Tag Archives: Germany

Reformation Day, A Reflection

In my previous post (which I realized was my hundredth!), I mentioned that I would share some thoughts regarding the sermon shared on the morning of Reformation Day in the Schloßkirche, the church where Luther nailed his 95 Theses. This post is that promised reflection.

The reverend preaching the morning of Reformation Day shared an interesting and concise sermon about Luther (I mean, it is the 500th anniversary, after all). His opening remarks about the relations between the Lutheran and the Catholic Churches caught my attention immediately. According to the reverend, the two are together coming to an understanding of justification by faith and not by works, in an attempt at ecumenism that will bring unity rather than the division that Luther never intended to cause. If that is true, wonderful; if not, I wonder what Luther would have to say about the conversations that have been held between the two bodies.

Another interesting aspect of the sermon for me was the idea of “releasing Luther” from the layers of tradition and misunderstanding that have developed over the centuries and to return to the roots of who this man was. Luther was then presented as a driving force in the socio-economic changes of his time and a clarion call of spreading love to those around us, to lift up the desolate as Luther did. This is the face of Luther that we need to see and share today.

With all due respect to the reverend, I do have a few challenging comments in regards to the last couple of points.

I do not doubt that over time Luther has been misunderstood and his platform for change misconstrued to serve the purposes of others who desired to use his name and cultural ties for their own gain and propaganda (for example, the 400th anniversary of the nailing of the Theses took place in the middle of World War 1 where the Germans used Luther as uniting factor to push their military agenda).

I also absolutely agree that reading authors of old for themselves and within their own context is extremely important. Too often we base our opinions on what other people have studied and not what we have studied for ourselves. Of course, not everyone has the ability to read medieval German, handwritten manuscripts, but reading a translation of Luther’s works rather than relying on the summarizing and quotation of scholars is already a great step in the right direction.

And social action is absolutely important, but from the Christian point of view it is not the whole story. To say that Luther was a social activist is fine (although he is famous for his anti-Semitic views, another reason why the German military chose to herald him during war efforts), but the reason he chose to live a life of service and education to his Christian brethren in the way he did was a result of a theological understanding. To present Luther as a social reformer alone, while much “safer” in today’s general post-modern society, does not fully depict the magnitude of Luther’s discovery. Social gospel, without the declaration of the gospel of salvation, is incomplete and cannot stand.

On a day as special as Reformation Day, wouldn’t it make more sense, instead of speaking entirely about Luther, to speak about what he had discovered from reading the Bible? Should not the focus be on the special message of Scripture that he “uncovered” that then led a revolution not only in how people understood their relationship with God, but also their relationship with each other?

I once read a fantastic scholarly paper on the study of theology. In it, the author claims that at it’s core, theology is the study of relationship. This is what the Reformers, like Luther, were seeking to understand in their study of Scripture.

The author continues by stating that if we were to simply continue promoting the work of the Reformers such as Luther, Calvin, Zwingli, and others, that we would actually be doing them a great disservice. If we want to truly honor the work of the Reformers, we would continue what they had begun; indeed, press forward with what those who had lived long before the official Reformation had started.

A continuous, personal search of Scripture and the seeking of its application to the life is the only way to truly celebrate the discoveries and honor the sacrifices of those who felt the high importance of knowing God and living for Him above all else.

While we can celebrate the works of great men and women who have had profound impacts on our planet and worldviews, often without the slightest intention of doing so, let us be careful not to venerate them as more than humans that allowed themselves to be greatly used by God.

Martin Luther wasn’t perfect—far from it. Neither are any of we. But we are all on a spiritual journey that, by the grace of God, will lead us to a deeper and greater understanding of who He is, how much He loves us, and how we can share that love to those around us.

Luther actually summarizes this thought well in the following couple of quotes:

“This life therefore is not righteousness but growth in righteousness, not health but healing, not being but becoming, not rest but exercise. We are not yet what we shall be but we are growing towards it, the process is not yet finished but it is going on, this is not the end but it is the road. All does not yet gleam in glory, but all is being purified.”

