Sarah Lane Cawte, a member of British Kirchentag Committee, reflects on the 38th gathering in June 2023.
10 July 2023
Just over a month ago, I was setting off for Nürnberg (Nuremberg), in Bavaria to join over 100,000 other people from Germany and beyond in five days of exploring what it might mean when we read “Now is the time!” in the Gospel of Mark (or, in some translations “the time is fulfilled” – Mark 1.15).
I continue to reflect on the – at times, overwhelming – experiences of those days.
With over 2000 events and many more informal “happenings”, it was incredibly hard to decide where to be at any one time. The first evening presented the most straightforward set of choices, with two opening services – one in simple German – in large public squares in the city centre, and each of those was attended by thousands of people.
However, before the Kirchentag officially began there was, as every time, an opening act of remembrance, recognising the origins of the Kirchentag as a place of reconciliation for divided churches in a country that was only just beginning to come to terms with its past.
The Abend der Begegnung (Evening of Encounters) was a chance for the churches in the region to welcome guests from near and far, with food, culinary delights and entertainment. The Bavarian bagpipe band, complete with kilts and sporrans, drew a lot of interest!
As I look through the programme again now, I’m conscious of how much I didn’t see or experience, but I’ll mention some of my highlights.
Firstly, the brilliant Bible study led by Rev Dr Susan Durber, a URC minister, and current European President of the World Council of Churches. Exploring Luke 17.20-25, Susan helped a church full of people to think in new ways about the Kingdom of God.
By way of contrast, I joined a tour, with the theme of “Difficult Memorials”, visiting the former Nazi party rally grounds and congress hall. The Mayor of Nürnberg greeted us and talked about the problems of dealing with memorials that have such negative histories and the dilemmas about preserving them or demolishing them. Linking with the Kirchentag theme, the question remains about when is the right time to decide.
Finally, I’d like to mention the superb concert by the Kyiv Symphony Orchestra in the wonderful surroundings of the Meistersingerhalle (I do love long German words!). Musically it was wonderful, and the prolonged standing ovation was an expression of solidarity with this displaced orchestra, acting as ambassadors for a war-torn country.
As the Kirchentag closed on Sunday morning, the many experiences and emotions of five days in Nürnberg were brought together within the theme of a sermon entitled “There is a time for everything”.
The next Kirchentag will take place in Hannover, from 30 April to 4 May 2025. Now is the time to start thinking about whether you might like to be there!
Sarah Lane Cawte is the Free Churches Group Education Officer, and member of British Kirchentag Committee.