Yes my friends. That is a laser light show cast in a fog-machine filled 19th century Protestant (Lutheran) Church is Wroclaw, Poland. It was, in a word, amazing. 60 minutes of Protestant music ranging from Bach to Hopson with the story of the Reformation in Poland told in laser light. We were left speechless as Jesus and his faith and church stretched across Poland.
Then again, much of what I have seen has left me speechless. We heard a world class choir singing some of the mot beautiful music I have ever heard in the Cathedral of Mary Magdalene (which is now managed by the Polish Catholic Church - not Roman Catholic). We have been to EWST, our mission and seminary partner. Though, I should share we did not attend the lecture as it was all in Polish. Instead, we toured their campus while they are hosting a symposium - "Is there going to be another Martin Luther?" There will be more to come about Luther. More artistic and theological syposiums. All because this city, once near the heart of Polish Protestantism, is hosting a Reformation at 500 celebration this week. We are in here, at least in part, to participate in this celebration.
This is the city of Wroclaw from the top of the reconstructed Catholic Cathedral (WWII was not kind to this city). It sits on a island in the river called Cathedral Island. In WWII, Wroclaw was part of Germany. It has been, it its history, part of Silesia, the Austria-Hungary (Hapsburg) Empire, Prussia, Germany, and now, Poland. It is an amalgam of Western and Eastern European Cultures.
It is a stunning and beautiful city. Brahms, Schleiermacher, and others studied here. Bonhoeffer was born here (it was part of Germany then). I am disappointed in my ignorance of this place before the last few weeks. It is a beautiful, vibrant city of more than 600,000. Like everywhere in Central Europe I have been it has a beautiful and, at times, tragic history.
But it is also a a amazingly faithful place. Along the German border, between the ardent Roman Catholicism of much of Poland, the Lutherans in Germany, and the Orthodox in Russia, Wroclaw became a place of great theological inquiry and exploration. It was multifiath and multicultural long before other places. It's geography dictated as much. And so statues (like this brillian staute along the river of the crucified and resurrected Christ) and Christian art dominate the city.
Around every corner there is a beautiful garden. Here are Wojciech Szczerba and me in one of these beautiful gardens located between a catholic mission and a huge library. This statute commorates a catholic turned Protestant turned catholic again who later took the name Angelicus as he wrote his poetry and theology. I told my friend Woijcech I would call this picture two angels and Christopher on my blog. #promisekept
Churches are all over the city. They have switched hands between denominations many times. This interior of the main Cathedral is Catholic and has always been so. WWII nearly destroyed it, but it has been rebuilt. Visited by Popes and dignitaries, I found it charming. Said a prayer for those I loved there. I was impressed by the long line of penitents I saw waiting to say their confession to their priests. I am always grateful for the long reach of the Catholic Church - and their reach is longer here in Poland than anywhere else in the world. I think the farther East we go, the more Catholic things become. The future here is tethered to the past.
Woijech is right. The history of the church oozes from the cobblestones and the rocks around here. It is stunning. Beautiful. A joy to consider and behold in this charming, ancient, and good city.
Ania, a young tour guide led us on a terrific tour of the city. She was so proud of her hometown. She proved once again the lesson that there are nice and generous people all over the world.
While on the tour with her the Protestant Reformation 18 wheeler rolled into town. The German government is helping Europe remember the 500 anniversary of the Reofmration, which began in 1517.
In the cheesiest way imaginable, I felt a little pride that my work is a very, very, very small part of that 500 year witness. I cannot wait to see what comes out of the truck tomorrow.
On Saturday most of our group is taking a journey to Auschwitz. Some are touring Wroclaw. And I will be joining Woijetch at the conclusion of the celebration.
500 years. 500 hundred. From Martin Luther to a Polish Protestant history laser show. Through wars and rumors of wars the church has endured. Her witness tried and true.
This witness is why Woijtech does his work. It is why we are here. it is why we/they teach students. It is part of why the faith matters. It takes many forms. Lectures, service, works of art. But its many forms speak to many different people. It's many forms are the gifts of the church. And sharing our gifts is what we are supposed to be doing.
Lord knows, the people of Wroclaw and our friends at EWST have been doing as much for us.