“A Christian is never in a state of completion but always in a process of becoming.”

As we have now entered into the 500th year since the Reformation is recognized has having officially started, let us all take the time to ask of ourselves, “How can the Reformation continue in us?”

When we do, and then ask God to do His good work in our lives, true change will take place in our lives and perhaps even in our communities.

Who knows? There may even be another Luther among us; perhaps it could be you.

Regardless of our wider role in the history of the world, we can all be assured of this: God loves you and wants a relationship with you. He has done everything that is needed to show you how much He loves you and wants you. He desires to save you by grace, through faith in His Son, Jesus Christ—all you have to do is accept Christ’s sacrifice on your behalf.

May we, like Luther, choose to stand firm in the Word of God and the love of Jesus Christ, our Lord and Savior.

May we choose to say, “I am Yours, save me.”

And may the coming days be filled with a true revival and reformation that will bring each of us into an ever closer relationship with our God.

To God be the glory. Amen.

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Mini-Reformation Tour, part 5

Reformation Day!

To be in Wittenberg for the celebration of the 500th Anniversary of the nailing of Martin Luther’s 95 Theses was truly a dream come true.

In order to make spend this special day to the fullest, we left our AirBnb early in the morning. An English service was being held at Schloßkirche at 8am and since Stephanie hadn’t yet seen the church, we decided to attend.

We arrived shortly after 7:30am and things were already PACKED. High security measures were being taken because of the large gathering as well as the anticipated attendance of political figures such as Chancellor Merkel for the afternoon services.

Schloßkirche seemed at capacity when we arrived, but the ushers actually led us all the way to the front to sit in the choir chairs. Actually, we got to sit in the ancient chairs of the knights and ruling lords who would attend services there. It was super cool!




Our advantageous seats allowed us to have perfect views of everything going on.


The service was very different from what I’m used to. For one, there was considerably more congregational participation. A stalwart aspect of Luther’s ideology in how worship services should be conducted, it was definitely highlighted in the program through readings, written prayers, and songs. I had never heard a chanted Psalm before, so that was pretty special.

The sermon was quite thought provoking. I’ll share my opinions about it in a future post.

To end the service, everyone joined together to sing (what else?) Ein Feste Burg. What a special moment to be singing this powerful hymn on this special day in the church that “started it all.”

Once the service had finished, we were encouraged to leave quickly in order for the staff to prepare for the 10am German-language service. This time we did get to walk through the Theses Door, which was very cool.


After leaving the church, we made our way to the other side of the village for breakfast and then to a special 360-degree panorama art installation by Yadegar Asisi. The work is enclosed in an enormous cylindrical building attached to a smaller building with an introductory exhibit that leads to the installation.


The panorama was at least two stories tall, and featured the village of Wittenberg as Luther would have known it. It looked like a combination of painting, photoshop, and some other medium I can’t quite name.

Lights and sounds were used to enhance the experience and make the viewer almost feel as if they were there in the early 1500s.

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We then returned to the Lutherhaus so Stephanie could enjoy all the wonderful artifacts and history that we saw on Sunday.

Right next door is the Melanchthonhaus, where Luther’s friend and colleague, Philipp Melanchthon used to live. This house wasn’t as crowded and seemed to have a better flow of foot traffic than Lutherhaus. The entire exhibit was more engaging, interactive, and appeared to be geared towards children.

Mommy, who had always liked to read and learn about Melanchthon, was surprised to discover that he was only 1.5 meters tall–just about her height!


Afterwards, we popped into Stadtkirche, or St. Marien’s Church. The sanctuary is enormous! Much larger than Schloßkirche, though not necessarily as detailed. This was the church that Luther worked, preached, and was married in. So much history everywhere!


There were other museums and lectures that we could have attended, but by the time we left Stadtkirche, we were all rather hungry.

We decided to dine at the Wittenberger Kartoffelhaus and enjoy as traditional of a German meal one can have being vegetarian. Fried potatoes and eggs, yes!

The rest of the evening was spent wandering around the festival. Theater performances, booths, and music were everywhere! Many people were dressed in period costumes, which made me wish I had something special to wear. Should have gone to the Maryland Renaissance Festival this year… oh well…

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Overall, the day was special, festive, and thought provoking.

I’m so glad that Mommy, Stephanie, and I were able to be in Wittenberg on this high day of celebration. I’m incredibly thankful for our AirBnb hosts that made it possible for us to visit this wonderful place and who were so kind and accommodating to us.


I hope you’ve enjoyed reading about our adventures and enjoy the pictures. I recorded several portions of our trip that I hope to put together in a short video. Be on the lookout for it!

Until the next adventure–Auf Wiedersehen!

–Wandering Minstrelette

Mini-Reformation Tour, part 4

Today was a true history lesson!

Mom, Stephanie (who was finally able to join us after being stuck in Berlin from the wind storm), and I made the trip from Wittenberg to Eisenach today to go visit the famous Wartburg Castle.

What none of us realized was that Wartburg is has significance far beyond it’s association with Martin Luther. 

Getting to castle is quite the hike. It lies on a large hill on the other side of Eisenach from the Hauptbahnhof. Along the path are signs with several important events of Luther’s life leading to the foot of the hill. Once you get there, it’s another good 30 minutes of uphill treking before reaching the entrance to the castle. 


The traditional way to visit the castle was by donkey, and the donkeys were actually there! Unfortunately, it was voted against actually paying to ride them, so I had to settle for taking a picture of their cute little faces. 


The castle is quite striking as it comes into view and looms ever larger the closer you get. 


The courtyard of the castle was bustling with visitors of all ages, and had some special attractions itself. A nice touch for those like us who had hiked the whole way up. 



The best one involved steps (hooray…): the south tower gave an amazing view of Eisenach and the surrounding hill country. It was definitely worth the Euro and the adding walking.



To go inside the castle, you had to purchase a ticket. The price included entrance to some special exhibits that were curated for the Reformation festivities as well as the regular rooms of the tour. 

Unfortunately, no pictures were allowed inside the castle. But what we saw was simply amazing. 

The castle was built around the year 1200, and had become well known not long after for the Hungarian princess, Elisabeth, who married the ruler of the castle and chose to use her status for the benefit of the common people. She was canonized after her death for her short 24 years of life in service. 

The next major event at Wartburg was the reason most people were there: Martin Luther’s “kidnapping” and safekeeping after his refusal to recant at the Diet of Worms. At one point in the tour, you get to see the room where Luther worked tirelessly on a German translation of the New Testsment. 

Fun fact: several German versions of the Bible already existed before Luther’s, but most were quickly confiscated and also not of great quality. Luther’s not only had popularity and clout, but was well researched from the original manuscripts and actually informed much of the development of the modern German language. 

Wartburg Castle continued to hold significance throughout the centuries. It played a central role in the call to a united Germany after the Naploeanic Wars. It was seen as an important an valuable symbol during both World Wars. 

In short, Wartburg has become a stalwart of German history and identity. It was a blessing to come and learn not only about Luther’s time there, but all that it has meant through the history of Germany. 

We spent so much time at the castle that we didn’t get a chance to see anything else of Eisenach. But that’s ok, it just means we have to return. 🙂

Tomorrow is the big day! Look forward to some great pictures and stories! 

-Wandering Minstrelette

Mini-Reformation Tour, part 3

First, I would like to say that my mother and I are safe. The wind storms that have been blowing through Northern Europe and Berlin has announced a state of emergency. Here in Wittenberg, we had rain and strong winds, but nothing too extreme. 

Secondly, WE’RE IN WITTENBERG.

Schloßkirche, or Castle Church

I have wanted to visit this historic site for years, and the fact that I was able to come at such a high time is amazing. 

Our AirBnb hosts, Michael and Gudrun, have been wonderful to us. Not only did they pick up up last night, but Gudrun dropped us off early this morning in the middle of town to explore. 

And I’m so glad! It allowed us to visit Schloßkirche (Castle Church) before the crowds began to arrive. Let me tell you, standing before the Theses Doors, where Martin Luther posted the 95 Theses on October 31, 1517, has me a little “star-struck.” 

The original doors are no longer there, unfortunately, but the new ones fully depict the Theses and caused me to pause and imagine the moment that a rebellious, truth-seeking monk acted out a thought that would change the world forever. 


There’s a lot more I could share, but I think I’ll save that for the end of the trip. 😉

After visiting the visitor’s center, we discovered that the church was holding a service, so we decided to join. The inside of Schloßkirche is very beautiful, and it seems to have had a lot of work done on it since Luther’s time. 



Both Martin Luther and Philipp Melanchthon are buried there, and an original printed copy of the Theses and a few other documents are on display under the magnificently carved pulpit. 

Luther’s Theses printed by Jakob Thanner in Leipzig in 1517; only 87 are on this page. I believe the others are on the reverse.

Mommy and I would have had a chance to go through the Theses Doors if we (meaning I) hadn’t spent so much time looking at things. But we ended up discovering a visitor’s center/museum attached to the church filled with amazing images and information. 

You know, as a child I never enjoyed history. Now, I can’t seem to get enough of it. Somewhere along the way, I made the connection of how the past affected my present, and it’s relevance suddenly helped me not only find it interesting but enjoyable to study. 

So going through this center was like being in a candy shop for me. Not only was there a lot of information about Luther, but other lesser known Reformers that had just as significant of a role in spreading the new found truths of Scripture to the world. Not everyone got the limelight, but that does not in any way diminish their work or accomplishments. 

Many of these, such as Jonas Justus, Johannesburg Bugenhagen, Lucas Cranach, Johannesburg von Staupitz, and others were remarkable educators, supporters, and believers of Martin Luther and the mission God had endowed him. 

It’s important to remember that the Reformation was not a one man show, but a movement that began long before Luther and is continuing long after. Being here in Wittenberg, where Luther worked and lived, has helped me understand this more than ever before. 



The afternoon was spent walking around the city, enjoying the other historic attractions and watching people prepare the medieval market place that tomorrow will be filled much celebration. I’m going on Tuesday, so no worries–there will be pictures. 





We also visited Lutherhaus, on the opposite side of Wittenberg from Schloßkirche. A museum made of and built around Luther’s home, it was filled with artifacts of his life, told his story, and shared his legacy. 

A very fancy pulpit
A copy of Luther’s German New Testament with woodcut images. This is depicting a scene from Revelation.
An original copy of Luther’s “Table Talk,” written conversations that Luther and his friends had around a table discussing theological ideas.


The remains of what used to be Luther’s study room.

When I saw one of the letters written in Luther’s own hand, I will admit I teared up. Not necessarily because the document of great historical or theological significance, but the fact that it was something Luther had touched… It made me wonder about the person he was, the thoughts he had, the emotions he felt, the trials he went through…

It was not unlike the feel I had standing before the Ishtar Gates when I was in Berlin two years ago. 

I felt I was before some sort of timecapsule, and it was incredibly humbling. 

A letter to Kaiser Karl V from Martin Luther explaining why he chose not to recant at the Diet of Worms.

Have you ever had a moment like that? 
So, we had a day full of Luther today and will likely have it so again tomorrow. 

Barring any train cancellations, we hope to be in Eisenach to gain some more insight and for some new adventures. 

Until tomorrow!

-Wandering Minstrelette 

Mini-Reformation Tour, part 2

I was blessed to attend New Life SDA Church this morning once again after two years. There were many faces I was so excited to see. I made several new acquaintances as well. 

New Life SDA welcoming visitors

I had the honoring of singing for the church service and was blessed to be used to touch the congregation.

Stephanie got the memo about the dresses… 😉
 

New friends Lynda and Ogechi

Anjie, who accompanied me during the service. It was a blessing to see her again!
From left: Claudette, Glenda, and Amy. One old and two new friends.

Helen, my sweet and wonderful host who took great care of me two years ago and welcomed my mother and I back with open arms for this short stay in Berlin.

The service and the potluck afterwards was filled with joy and fellowship. I was sorry to leave this community again so soon. 

But the adventure must continue!

Mom and I had a train to catch in the evening, but we thought we could squeeze one more sightseeing adventure before leaving Berlin. 

We tried the Pergamon Museum, the Berliner Dom…but it was not meant to be. The lines were long and the time was short. The weather wasn’t helping either (finally had a chance to use my new rain jacket from REI!), so we took a few pictures and went on to the Hauptbanhof. 

Mom and Stephanie posing in front of the Berliner Dom.


One question to those who live or have visited Germany, have you found it hard to find free water or am I just not looking in the right places? 

I haven’t found a place to fill my water bottle since the airport in Baltimore and for someone who’s gotten used to drinking at least 40oz a day… I’m a bit desperate, haha. 

It just seems silly to have buy a bottle of water to then put it in my bottle but… that might be what I have to do. If anyone has any tips or advice, let me know!

Anyways, mom and I caught a train to Wittenberg and are excited to be “officially” beginning our mini-Reformation tour tomorrow. 🙂 


I look forward to sharing our adventure with you!

-Wandering Minstrelette

You can follow me on Instagram (@wanderingminstrelette) for more photos from my travels!

A Life Well Lived: Bernard Silver

Two weeks ago today my uncle, whom I called Dad and viewed as a grandfather, passed away. With the flurry of events that have taken place since then, I have not yet had the chance to express myself in a way that I felt was right and honorable.

This post is my attempt to recognize the man who meant so much to me and my family.

Bernard Silver (August 10, 1923-January 11, 2017)

Son of Louis and Jeannie Silver, Bernard came to the world on the same day as the funeral for former President Warren G. Harding. Louis had to travel far and wide across Brooklyn, New York to find the necessary supplies for Bernard’s home delivery as the majority of businesses were closed for the national day of mourning declared by newly appointed President Calvin Coolidge.

Later, the family grew again when Bernard’s sister Vera was born. A few years later, the Silvers moved to Washington, DCjust in time for the Great Depression.

Bernard great up knowing want and learned very early to be frugal, yet still found ways to enjoy life. The week was often spent doing chores to earn enough money to splurge on the weekends on penny candy and a nickel for a movie. Times were not easy, but Bernard always spoke how he and his family had it pretty well-off in comparison to other families.

On September 1, 1939 the Second World War began. Bernard was just 16 years old.

Like most young men, Bernard had a great desire to serve his country. Directly after graduating high school in 1943, he enlisted and was placed in the United States Army Air Corps. After completing his training, Bernard became a Staff Sergeant of the 328th Squadron in the 93rd Bombardment Group (H) A.A.F. Serving as a tail gunner on a B-24 Liberator, Bernard and his nine other crew members completed 35 bombing missions over  Belgium and Germany. Several of Bernard’s favorite plane, the P-51 Mustang, accompanied them on every mission and as he would often say, “They kept us alive.”

Bernard was honorably discharged  on September 29, 1945 and returned to the life of a civilian. Several years later, Bernard began to work for a food company based in Washington, DC named Sol Salins.

In the mid 1970s, Bernard met and fell in love with Bonnie da Silva, a Brazilian immigrant to the United States. They were married in 1978 and Bernard treated Bonnie’s sons, Joseph, Edward, and Robert as his own. Bernard and Bonnie never had children together.

The newly formed family moved to and lived in Olney, Maryland. In 1986, they welcomed Bonnie’s younger sister, Vania, into their home.

Sadly, Bernard and Bonnie divorced in the 90’s and Bonnie would return to Brazil permanently. Bernard would eventually move in Vania, her husband Luis, and two daughters, Juliana and Vanessa. They affectionately called him “Dad,” and for the girls, Bernard was like a grandfather figure.

In 2013, Bernard moved to the Armed Forces Retirement Home in Washington, DC, only a couple of blocks from where he had grown up. There, he received all the care he deserved as a veteran of the United States, and even had the opportunity to meet President Barak Obama and his family.

On January 9th, Bernard fell and was admitted to MedStar Washington Hospital Center, where he succumbed to an infection that affected his heart, lungs, and kidneys. He died peacefully in the morning of Wednesday the 11th, with his caring sister-in-law Vania by his side.

Bernard is survived by his three nephews, Bonnie’s sons, his sister-in-law Vania and her family.

Bernard’s was a full life, one that has seen many changes in society, technology, and government. Those who knew Dad loved him and will miss his kind spirit and wonderful stories.

His was a life well-lived. Rest now in deserved peace.


Please remember to always tell those you care for how much you love them. And whenever you see a service member, especially a veteran from WWII, be sure to thank them for their service.

This post will be later updated with photos of Bernard throughout the years of his life. Thank you for reading.

-Wandering Minstrelette

 

 

Star Power

It’s not often that one gets to share a space with a living legend, but on Thursday night last week I was in a room full of them. 

  
The Berlin Philharmonic is one of the greatest symphonic orchestras of the world, and is most certainly the most well-known. Their history is interwoven with pride and disappointments, but there is no doubt that they have managed to make themselves the golden standard by which nearly every orchestra measures themselves. 

I had heard the Berlin Phil once before at the Kennedy Center in Washington, DC. How cool would it be, I had thought, if one day I could see them on their home turf? 

   

One of the first things I planned to do when I knew I was coming to Berlin was to go see a performance. However, tickets tend to go fast, especially when you have well-known conductors thrown into the mix. 

Gustavo Dudamel, another living legend (and quite a young one, for that matter), was going to conduct this amazing ensemble in a performance of W.A. Mozart’s Serenade for Posthorn and Gustav Mahler’s Symphony No. 1. Dudamel is especially known for his remarkable interpretations of works by Mahler, so I’m pretty sure that everyone in town who cares about classical music (which is actually quite a lot of people here) knew and planned to attend. 

The performance was completely sold out, but I was able to purchase a standing room only ticket for €10 by waiting in line for about an hour and half just before the concert. There were plenty of others with me, too, hoping that they would have a spot for the concert. 

  
Never in the States have I ever heard of people scrambling to get a ticket to attend a classical concert. Do we even have standing room only options available? Of the entire Philharmonie Großer Saal, which holds 2,440 people, I saw 4 empty seats. Even those were filled in the second half by those who had originally been standing. I am pretty sure that the major orchestras in the area where I live – the National Symphony and the Baltimore Symphony – would love to have that kind of ticket available if the demand was high enough.  

Anyways, there I was at the very back of the hall, standing. The first musicians began to appear and the audience began to clap. They just showed up and they were being praised! This city truly loves their orchestra. 

I also was able to make out that the first flute player was Emmanuel Pahud, a brilliant performer and one of my musical role models. I totally fan-girled. I think the other people around me must have been wondering if there was something wrong with me. His playing was so beautiful, so effortless… There is definitely a reason why he is the principal flute of this renowned ensemble. 

Then Dudamel appeared. For a few seconds, I wondered if I was in a rock concert instead. This young conductor has nearly single handedly changed the perception of what classical music can be and every one loves him for it. 

First, the Mozart. It was instantly recognizable as a work of Wolfgang from it’s style and almost happy-go-lucky sound. Dudamel seemed to be barely doing anything, so as not to distract for the glorious work the orchestra was producing. The players seemed to me to work as one giant instrument – even from where I was standing, I could see that everyone moved together and even breathed together. The Posthorn soloist appeared only for one movement of the work, and did a great job at showcasing this unusual, and I am sure rather difficult, instrument. Overall, the entire work sounded like velvet to my ears. Smooth,comfortable, approachable. At the end, a great applause erupted – and it was only intermission!

The Mahler was absolutely glorious. Once again, Dudamel seemed to be doing as little as possible (which was a surprise, I expected him to be a bit more showy…) but was pulling amazing sound and emotion from the orchestra. It had been a long time since I had felt so moved and elevated by a live performance, but there was no way that anyone could not have felt something. Each movement was more wonderful than the last and the different sections all had a chance to be showcased throughout the work. 

Pahud sounded amazing (How I would love to play like him…) and his teamwork with the principal oboe player to make what we call the “floboe” sound was true perfection. Honestly, the whole orchestra was the sound of perfection. 

When the last sounds of Mahler faded away, the packed hall burst into cheers, whistles, applause, and shouts of “Bravo!” This lasted for at least 7-8 minutes. Dudamel had to appear three times (the last with the orchestra already off the stage) before people would subside and start making their way out of the hall. 
  
When a long-held dream of yours finally comes true, things can seem a little surreal. But it was true – I had seen the Berlin Philharmonic at their resident performance hall, with their principal flutist in the ensemble, performing amazing works, and being conducted by one of the greatest conductors of our time. Living legends with a ridiculous amount of star power – and I was there. 

I can actually say I was there…

What an amazing night!

Do you have a have an experience of encountering a living legend or another influential figure? I’d love to hear about it. 

Until next time – happy travels.

-Wandering Minstrelette

Deutsche Orchestervereinigung (German Orchestra Union)

Some may have been wondering what I’m doing in Berlin. Despite the pictures and stories so far, it’s not simply a pleasure trip of exploring the city and neighboring countries – surprise! I’m actually here to work.

I may have mentioned sometime back that I am studying Arts Management at George Mason University. Part of the program requirements are that I have to fulfill a certain amount of hours participating in internships. There are many ways that those hours can be accomplished, but with my love for travel and desire to one day move overseas, I decided to maximize on the requirements and complete my internship hours abroad. If you remember my blog posts from last summer, I was in Niterói/Rio de Janeiro, Brazil for an internship (check out some of those stories here and here). There were still some credits I needed to complete and thus was born the idea to come to Europe. And boy, is it a different world from the US.

You see, in Germany, culture and the arts is viewed as an inherent part of its citizens’ identities. Thus, there is a strong point of view that permeates the nations arts and culture policies – the government should be responsible for supporting and promoting that which makes Germany German. Therefore, the vast majority of arts and culture organizations gain their primary funding from government sources, but not the federal government.

As a result of the two World Wars, there is a fair amount of distrust in the national level of government. The authority and responsibility, then, to disperse funds to arts organizations belongs to the state and local governments. In fact, when breaking how much level of government contributes, one can see that arts organizations tend to receive the greatest amount of their contributed funds from the local level of government (numbers are roughly: local-45%, state-43%, and federal-12%). This is beneficial in many ways, and lower levels of government would be more aware of the needs of a particular region and would have better knowledge of what to support and how. However, it’s not uncommon for some of these funders to feel overwhelmed or like they could use the money elsewhere.

Enter the DOV.

The Deutsche Orchestervereinigung (roughly translating into the German Orchestra Union), is a labor union that advocates and lobbies for the rights of orchestras and their musicians around the country. They work primarily with publicly (government) funded opera and symphony orchestras, although they also work with publicly funded chamber ensemble and radio orchestras/choirs. They act as the voice of the people in orchestras to orchestra management and funding government agents.

DOV Logo

When government officials threaten to shut down or merge groups in an effort to save money, the lawyers of the DOV come to remind them of the great cultural value these groups have to the region and the nation. These efforts were started in earnest especially after a study showed a 33% decline of publicly funded opera, concert, and radio orchestras from 1992 to 2010. Groups either have to seek ways to gain private funding (as arts organizations do in the US) or close their doors. The DOV’s position is that this is not good stewardship of these important cultural heritage. Remember, in Germany culture should be supported by the government. They have won many cases over the past several years and have dramatically slowed the decline of publicly funded orchestras around the nation. They were even responsible for helping the orchestral landscape of Germany to be recognized by the national chapter of UNESCO as an intangible heritage site this past fall and hope to achieve international status in the near future.

