Sunday, 30 July 2017

Karavaan to Dresden

written by John Oostdyk

Lots of discoveries and things we learned!

Karavaan to Dresden

An inspiring journey through the lands of Luther and of John Hus.

It was quite a unique team of twelve. Young and old from five different countries and different church backgrounds. Grandpa Woolsey from Texas is up in his eightees but would not miss what very few of his friends back home have seen, even if it meant taking a wheelchair along! But wait a minute! Was this not supposed to be a trip for young people to discover parts of the Christian heritage of Europe? Yes it was, but numbers kept on going down and so our AB team  ended up merging with a team from the Anglican Reformed Episcopal church, most of them from Texas. 

And we had a bishop along on the journey. Bishop Gerhard Meyer is a rather unusual bishop. Just before we left he led the group in worship but also fixed a tractor, chopped wood and repaired a leak in the roof of the bathhouse at Camp Knüll. A man with humor and  wisdom who was once a policeman in Frankfurt.

The first historic discovery stop was close to Camp Knüll, the story of St Boniface, the missionary monk who changed the spiritual landscape of Europe back in 723 by chopping down an oak tree. He may have been the great-great grandfather of Bishop Meyer.

Then the journey took us to the Czech Republic where we visited the city of Most and heard of the spiritual history of this land by Blahoslav Cicel in the beautiful dining room of the castle on the hill.

Just south of Most is the town of Zatec. This used to be one of the key protected towns of the followers of Jan Hus. Back in those days the Bible was the center of life in Zatec, but that has changed totally because now it is the Beer that has taken over the hearts of its inhabitants. But people do not want to totally forget their history so they also have a Temple of Beer. We visited this place and had lunch there.

In Prague our two teams had separate experiencees both very enjoyable. Walking the path of history in the heat of the day to the Cathedral and castle, along with a thousand others history seekers, probably was not the best experience, but standing by the statue of John Hus in the center and paddling on a boat on the river in the midst of these beautiful sights, was a bit more relaxing.

Next was an overnight hosting in Pirna to be in the Swiss part of Saxony, after which we travellend to Hernhut past the land of the gorgeous rock formations in Hrensko and on through the forests of North Bohemia to Herrnhut.

Herrnhut and Zinzendorf

Visiting a grave of someone who died long ago probably will not the most inspiring part of any day, but that is how we started our day of understanding Herrnhut.

As we stood by the grave of Count von Zinzendorf Sophie read the short history of why he was so important in the spiritual history of Europe, especially as it relates to the work of missions.

We also visited the central church in Herrnhut with the white benches and green cushions and learned about the origin of the Moravian Church and the connection to the Methodist and other churches. Lastly we went to the factory that make the Stars of Bethlehem.

Bridge between Europeans and Americans

There are so many bridges in history between North America and Europe, the Moravians and Methodists are just one example.

Sophie from Northern Ireland had some things to say about a more personal bridge that can be built today.

I particularly enjoyed the afternoon as it gave me time to talk in depth to the Americans. I bonded with them as I found out so much about their lives from how homeschooling impacted them to their thoughts on courtship vs dating and we really opened up to each other. We even had a really honest conversation about mental health and how the Christian Community can be somewhat judgemental to those suffering. It’s nice to have a strong connection with these people after such a short period of time.

 Next we went to Dresden where the second part of this story begins........