Will we cling to beautiful but old forms of being church or will we look for new life, the verdant green moss on the ruins and the mighty river of God’s ongoing work in the world?
Granted, the trip itinerary was labeled Monasteries and Vineyards. So, it doesn’t seem far-fetched that we spent a lot of time in holy places.
But it doesn’t necessarily follow that the place my thoughts would take me in those holy places is to the future of the church. When I set out on this pilgrimage, I expected more personal reflection… and we will get to that in future blogs. But it was not where this story begins.
As I wander through a new city, I have a nose for finding churches, even ones not on our itinerary. When my husband and I traveled to Perth, Western Australia a few years ago to see our daughter and son-in-law, the first afternoon we set out exploring. We were excited, curious, and trying to stay awake to minimize jetlag.
Before long we had stumbled on a beautiful Anglican church that was open because it happened to be Holy Saturday.
When we first set foot in Germany a few weeks ago, we went directly from the Frankfurt airport to the small village of St. Goar one of many idyllic and old towns along the Rhine river. Outside our window we saw mighty, bustling river bursting with life, lined with castles, most of which are ruins.
As my husband and I talked about the contrast of the river and the ruins, I thought about the church.
Will we cling to beautiful but old forms of being church, investing time and energy trying to renovate and restore them. or will we instead focus on entering the mighty river of God’s ongoing work in the world?
As in Australia, the first afternoon we set out to explore and once again found a church. This time it was Evangelical, the German word for a Lutheran church. Old and beautiful, the afternoon light was coming into the church in such a way as to highlight the baptismal font and the Pascal candle, symbols that speak to my heart of the gift of grace in salvation and the ongoing Eastering of God’s creative and regenerative work in our lives, the heartbeat of the good news.
I wondered: what is God doing in this place? Is there a vibrant community that inhabits this old structure? Is it more like the mighty river or the crumbling castle? Are there young people who come? What place will beautiful spaces like this have in the future of the church? Is it burden or resource?
In Germany, all the church buildings are owned by the government. People must pay a 9% tax on their income if they admit to being a part of one.
The beauty of the frescos on the wall and my love of Jesus and the people of Germany cause me to hope that it is not just the German government who cares about this holy space.