Doors of Opportunity

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My panorama picture doesn’t do justice to the actual church entrance, but I wanted to show how many people find themselves in this spot when they finally getting the nerve to open the doors and enter inside.

The Petrous Kirche is part of the wider Badische Landeskirche and is of the reformed tradition.  The church was completely renovated and refitted in the last few years.  The photo captures the upper floor of the building that contains the sacturary, a variety of meeting rooms, a kitchen and toilets.  At the far right of the picture is a little bridge to the front entrance of the Diakonie that offer social services to the wider community.  On the ground floor…which we don’t see from this view…is the kindergarten.   In the last couple months the Petrous community and the Anglican Church in Freiburg have partnered with a third church congregation, the Royal Family Baptist Church.  The stimulus for this work was partly a new church building that was under used.  Now it is a building that is in high demand with multiple user groups.

The ecumenical relationships are still being worked out, in what I like to think of as dance partners.  There are times when we step on each others toes as we learn the new moves.  Despite the initial discomfort and awkwardness there is a vision of real teamwork and partnership that serves not just the members, but the wider community.

The diversity and enterprise makes us all stronger.  So if you have walked up the stairs, or taken the lift…or even strolled through the vineyard next-door and hopped the fence; people of all walks of life have an opportunity to come through the doors of the church.

I also need to remind myself and others, in that when we leave the doors of our respective worship services we do so through the same doors.  We leave as One people in One Church.

Ephesians 4. 1-5  

I [Paul] therefore, the prisoner in the Lord, beg you to lead a life worthy of the calling to which you have been called,

2with all humility and gentleness, with patience, bearing with one another in love, 3making every effort to maintain the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace. 4There is one body and one Spirit, just as you were called to the one hope of your calling, 5one Lord, one faith, one baptism, 6one God and Father of all, who is above all and through all and in all.

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Framing the Picture

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View from within the Rathaus, Freiburg.

Typically this view shows tourists, people enjoying a coffee, and wedding parties.  The Rathaus is the place to see couples marry as they sign the necessary paperwork at the City Hall and then have small gatherings in the square to celebrate.  On a busy day you can see dozens of couples coming and going for their appointed meeting times.

While not the greatest of photographs with a phone camera I wanted to frame the shot that is the image of many couples when they leave the building.  The ironwork gate, the patterned cobblestones, and the birds both of iron and feather fill the scene.

Framing the scene is often a photographic technique to focus the eye and can create some interesting images.  When I sit down to do a puzzle it is often easiest for me to search through the box for the flat-edged pieces so that I may build the frame that will contain the picture, or the finished puzzle. What are those flat edged pieces in our own lives, in our marriages, and in our Church?  I think that in discovering the boundaries of our relationships we often set a ‘frame of reference’ that helps us to make sense, gather meaning and become purposeful.

It has been ten months time since moving to Germany with my family to begin ministry with an Anglican Church.  These ten months have been a time spent in setting the frame.  Getting to know people.  Searching out the flat bits from the puzzle box.  The community of the church represents a picture and there are many personalities that piece together.  Occasionally I find that one piece can link to several others if I’m not too careful and in doing so the puzzle doesn’t get done, or the picture is distorted.  The hard work of building the picture is set to begin.  Some of the Sisters of St. John the Divine in Toronto and British Columbia, Canada have an interest in a particular type of puzzle that seems challenging.  The puzzle is called a ‘Wasgij’, or Jigsaw written backwards.  The image on the box top is not the image that you need to piece together.  Rather, it is an image that when you look at it, you must imagine what it is the people in the picture are looking at, and it is that ‘imagined’ picture that is what one sets on building.  To use this example in the life of the Church now that some time has been spent on referencing the framework is both challenging and exciting.  We listen and pray about what God’s purpose is, but we have no solid blueprint, or box top design to follow.  In this way, each community and its parts have an aim, or a goal which we are trying to piece together.  What is the image of our church community that we are helping to bring about?

Alas, the picture will have many people, activities, events and occasions that I will perhaps get a glimpse of as I work away on things.  However, puzzles are best left done together as a family event.  The picture grows in an organic way as community members add to a section, or focus on a particular area.

The final product (that of building and of enjoying the picture) is also something less like a photograph, or puzzle picture and more akin to a painting.  A work of Art.

We are all learners

In a short while school will resume for this area of Germany.  For those young children beginning school there is the Schultütte which is a large paper cone usually flamboyantly decorated and containing all sorts of small gifts, and/or sweets for the new student.  I was corrected by my own children that this ritual does not happen at the beginning of every year.  What I was really thinking is that I might get a Schultütte myself once my integration classes resume.

The beginning of school is matched by the end of school – the Abitur.  The ‘Abi’ as it is also known, is a difficult and challenging test which forces the student to recall years worth of material from their studies.  The end is an often feted day for those who ‘graduate’.  The rites and rituals of beginning and ending are important and the church can help bring meaning, celebration and liturgical presence to these special days.  Yet it is in the ‘ordinary time’ between these big events that learning continues to take place.

There is some old nugget out there that says, “You learn something new everyday”, despite the converse approach that “you can’t teach an old dog new tricks”.  So what is it that I learned today in this ordinary time between beginnings and endings?

A few things, but one is: that mystery and story have an important place in the way we experience the world.  During the lunch hour I put my phone away as I had been glued to it all morning with pastoral calls, planning sessions and emails.  An hour to refresh and recuperate which I would do walking the path next to the river that cuts through town. After all, we are intentionally celebrating the ecumenical season of ‘Creationtide‘.  To my surprise I found only a dried up riverbed with only small pools of water that held small but active fish.

This was not what I was expecting! However, this is (so I’ve been told) the norm.  That in the hot dry months the river drys up and disappears.  Despite this I did walk.  I encountered a small forest glen with carved wooden figures of people, animals, and things out of fairytales.  On my refreshing, yet dusty walk, I thought of the sweet German story of the Water Sprite.  I had read it in English, but the tale, and the illustrations, set the mind thinking of mysterious things.  61bnRAdWctL

In playful thought, I wondered if now, of all times, I might get to see a water sprite’s home at the bottom of the dry river.  It may sound silly, but not long ago in Germany, and in other areas, the tales of forest and water creatures were told to fascinated children (and adults) –  think of the Brothers Grimm and the enduring tales.

There is certainly a place for the supernatural in our structures of reality.  Think of the popularity of such books and movies as Narnia and The Lord of the Rings.  Besides being entertaining tales of adventure, there are symbols, metaphors and mystery that speak deeply to us.  For some, we need to re-learn our sense of adventure, creativity and mystery.  Surely adults can recall a time, perhaps in the what they express as their prehistoric past, as a time when imagination ruled.  Countless hours acting out made up stories, or watching yet again your small metal car ride roughshod over the dirt motorway that you have built around the base of a tree.

For the students soon to begin another school term remember that we never stop learning.  To the rest of us who think we have done our time and have learned all we know: remember that we can also relearn, and re:create.  Now, is that the river I hear, or is it just my imagination recalling the melody of a Water Sprite playing a flute song?