Light

People often tell me that they enjoy the light of Freiburg.  That there is a unique quality to the light that is distinctive to the place.  Usually I just see light without the uniqueness that others enjoy.  Perhaps I am simple.

I now run around 5 kilometres three to four times a week as part of my wellbeing.  It was the other day, perhaps from a ‘runners high’ that I noticed the light.  My running routes purposely take me away from the busy roads and I find myself running through fields and vineyards.  The weather is getting cooler and I usually am the only person walking, or running outside.  In the evenings the gym near the train station is aglow with neon lights and the bobbing silhouette of men and women jogging on treadmills.  Even when it is raining the grey clouds don’t always seal up the sun.  Particularly in the evenings towards sun-set the light is wonderful and majestic for a few moments.  There are times on my runs when I want to stop and dig out my phone so that I can snap a quick photo, but the light is so perfect for just a short time that the moment has passed before I can untangle my headphones and retrieve my phone.  The photos never do any justice to the overall view.

Now the sun provides such a contrast to the grey clouds, the flocks of birds that scavenge the spilt corn, and the multi coloured vines that make the hills into a patchwork quilt of colour.

Is it from the time spent being in one place that I can now see the light in the way that others have tried to express? Or is it the pumping heart, the working legs and the distance that is more than just kilometres that has worked to open my eyes to the etherial light of Freiburg?

 

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Promises

Julie Andrews acting as Mary Poppins talks of ‘a pie crust promise’ in the Disney movie of the same name, and describes the pie crust promise as: “Easily made. Easily broken.”

At its simplest, a promise is for an individual.  One person can promise to do things for ones self.  In the more complex, a promise is an oath, or pact between one person and many.  In another, a promise is between a person and God; and God and his people.

I make those famous ‘pie crust promises’ to myself a lot of the time.  I’m not one for New Years Resolutions, but I do promise to myself that I will do something and that usually works…for a while.  My newest promise to myself is to take more time for physical fitness.  I’ve found that living in the land of beer and pretzels has changed my features so exercise is something I need to do.  Self-care is a phrase that is thrown around among church leaders, yet our track record is pretty dismal.  Self-care phrases are surrounded by the words of expectation and guilt, namely, “would’a, could’a and should’a.”  “I really should exercise more!”,  prompts me into doing so under duress.  The excuses for not finding the time to exercise are rampant, as there always seems to be some more pressing issue, or meeting in the calendar to look after other than ourselves.

In the church congregation I have managed to pull a ‘Jephthah’.  What is that? Well Jephthah is mentioned in the Old Testament book of Judges and in his pride he publicly proclaims that as God as his witness he will sacrifice the first thing that comes out of his house to give God glory.  Tragically it is his loving (and only) daughter that runs out of the house first to meet her father.  Promising to do something and then not doing it comes with the speaking before thinking type of personality.  I’ve promised to do some things in the church and have not acted upon them with the speediness I had promised.  For this I am sorry and these things hang about on a long To Do list like some spectre of Christmas Past.

While the above promise mentions God, it is more a statement of oath that is a public one.  The promises, or oaths, that I made as a priest, are also in the context of community, but have a deeply personal relationship with God, and with God’s people.  Like at a wedding when one party makes oaths to the other (to love and cherish in sickness and in health) so too does the person being ordained priest make those similar statements to God and God’s Church.  “Will you be diligent in prayers, and in reading of the holy Scriptures, and in such studies as help to the knowledge of the same, laying aside the study of the world and the flesh? Answer: I will endeavour myself so to do, the Lord being my helper.” (Book of Common Prayer pg 576-577)  Judging from my bookshelf I read a lot of books about the world in which I might find God present.  Of course I study my Bible and attempt to pray the daily offices of Morning and Evening prayer, but the big word is attempt.  Does this count as endeavouring? I think that a lot of people do endeavour as these questions of promise and fulfilment are perennial discussion topics in a congregation.  It is in the struggle that we meet God, not in the giving up and walking away.

