crowds of people, we had to sneak our food into the cathedral and then try eating it inconspicuously. Not an easy task when you’re eating Hamburgers and fries!
Saturday morning at Kirchentag I went with a friend to hear Bundesverteidigungsminister de Maizière’s sermon about John 6:1-15. I had no idea what I was getting myself into. As I entered St. Michaelis Cathedral, there was some man screaming in protest, while guards were wrestling him out of the building. I simply assumed that such things are prone to happen when a high profile speaker is present. The defense minister began reading the text:
Immediately when he had finished reading and began his sermon, that is when it happened. About two rows in front of me, a girl carrying a guitar made her way out of the pew and began walking towards the speaker. She began playing the guitar and singing, interrupting his message. The guards had to step in front of her to keep her from reaching the Defense Minister. Then, her companions, still seated on the pew in front of me, began to sing and chant and raise a raucous. By this point, the sermon was completely interrupted. Then, other protesters in the balconies began waving banners and dropping pamphlets into the audience. This mayhem continued for about 15 minutes. Others in the church began shouting at the protesters and saying, “We came here to hear the morning Bible study. Shut up!” Finally, most of the protesters got up and left. Some remained, and made passive resistance during the service, sometimes singing softly or waving their peace banners.
The Defense Minister was able to deliver his sermon, quite a good one in fact. And we were able to sing the concluding hymn:
The protesters, in case you are wondering, were upset that the Minister of Defense would be delivering the message. Apparently de Maizière is met by similar protests in most places he speaks. There is a forceful group of pacifists in Germany that is upset with Germany’s military and the way it is handled. For example, they are unhappy that there are still German troops in Afghanistan.
In light of this situation, and other experiences from Kirchentag, I’ve thought a good bit about ways that Germany is different than the U.S. Here are some of my thoughts:
- Germans have mastered the art of protesting. They don’t just protest, they organize and make themselves heard. Their protests often bring about real change. Whether it be a protest in a church about the Defense Minister, a protest in Stuttgart about the railway, or even a protest in Student housing about a small change in the rules, they are not afraid to raise their voices and engage in debate. This is completely different from anything I’ve seen in the U.S.
- Germans are an intellectual bunch. Maybe this is part of the grounds for point #1 above. Germans, as far as I’ve observed, have a ceaseless interest in lectures and seminars and, basically, learning. Whether the topic is Quantum Physics or How to Properly Train Your Back, they find it fascinating. As an example, Kirchentag had a series of lectures everyday, and many of these were 3 hours long. Many people sat through 3 hour lectures in the morning, and then another 3 hour lecture in the afternoon–and all the time using simple cardboard boxes as chairs.This is a picture from one lecture at Kirchentag. I found the scene funny, because the theme of the lecture was, “Is technology replacing the book?” and you can see how the man in front of me was, well, a techy.
May 6, 2013
My goal this week is to post a series of updates about my time in Hamburg at Kirchentag. These updates will be varied: some will be about the people and the city, some will be cultural observations, and some will be theological in nature.
First, to wet your appetite, I’ll post a video I took on the U-Bahn in Hamburg. This video is a glimpse into what Kirchentag is like: it is full of people and music.
Hamburg is also famous for its Harbor (and apparently also for Noah’s ark and U-boats):
In Hamburg, a city travel pass includes not only buses and U-bahns, but also the ferry boat. So, this ride along the Hafen on the ferry was part of the deal.
Pictured above is the Hamburg Rathaus
Lake Alstar in Hamburg
I hung out a good bit with Seth and Amanda. As you can see, Seth is quite excited about his burger!
We had beautiful weather all week (20 degrees), perfect for exploring
This sail boat was kind enough to pose as my subject for the picture. Afterwards, something quite comical happened. Notice how the poor chums in the boat are trying to control the boat with just two paddles, and how choppy the water is (due to a very strong wind); notice that they are using neither their sail nor their rudder. Well, within a matter of minutes, the wind carried them along to a bridge (just off the right-side of this picture), under which they got the boat stuck and had to be rescued.
In retrospect, I’m really glad I went on this trip. Leading up to the trip I was regretting my decision to go, knowing that I needed to stay in Munich and get work done. Once I was in Hamburg, however, I had a blast. The city is very pretty, the people were nice, and the numerous panel-discussions were informative. Many more highlights to come!
