Saturday, July 23, 2011

Risen Christ over Altenau

On a rocky outcrop, above a small park, stands  the village church of St. Nikolai. Built of timber  in 670, it is a smaller version of the famous  Marktkirche in nearby Clausthal.
A weathervane, atop the bell tower, represents Christ Risen from the tomb. Inside the lavish,  but by comparison with rococo Catholic baroque churches, restrained Lutheran Baroque has Christ arisen, above the pulpit.

With this altar piece I had finally discovered a church interior that perfectly complements the baroque music of Handel's Messiah

It was good to find the church doors open and a warm welcome from the Christian community that meets there .
Like many of our Norfolk Churches they welcome visitors and seek to share their faith with those who respond to their invitation to stop and rest a while.

Back in 740 AD when St. Boniface, Walburga and others were doing their thing spreading the Gospel to the, then, heathen Germans,  King  Alfwald wrote to them assuring them of the prayers of the royal monasteries of  East Anglia.

It looks like their mission has born plenty of fruit. So much so that they can teach us a thing or two!

As I contemplated the altar piece of St. Nickolai's church I wondered where I placed preaching in the life of the church? Above the sacraments, as the pulpit was above the altar here?
And what about the Risen and Glorified Christ? So often we English put the cross above everything . But surely above the Cross and defeat is Resurrection and victory!  In the quietness of that holy place and in the stillness of my mind, my heart danced and sang to Handel's  Alleluia Chorus!

Witches over the Brocken

 O.K. the Brocken is no great peaked mountain. Its just the highest point of the Hartz. 

But anyone will tell you that is where the witches gather on the eve of May Day - Walpurgis Night.
In Goethe's Faustus the Brocken is where the witches gather:
Now to the Brocken the witches ride;
The stubble is gold and the corn is green;
There is the carnival crew to be seen,
And Squire Urianus will come to preside.
So over the valleys our company floats,
With witches a-farting on stinking old goats.
In the tourist towns shops are full of souvenir witches.
The pre-Christian religion seems to linger here.

In the Middle Ages they replaced the feast day of St Walburga on May Day and focussed on the light of the Christian faith driving out the darkness of evil. Walburga was a Devon girl, part of St. Boniface's mission to Frisia and Germany, she died in Heidenheim in Franconia.

Thursday, July 14, 2011

A Pfennig Dropping Moment


As I left the Marktkirche in Clausthal I had not expected to see the royal arms and cipher of George III. How daft is that?! George was Elector of Hanover and here we were in the what had been part of George's realm! So you'd expect to see it , surely?

No! One war had drawn a veil over the Anglo-German past. The House of Windsor was not longer of Saxe-Coburg and Gotha, Moutbatten was not longer Battenberg and my own family name changed from Bergman to Woodham. The next war  completed the job and drew a blackout curtain over it!

Time had come to own my Anglo-German origins. So next day,  when I stood before the war memorial in Altenau and thought about it all, I found that for the first time I really was honouring our dead (unserer toten)
  No only our dead,  but our saints and heroes as well!  I'm thinking about those who saw what the Nazi world view was doing to the country and acted.

Deitrich Bonhoffer understood that the tragedy that had overtaken Germany and its neighbours had come about because Germany had forgotten its Christian faith.  

And now the whole of our western (so-called) civilisation seems to have forgotten its faith!

There are lessons to be learned from history, not just for the German nation, but for all of us!


Sunday, July 10, 2011

Wandering in the Harz

June took us to the Harz Mountains. We were camping and had family join us for the weekend. It was great!
I'd describe the landscape as Dartmoor with lots of trees and lakes !

At times the scenery had me wandering about in a hymn that I have never much enjoyed - O Lord my God when I in awsome wonder consider all thy hand hath made!  It was the verse that goes  "When through the woods and forest glades I wander, and hear the birds sing sweetly in the trees".

When through woods and forest glades....
Yes, well we were doing that and swimming in the cold blue lakes (remember your baptism!).  The tall trees are such - think soaring columns in a cathedral -  that they  lift your eyes and heart to heaven!

Its a bit off the beaten track for most Brits . The footpaths are wonderfully kept and well way marked. The natives are friendly!  We stayed at Camping Prahljust just outside Clausthal-Zellerfeld. I'd recommend it to anyone.