Perhaps I have now come full circle in my list of promises as I have, in the past, trained to run races and proudly remember making a very good time in one gruelling mountain race. I have not always run, neither have I always prayed the daily offices.  Perhaps it is the enduring of the promise that is the place of grace.  Rather than looking at a promise as a quick way to find a solution, or the fast track to complete a goal, a promise is an enduring relationship between me and God, just as it is a relationship between me and a community.  The promise is not the thing that will change us, it is the continual wrestling with ourselves, with the words we speak, and the work we have left undone.  The promise will rear its head again and again because we are cannot complete all that we have promised.  That is God’s work of promise that is completed for us, and so we continue to wrestle with our own promises and shortcomings and we end up being changed –  a people who run with a limp.

 

via Daily Prompt: Promises

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.

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?

Open-Minded & Open-Bags

It is strange what you find when you aren’t looking for something.  One occasion was spotting a small handbag under a shopping cart which held 400Euro’s in cash.  There was no identification.  A single shopping cart was left near the bike parking at a local grocery store and underneath the cart on the ground was a palm-sized handbag.

Maybe it is from reading, and watching Sherlock Holmes that one starts to piece together the owner in ones mind.  The thought was that it was an elderly woman that had most of her entire weeks worth of money in one bag.  It turns out we were right, as the son called us to thank us, and wanted to know if we would like a reward.  Knowing that the item had been returned was reward enough.

There are times when distraction makes us forget the things that are essential. I know one reader will recognize that it is easy to leave, bags, books, wallets, and keys when a crisis strikes.  I do it all the time.

The other find was not actually much of my doing, as I walked the dog in the early morning before it gets really hot.  Wandering our way through the corn fields the dog has a pastime of jumping into the long grass at the side of the dirt roads.  He jumps around as if he were on springs; all in the hopes to catch a field mouse.  (He’s already encountered a Hedgehog and found them a bit prickly).  It was in one of these hunts that the dog strayed into the corn and was intent on sniffing something.  By the time I caught on that this was not a mouse I found a green shoulder bag.  There was a train stop, and paved road nearby, but again the deductive reasoning kicked in and started me thinking how a bag that is the same colour as the corn stalks got here.

This time around there was no money, but lots of ID cards, bankcards, and a very new looking iPhone that was dead.  The police have yet to find the owner, so I wonder,  “what will the owner think?”, or “What they are like?”  What happened to make the bag fall so far into the corn field? Who is this person, besides a young black man who has a student ticket for the train?

Everyday we meet people, but rarely do we ever see inside their purses, wallets, or bags.  Everyday we meet people and yet do we really get to open up and truly meet them.  Part of the mystery in finding the lost articles makes me wonder about keeping an open mind about who the people are behind the possessions.  In the same way we could think of the old adage, “Don’t judge a book by a cover”.

The church, when it works well, provides a place where people can open up as they find it a safe place…a sanctuary.  Open-mindedness is a practice when we meet people.  Naturally we find ways to place, judge, and identify people. However, some of this is surface material and only when we are lost and vulnerable do we find that we are spread open.  We see the fragility of an elderly woman with a wad of 50Euro bills.  We see the important items, the treasures, in bank cards, and student ID.  There are always surprises when we become vulnerable.

Some people shock us in their behaviours, their attitudes and their appearance.  Yet I know that when we look a little deeper, as uncomfortable as that may sound, we often find a lot of the same issues.  Loneliness, hurt, pain; as well as, joy, ambition, and longing.

Jesus meets his friends on the road as they are confused and filled with the anxiety of crisis.  In the venerable moment of sharing a meal with ‘a stranger’ they find the risen Lord.  “Then he opened their minds so they could understand the Scriptures.” Luke 24. 45

4 Countries & 1/2 a Tank of Fuel

A friend posted a brief response to a remark I had made online to the subject of my title: B-L-F-G (Belgium, Luxembourg, France, and Germany).  He guessed correctly, and the time away has given me some food for thought as well as some amazing food for the stomach.

The smallness of Europe hit home as we sped down motorways and side roads leaving Brussels and 4 hours later arriving home in Freiburg, having crossed, or at least entered 4 countries in the process.  The mini-holiday is n0w over, but it has given me some time to reflect on some larger issues.

I took my camera with me on the trip and fortunately the Automatic features were acting up for some reason.  I say, fortunately because I was then forced to do everything manually like I use to do by default with my old Mamiya 35mm.  Having to relearn the ƒ-stops, and shutter speed settings was good medicine.  A parishioner regularly posts “today’s moment calm” which I enjoy seeing, both for the creativity and for the much needed pause in the day.  Equally important for my trip was to slow down and set the scene, wait for the right light, and adjust the settings on the camera for the perfect picture.  Of course not all the photos worked out well, and I am certainly glad that I was not limited to the 24 or so exposures that film would have offered.  Nonetheless, I have a few random photos that are from France that I want to speak about.

Boundaries: The first is the gate of the manor house in which we were able to stay amongst extended family members.  This old house has rooms for the servants, as well as stately rooms for the former residents, yet on the grounds, which were expansive indeed, is an old iron foundry which is unoccupied.  The manor is gated and on the outskirts of the small French village surrounded only by fields of wheat, or pastures of cows.  In this area, like many other areas in Europe, the harvest happens all day and night.  The heavy machinery needed to harvest the grain is too expensive for each farmer to own, so only one or two large combines and tractors work round the clock.  The grain in the picture at the front gate of the manor was gone overnight leaving stubble behind.  I took the photo as it symbolized boundaries.  The boundaries of farm and manor, industry and agriculture.  The stone pillars and the far horizon set the tone for entry into rest and work.

Something that is important to hold onto is the boundaries between rest and work.

Rest:  Another photo is a close up of a large snail shell in amongst the green Hosta plants.  The snail is right outside the large wooden doors at the front of the house.  The snails are much larger than what I would have experienced on the West Coast of Canada, and so are the Hostas as those would often be eaten by the deer moments after planting, or emerging from the ground.  The snail was tucked up quietly in its own shell waiting for some cooler temperatures, but it did make me ponder the houses we live in – the largess of a manor house now used for foreign visitors during the summer months, and the smallness of the snails home which travels with and is its source of protection.  It is important to curl away in a sleep mood and take time to rest no matter how large or small your house.

Growth and Harvest:  In and around the area are several hiking trails, one of which is symbolized with a yellow and green stripe painted onto poles and fence posts.  I thought the one captured on camera had all the tones of the surrounding area.  One side of the road was green with grass and weeds; the other was newly harvested grain that has dried for weeks in the field. On all our journeys there are times of green growth often right next to golden harvest.  The landscape reflected these colours and this mood.  In all of life there is time to plant, and time to harvest and sometimes we are fortunate to see it happen before our eyes.

Risk:  One of the final photos of the day was at a small stream.  The track took me though hot fields and dry roadways.  A small bench was situated next to the stream that was full of trout and looked like an ideal place to swim for all the children staying at the manor house.  The green trees brought shade and the water was rippled in some places only by small water insects gliding over the surface.  The growl of an engine steadily grew as I soon saw a car approaching.  Even on some of the smaller roads the speed limit can be significant (90-100 km/hr) and I watched in astonishment as a small car barely slowed to drive through the water.  I was filled with envy when I saw this happen as I’ve always wanted to drive through water like that, having only done it once after convincing my Dad to drive his truck through a flooded roadway.

This picture made me think about risk.  We would have risked swimming here, and I could have risked taking our own car through the water.  The element of risk is sometimes important to shock our systems into life.  Just like risking our vulnerability in opening up to people about our feelings, or risking scathing comments for some mediocre photographs.

Vacations, no matter how small, can teach us something.  A reminder to risk.  To look for signs of growth, and places to harvest. To take the time to be small and rest.  To be aware of the boundaries of work and play, heaven and earth.

 

This Child of Ours, this Miracle

This is a sad story.  It is a sad story because it is true, and the truth is often hard to understand at the best of times.  It is a sad story because it challenges our hopes, dreams and expectations.  Some of you may already have heard via social media that two year old Emiliya died yesterday.

I think I can address the community by saying that we are all shocked and deeply saddened.  In what seemed a tiny life full of health struggles, the community was encouraged by how God provided the necessary money for the specialized operation.  God seemed to have cleared a path as donors opened more than just their wallets – they opened their hearts to assist a family.  When so much was seeming to go right – when we felt God was listening to our prayers – we had so much hope.

Now we are left with a huge hole as Emiliya quietly passed away surrounded and held by her parents and close friends.

Questions certainly arise.  Pain and suffering are perennial issues in the life of a Christian. Anger and grief are also valid forms of expressing our surprise, and the Bible is full of personal struggles in the Psalms, Lamentations and the book of Job.

But why? Why, O Lord does it have to happen this way?  In our intercessions and personal prayers I have found it useful to reflect on what Bishop John Pritchard has written knowing that we live out our lives in faith.

“One person lived; the other died.  Why?  The short answer is of course that we do not know.  And that is not unreasonable.  After all, we are Macbeth, not Shakespeare, the creature, not the Creator, and it is not surprising that the characters in the play cannot understand the mind of the author except by ‘best guesses’….

…When a couple experience the massive privilege and responsibility of producing a child they find they have created another human being which has its own radical independence. They can care for the child, love, encourage, persuade, and eventually reason, discuss, even argue with the child, but they can never start again and  make this into a different child.  She has her own way of being herself, and the parents have to recognize that they have limited their absolute power in the very act of creating her.  Now we the have this child and not that child.

We can pray to [God] with confidence, knowing that he will use our prayer in ways which are good, just and kind.  We may not know precisely what will happen, but if God is unequivocally with us, then in some significant respect the situation we pray for will be changed.”  pg 14 The Intercessions Handbook, Pritchard.

Emiliya was a very strong and courageous child having struggled with her health.  Her parents are equally strong and courageous as they cared, advocated and persisted in hope.  Emiliya brought together a lot of people.  Friendships have formed because of this little girl.  As well the church gathered together for prayer and support.  We have, in faith, recognized that Emiliya is in God’s care and comfort.  That all of us, despite our strong desire to be independent, are ultimately God’s.  At the moment it is difficult to make some conclusions of how our prayers are to be worked out.  Looking deeply and knowing assuredly that God has heard our prayers and that we have all been changed by this action.

Do we fall into guilt? We need to tread carefully here as prayer that doesn’t seem to go the way we had prayed it to often ends up with a dreadful feeling of guilt.  We should take care not to pass blame upon ourselves.

The entire Sunday morning worshiping community surrounded Emiliya and her parents with prayers for healing.  I believe that we have been gifted by God with having Emiliya in our community, and God has gifted her parents with Emiliya in their lives.  She has helped us to draw closer to each other in prayer, and closer to God in faith.  In Baptism, where we symbolically die and are raised anew in Jesus Christ through the waters of baptism I have often used a song called, “This Child of Ours, this Miracle” by David Haas. Notice the way the parents, the community, and God are woven through the lyrics singing ‘this child of ours, this child of Yours’.

1. This child of ours, this miracle –
You have a dream and plan for it. You wash it clean.
You cradle it. You bless it and You call it Yours:
this child of ours, this child of Yours.

2. This child of Yours, this miracle –
reborn of Water and the Word.
The Book of Life records its name. You smile and angels celebrate:
this child of Yours, this child of ours.

3. This child of ours, this miracle –
whom Christ would die for, we may love and train and raise,
and teach and praise, and watch the Spirit mold a life: this child or ours,
this child of Yours.

In the coming days, weeks and months, we keep Ilgar and Nigar in our prayers.  Some of us who are close to the family are able to offer support.  And for those who have put so much effort and worked so closely with the family in raising awareness we will also pray for during these difficult days.

God, this child of Yours, we commend into Your care, and her family into the arms of Your gracious comfort.  May she rest in peace, and rise in glory.

 

Make Hay while the Sun Shines

I am trying to utilize all my time to the best of my abilities as I have a lot to do and deadlines are looming.  Train rides are now filled reading and writing.  I have been asked to write a sermon on Psalm 133 in German for an area wide church magazine and my sermon is to be sandwiched between the sermons of two former bishops of the area for this short publication.  The morning commute is taken up quickly with reading, underlining and note taking.  The pressure seems immense.

The train back is the same, but the sermon is not for publication, rather it is for Sunday morning worship.  Along with meetings, visiting, and family life things are pretty busy.  This morning the news was all about the violence in Nice, France.  It was difficult to read and reflect about any scriptures without the thoughts of those who have suffered great violence coming to mind.  Psalm 133 is especially potent as unity is a theme.  A Psalm to repeat as a hope, a way forward, and of a remembrance of better times.

Psalm 133. 1 “How good and pleasant it is when God’s people live together in unity!”

Life is always on a razors edge and so we make the best of what we can, when we can.

IMG_20160715_124730The weather last week was hot and humid and it seems the corn and grain had sprouted up higher, but then came the cool weather and some heavy rain.  While taking the train I get to know more and more of the scenery.  Some famers have cut and balled their hay already, and other fields now lay a bit flattened like some giant has danced poorly across the ground leaving scattered footprints in the fields.

Lately in France, and other countries, it feels like when it rains it pours.  All the more reason to ball up some of our hay, our Scriptural ‘food for thought’ and nourishment so that we can get through the hard times with the eternal hope of new life in Christ.

A tale of two trips – to Basel

This week I have made two trips to the beautiful city of Basel.  One trip was for pleasure, the other was a work related event (which was also pleasant).  Monday morning saw the departure of two of very good friends.  With the Euro-airport so nearby it is the arrival and departure place of many folks who come for short visits.  IMG_20160712_095414

On Monday the girls and I were able to drop friends off at the airport, and then spend a few hours walking around Basel.  Each time I visit Basel I see more and more – becoming familiar with the sights and sounds of a busy city.  On this short visit we were able to quickly get to places of interest now that we have got our bearings.  We went to part of the University, the Botanical Gardens, the RathausRathaus and one of the old city gates – the Spalentor.  This looping tour took us though narrow side streets and even into a tourist trap store selling trinkets at a high cost.  The girls decided that they had, over a few visits, walked most of Basel, and would now like to have a city crest to pin to their walking sticks at home as a trophy, or sign of accomplishment.  When we entered the shop in search of the small shields and another woman with a young girl were leaving, we overheard the shop clerks saying, “that makes three English speakers today!”  The girls and I found the crests we were looking for (for a small fortune in CHF!) and began talking to the staff in all the languages we knew of.  After speaking, German, English and French the women behind the counter finally asked were we were from so they could add us to their private game of ‘count the tourist’.

The following day, I returned to Basel for a meeting with friends and colleagues in the Anglican Church in Basel for our educational meeting.  These meetings are of really value, as it can be a lonely job being the only Anglican minister in town.  Not only is there some fellowship and prayer together, but we also take turns presenting and discussing various topics for educational purposes.  This particular gathering was to hear about the Christology of Dietrich Bonhoeffer, as there had recently been a global symposium on the life and work of Bonhoeffer.  It was good to stretch our brains and think critically about the impact of what was then a very young Bonhoeffer and his contribution to theological thought.  With our topic and surrounding discussions I could help thinking about my own lecture that I am to give at the University of Freiburg regarding the celebration of the Reformation and the links with the Church of England and wider Anglican Communion.   I hope I can match the quality of study given by my esteemed colleague that joined us in Basel.

Over the two different days of visiting one of the things that impressed me most was hearing how much my eldest daughter had learned about Basel from her school classes.  The bridges, and surrounding geography were recalled in detail and it was like having our own private tour guide.  There is, of course, always more to explore in Basel, and in Freiburg…but that is for another day and another journey.