Monday, November 19, 2007

Germany Churches

While in Germany we visited many churches. Some were Lutheran, some weren't. Some were very ornate, some were not. The one thing all of them made me do when I walked inside was look up. The grandeur of the building, the soaring sides to the very high ceiling added to the sense of majesty and holiness of the space.

But the one church that, by far, was the most beautiful and precious to David and I was Christekirche in Erfurt. Not because of the way it looked, because it was the plainest, less ornate church of all we saw, but because of what we received, which was more beautiful than anything we saw.

Christekirche is a member of the SELK, in fellowship with the the LCMS.Through a cousin, Jonathan who spent a year as a vicar in Berlin and who gave Paul a church and pastor's name to contact, Paul was able to email Pr. Schneider and ask if it would be okay for 50 Americans to come and worship with them on Sunday morning. Pr. Schneider was delighted to welcome us.

While in Eisenach the day before, we met another NAWAS group. Pr. Gier, who knew Mark at the seminary, was leading 16 from his church on a Lutherland tour. When he found out where we would be worshipping on Sunday morning, he was able to work it out with his tour guide to join us. Therefore 76 Americans descended upon Christekirche on Sunday morning, Nov. 4, 2007.

We arrived early and had the opportunity to look around at the church and for Paul, Mark, David and Pr. Gier to visit with Pr. Schneider. The church was in need of repairs having been under the communist regime for many years. There were flyers in the narthex informing members of upcoming fundraisers to help with the repairs.

The outside and inside of the church were very plain compared to other churches we had visited and would visit in the coming days. No beautiful paintings or stain glass windows. No ornate crucifixes or pulpits. It was all very "plain" to the eye.

It was also chilly. Stone walls do that. Once all the Americans were settled in the pews and were given some hints as to what to expect, some of the German parishioners began to arrive.

Every one of them came to the vestry to announce to Pr. Schneider their intention of communing that morning. All smiled genuinely at us, welcoming us with their faces. At the beginning of the service, Pr. Schneider welcomed the congregation in German and then also in English.

We had their hymnal, similar in size to the new personal editions of LSB. David was able to follow along and point where we were so that he and I were able to try and pronounce the German liturgy and hymns.

All came forward to receive absolution with Pastor laying his hand on each parishioner announcing God's grace, mercy and forgiveness. He said it in German for his parishioners and in English for us Americans. Notice there aren't any railings, although there is a cushion to kneel upon. That was a bit tricky for some of our older members to get up and down without the aid of a rail.The German parishioners sang and sang well. They didn't need prompting for when to stand, kneel, or respond with an "Amen". There weren't ushers. When it was time for the absolution, everyone came forward to fill a table. It was the same for receiving the sacrament. Once a table was dismissed others came forward to fill the next.

Pr. Schneider preached in German. But he had translated his sermon into English. One of his parishioners stood to the side and after he preached in German for about a paragraph, he would look at her and she would read in English what he had just said. A couple of times he stopped and looked at her, she shook her head "no," he continued. then when she spoke, it was only a few words. Her look on her face made us think she was thinking that we would never believe that all those words he had just spoke in German were only a few in English.

I also loved how many of the chant lines were the same, especially the proper preface. When Pastor Schneider began chanting, I could sing along and know what he was saying. "It is truly, good right and sal-u-u-tar-r -y,....."

After the service Pr. Schneider welcomed us and asked us to stay for refreshments and to visit with the members. Unfortunately we had to go. But we were so thankful to have been blessed to worship with the saints in Erfurt. Hopefully we will again one day on earth, but if not, we look forward to the day we will worship with them and the whole company of heaven for all eternity.

Why was this the most beautiful church in Germany? Because here God came to me in His word preached and in His Body and Blood given and shed for the forgiveness of my sins. There isn't anything more beautiful or precious than that.

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