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Walking in the Footsteps of the Reformation


I would like to take this time to write to you and explain my recent trip to Germany on the Reformation Tour.  As you probably already know, 2017 marks the 500 th. Anniversary of the beginning of the Protestant Reformation; that event began on October 31, 1517 in Wittenberg, Germany, when a Roman Catholic Monk named Martin Luther posted 95 Theses on the Castle Church Door. We are now observing that event this year.

I began a few days before the tour started by meeting my cousin John from California in Berlin. Berlin is the capital of Germany with a population of 1.5 million people. It is a very young city with a dynamic population. The amount of construction that is taking place is a remarkable testament to free enterprise and capitalism, since the reunification of Germany in 1990. Besides the usual places of interest such as the Reichstag, the German Parliament Building, and the Brandenburg Gate and Under the Linden, I visited the Berliner Dom or the Large Lutheran Cathedral in Berlin, also known as the Protestant  St. Peters. Built by the Prussian Kings it is a very large and beautiful place of worship. It also has a crypt beneath the church which holds the remains of several hundred Prussian nobility. Severely damaged by bombings in World War II, the building was unusable and the congregation worshiped in the crypt chapel for decades. It wasn’t until the German Re-unification,   that the Chancellor of Germany, Helmut Kohl, a Roman Catholic, insisted that its restoration take place.  It has been restored and is a functional church.  I attended service there one Sunday and the congregation consisted of over 2000 worshipers; there was a partial orchestra of strings, percussion instruments and brass as well as the renound pipe organ. The Cathedral sits across the way from all of Berlin’s museums and what will soon be restored the Empress Palace which was totally destroyed during WWII and it is being rebuilt as a conference center. .. The web site is: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Berlin_Cathedral.   

Also in Berlin I visited the Kaiser William Church in the heart of Berlin; this was a large neo- Gothic church that was almost totally destroyed in the WW II bombings, and a new very modern structure was built beside the standing ruins. In the 1930’s  the pastors of the church were very socially active helping many of Berlin’s Jews escape Nazi persecution, including the Jewish Mayor of Berlin at that time  who was baptized in an effort to try to save him; however, he was arrested and later disappeared never to be seen  again. The web site is:  https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Kaiser_Wilhelm_Memorial_Church.

The tour began with a bus ride to Prague, the capital of the Czech Republic. Prague is an old medieval city with many interesting sites and old cathedrals. One of the noteworthy points is that John Huss, an early reformer of the church was burned at the stake here 100 years before Pastor Martin Luther began his writings. Pastor Huss was martyred for his writings and for trying to rid the church of incorrect theology. The followers of Huss would be called Hussites in Europe or Moravians in the United States.  Prague Old City is inside of a very large fort that was built to protect the town. Also located there is a very large and beautiful Roman Catholic Cathedral that contains the remains of St. Wenceslas (907-935) from the Christmas Carol fame Good King Wenceslas on the Feast of Steven.

Then to Wittenberg where Pastor Luther taught, studied and lived as a monk in the monastery for twenty years and to the famous church where the 95 Theses were nailed on the door on October 31, 1517.  Pastor Luther is buried beneath the pulpit in this town church along with Philip Melanchthon. The monastery where Luther studied and taught had been destroyed by Napoleon’s armies in 1814. The tour also included Wartburg Castle where Luther was provided safety by the Elector of Saxony Frederick the Wise. Here he translated the Bible into German from the original Greek and Hebrew.  

Also included were the city of Dresden that was severely damaged in the bombings of WWII and the enormous and  beautiful Frauenkirche or St. Mary’s Church that was rebuilt in 2006 after having been destroyed in that war. Today the church is an active Lutheran Parish. The web site is: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dresden_Frauenkirche . Nearby, St. Mary’s

Church is the Jewish Synagogue; the original one was burnt down on Kristal night November 11,1938 and Nazi thugs prevented the firemen from saving the building.  However, one of the firemen saved the Star of David on top of the building and hid it in his cellar until the war was over, and then presented it to the congregation who incorporated it in the new building.

The tour also included the City of Leipzig where Bach served as choir director and wrote most of his music. In the beautiful and historic St Thomas Church, I was able to attend Sunday service here as well as an organ concert that afternoon when an organist from Norway played on all three of the massive pipe organs of the church.   And sadly  a trip to Buchenwald Concentration Camp was made  where many persons were held or gassed by the Nazi Government. This also includes Pr. Bonfoeffer who was held here for most of the war and Pr.  Schneider, a Lutheran pastor, who was killed in a medical experiment. Unfortunately, late in life Pastor Luther did produce some writings that were anti- Semitic which were later used by the Nazis against the Jews.

In conclusion was the town of Eisleben where Pastor Luther was born and the church where he was baptized. Eisleben’s  town church named St. Peter’s has a baptism font which includes a stream that is running beneath the church floor, and adults who are to be baptized go down into that stream beneath the church and are baptized in the rushing waters. It also has a baptism font in the chancel where children are baptized. Because this town was in East Germany under the Communist  Authorities, most of the people in the region were never baptized; since the German Reunification over 40, 000 persons have come to this church to be baptized.

In what was the former East Germany or the German Democratic Republic it was against the law to be a church member and consequently 80 % of the population is registered as agnostic, 20 % are Christian.   Lutherans make up three fourths of that with the remaining  being Roman Catholic.  Because the church has been beaten first under the Nazis and then under the Communists, it is important to note that Germany is a mission field and therefire we should keep the churches mission in our prayers.

There were many more locations that I visited and I would be happy to talk to you about them if you want to contact me.  Walking in the Footsteps of the Reformation was a great experience; I would recommend it to anyone who is interested in going. Germany is a beautiful country, neat and clean. The Germans are friendly and most speak English. However, they are very aggressive drivers and are as bad as or worse than we have here on Staten Island, so don’t cross the street without the right of way.

Wishing you a safe and happy end of the summer.

Peace Pastor Paul+


 Transfiguration Church invites you to join us each week where the word of God is preached and the love of Christ is spread.  We are Confessional, Orthodox, Ecumenical and Evangelical but most of all Welcoming.



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