Friday, 24 September 2010

A Foretaste of the Banquet of the Kingdom

Ökumenischer Kirchentag 2010 - München - St. M...Image by digital cat  via FlickrAnother report from this year's Ecumenical Kirchentag, copied from the Church of England, Council for Christian Unity's European Bulletin – No 65, September 2010.  Two other reports have been featured on this blog here and here.  This third report is by Tony Dickinson.

“In a main square in Munich there was a foretaste of the Banquet with a thousand tables and ten places on each set with water, apples, oil and bread. At a podium at one end of the square choirs from Orthodox congregations of Munich sang the praises of God in Russian, Greek, Romanian and German, and Orthodox clergy celebrated evening prayer with age-old chants and clouds of incense. Those at the tables shared their bread with those waiting on the margins of the square. A wonderful parable of the Kingdom.

Wonderful, too, was the number and range of people who visited the Diocese of Oxford stand in the Agora, the huge market-place where over a thousand organisations set up their stall to entice and enlighten passers-by.

Meanwhile, in another part of the Kirchentag forest, Bishop Colin Fletcher joined the sociologist Grace Davie and Catherine Pepinster of “TheTablet” at the first ever wholly English-language event to explore what Christians in Germany might learn from British experience of being “Church” in a secular society, while Bishop Alan was busy combining his daily blog from Munich with the occasional comment piece for the online section of a national newspaper.

Large crowds flocked to the discussion between the veteran theologians Hans Küng and Jürgen Moltmann (standing in at the last minute for his fellow-veteran Eberhard Jüngel), to Chancellor Merkel’s lecture on “Social Cohesion” (where the “house full” signs went up half an hour before the scheduled start).

Talks by Andrea Riccardi, the founder of the Sant’ Egidio Community, and Laurence Freeman of the World Community for Christian Meditation attracted those for whom contemplation and action are the two sides of the Christian coin. There was also much to ponder for those who are concerned about inter-faith relations. A woman rabbi from Jerusalem commended the way in which Christians had taken the lead on all to do with interfaith discussions and warned those of other faiths not to take this for granted. A Bible study on Matthew 25:31-45 in the form of a dialogue between the British Muslim scholar Ataullah Siddiqui and the newly appointed General Secretary of the World Council of Churches, Olav Fykse Tveit, brought out the commonalities between the two faiths and emphasised the need to develop respectful and hospitable theologies. Dr Siddiqui, in his very sensitive handling of the text, noted that the key division was between those who serve Christ without knowing him and those who know Christ without serving him.

The closing service, despite the rain which made numbers smaller than they might have been, was a great success. An extended meditation on Luke 1:46-55, it used traditional and modern hymns, Taizé chants and sign language to expound the meaning of Mary’s song of praise, book-ending the celebration with the first and last movement of J.S. Bach’s great setting of the Magnificat. Four short, but powerful, reflections by representatives of the Catholic, Protestant, Orthodox and Methodist traditions punctuated the liturgy, which concluded with a final message from the two Presidents. Reflecting on the events of the week their repeated message was that the Churches in Germany “need a new departure” on the ecumenical journey.”
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