April 30, 2013
Lord willing, we will be travelling tomorrow morning by bus with a group of students to Hamburg, where Kirchentag is being hosted this year. I have no idea what to expect. Apparently, hundreds of thousands of people from churches throughout Germany will converge for the week in Hamburg to hear music, lectures, and discussions about religion in Germany. So, until Monday, farewell and blessings,
April 18, 2013
I have some catching up to do, so in this post I’m going to highlight some of our recent adventures.
First, I’ll begin with our day trip to Nürnberg.
Each pole along the Way has a different language
In this game, you have to figure out whose name is on your forehead
Julius guessed how many buttons were in the jar, and therefore was the grandprize winner of these chocolates
Nothing beats searching for easter eggs in the snow. This was the coldest, snowiest winter I’ve ever experienced. The snow began at the end of October, and continued through the end March. The winter here set several records: the darkest, cloudiest winter in 50 years, and the coldest March in 100 years.
My wife knows how to decorate!
There are more travels ahead, Lord willing. In a couple of weeks I will be going to a conference in Hamburg. In June when my folks visit we will see Venice, and in July I present two papers at St. Andrews. Living in Europe definitely has its perks
April 17, 2013
Here’s the update I promised with highlights from our semester trip last week.
Melody took her turn at the wheel
Some of our friends, relaxing the good old German way. In this picture, there are students from Germany, Greece, Ecuador, and Romania (and of course an American taking the picture)Hannah Joy and Amanda, exploring a small Gasse in Lindau
Melody has a knack for finding balloons any time we are out and about. In fact, she thinks that is the sole reason we got out and about A famous church council was held in Constance in the years 1414-18
February 13, 2013
Recently, as I was reading Kleine Deutsche Geschichte, by Hagen Schulze, I was particularly struck by this piece of artwork in the book, pictured above. The painting by Adolf Reich entitled “Das größere Opfer” depicts Munich’s Siegestor. This artwork was notable to me because I see the architecture each time I’m at the University, since the Tor stands right outside the school. I’ve often read the inscription on the Tor: SIEG GEWEIHT VOM KRIEG ZERSTÖRT ZUM FRIEDEN MAHNEND (“dedicated to victory, destroyed by war, urging towards peace”). To me, this is just one of many examples of the complex history surrounding Munich. As I walk through the echoing halls of the University, I can’t help but think back to the student resistance movement led by the Scholl siblings, depicted in the movie “Weiße Rose” and filmed “on set”–right at LMU, where the actual events took place.
Having finished my book on German History, I hope now to read one on Bavaria, as well as to read some works by D. Bonhoeffer and Barth, both of whom I greatly respect (I was recently reprimanded in a conversation with a cleaning lady for not knowing enough German history, specifically for not knowing the reason why many Germans emigrated to Romania. I am trying to fix my deficiency!).
January 18, 2013
December 12, 2012
We continue to get lots of snow here in Munich. I snapped this picture yesterday from my window in the library. I’m going to take a minute and share a lesson I learned recently about German culture.
My wife and I kept marveling at how obsessive the Germans are about leaving the windows open. For example, on our first snow day in October, when there were 8 inches of snow on the ground, someone had opened all the windows in the hallways and bathrooms on our hall. Over the next month, this kept happening; almost any time we enter the bathroom or shower, the windows are wide open, letting in the frigid winter air, and allowing the warmth from the heaters to escape. I kept thinking how contrary this was to the German nature, since it did not seem like they would want to waste the heat.
While we were trying to figure out this odd window phenomenon, we noticed that water droplets were forming on the ceiling of our apartment in several of the corners of the rooms. This started happening regularly, so we became convinced that the roof must have a leak. I went and reported the problem to those in charge. They came and inspected the roof, and I assumed made some repairs, and then went on their way. But soon the water droplets were forming again. When I went and reported the problem again, it was graciously explained to me that this was simply condensation. Fighting back smiles, a German friend explained that one must air out the house every day by leaving windows open. One can either completely open all of the windows for a few minutes each day, or one can leave windows cracked in the house. She explained that since Germans do not use heat and air units, condensation will form if the windows are not open.
The light bulb went off in my mind: that’s why we have droplets on the ceiling, that’s why they so obsessively keep windows open. So, we have aired out the apartment each day, and what do you know, we don’t have anymore water droplets on the ceiling.
This practice runs against everything in my nature as an American. Back home–paying for ridiculously expensive propane–we would never dream of opening windows in the winter. In fact, each winter, we winterized every window by putting plastic, air tight layers over them.
I have had several discussions with my German friends about this interesting cultural difference. Their typical response is, “You mean you never opened the windows in the winter? How did you get air?” Unthinkable in their minds!
Well, I guess it’s time to air out my room here in the library: