9 November 2009

Liturgy at the Berlin Wall

At lunchtime on 9 November, staff and others at the Ecumenical Centre met at the pieces of the Berlin wall in the garden of the ecumenical centre for prayers. The slabs of the Berlin Wall (one of which is shown in the picture) were a gift from the first freely elected government of the German Democratic Republic to the Conference of European Churches in recognition of the role played by churches in the peaceful revolution.

A visitor from outside the house asked "so which side was in the east and which in the west?" I explained that it would not have been possible to paint the eastern side with gaffitti. This led me to say during our prayers that we were lighting the candles on the wrong side - it was not Helmut Kohl who brought the wall down but people with ca ndles and courage on the other side! Even though the sun had come out I also said that the weather reminded me of an Iona peace liturgy for a rainy day - choose a symbol that will work on a wet day - not a candle! The wind did manage to blow out alot of candles - and the rain managed to deal with the rest later in the day.
I shamelssly plagiarised what Stephen has been writing on Holy Disorder to put together the simple liturgy. Using also my own diary extracts from that extraordinary year in the GDR - that's where the idea for using Psalm 126 came from. I also remember Friedrich Schorlemmer at the end of a particularly difficult day simply saying to us in Wittenberg, let's close this session by singing the Luther peace hymn which is why I chose Verleih uns Frieden gnädiglich to end with. I can remember being very moved by its wonderful minor melodies and the fact that everyone apart from me knew the words.
I also love the footnote at the bottom of The love of God is broad like beach and meadow - saying that the GDR government was concerned that the words of the hymn were criticising the state using religious language! It was good to sing one of Fred Kaan's hymns in translation after listening to a tribute to him on the radio last night.
So for 20 minutes at lunchtime we celebrated the spirituality of civil society that changed the world. coming home this evening I have heard a story of women walking together today across the peace line in Northern Ireland and of people trying to remove the wall in Palestine ... it seems right to use this anniversary as a starting point to overcome the barriers and divisions of our own times.

Then our mouth was filled with laughter,
and our tongue with shouts of joy;
then it was said among the nations,
‘The Lord has done great things for them.’
The Lord has done great things for us,
and we rejoiced. (Ps. 126)

Liturgy is here.

Posted by Jane Stranz.


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