View of the Bamberg Symphony Orchestra in the congress hall in Bamberg (Bavaria), Germany. Photo from http://www.germany.info.
View of the Bamberg Symphony Orchestra in the congress hall in Bamberg (Bavaria), Germany. Photo from http://www.germany.info.

The new major battle they are now facing, however, is the potential trade agreement between the US and the European Union know as the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP). Essentially, this pact would create the world’s largest free market sector between the world’s two greatest economic superpowers. ‘Barriers’ to imports and exports would be removed in order to increase commerce and standards of things such as health care, food, and energy use would most likely have to be leveled (meaning, they will end up being lowered rather than raised…).

This agreement could mean disaster for European cultures because, like Germany, the majority of EU member nation’s view culture as a government responsibility while the US is very much against that idea and chooses instead to have arts and culture funded by private donors and regulated by the free market. There is great fear that much of what is currently available to audiences would not be able to survive or be as easily accessible to the public if Germany had to put it’s arts sector on the open market.

Photo from http://www.wwf-jugend.de
Photo from http://www.wwf-jugend.de

Overall, TTIP doesn’t sound like a good idea for either party, no matter the side of the Atlantic. There’s a lot more to this idea and debate and I would encourage you to take some time to read about it and make your opinion known. Click here and here to learn more.

I’ve already learned so much from my time at the DOV about policy and international relations, as well as national support and promotion of the arts. I’m looking forward to what the weeks ahead have in store.

If you want to learn more about other things that the DOV is a part of or does, please check out their website which is mostly in German, but does have some English (part of my job is to expand on this).

So now you know – I’m not just here for fun. 🙂 I’ll be sure to write another update about the DOV or my wanderings soon.

Until then – bis später!

-Wandering Minstrelette

The Joy of Baptism

One of the things that I love about being part of the Seventh-day Adventist Church is that I can find believers around the world that share my thoughts and beliefs, and sometimes even challenge me and help me grow. I have been so blessed to be given the opportunity to stay with an family here in Berlin that I can go to church with and enjoy in a different and unique way, the fellowship that comes from worshiping together.

Today was particularly special because two individuals, a couple, had decided to give their lives to Christ and publicly announce their decision through baptism. Church members piled into cars and we drove from Berlin to Reichsburg, near where the couple lives, to have a Sabbath celebration of their decision.

Despite the cold and rain that we sat through during song service and the sermon, the joy in our hearts eventually was manifested in the sun shining brightly as we walked towards the lake, singing all the way. Three guitarists and an accordion player accompanied us, adding to the festive sounds of celebration and excitement for the new chapter these candidates would be starting in their lives. It seemed like the singing would never end and in all honesty, I don’t think any of us wanted it to. It was such a glorious event to be a part of.

At the LakeMusicians playing for the BaptismGathering to Pray for the Baptism

Wife getting baptizedHusband getting baptized

Starting a New Walk

The potluck that took place after also deepened our ties with one another, and allowed me the chance to interact for the first time with several members of the church that has become my family away from home. It is an international group – Kenyans, Koreans, Americans, Germans, English, and others. All I could think was how this must be a small portion of what heaven must look like. Everyone, of every race, creed, and tongue joining together singing the praises of God and fellowshipping with Christ and one another for eternity.

For those who are not aware, Seventh-day Adventist believe in baptism by immersion. This takes place once an individual is old enough and cognizant enough to be able to make a personal decision of having Christ as their Lord and Savior. The full immersion of the baptism signifies entering into the death that Christ died for us and consequently entering into a new life, as Christ did when He was resurrected and pardoned us from our sins.

Before the baptismal ceremony, candidates must go through Bible studies with a pastor to ensure that they understand what they are getting themselves into – because being a true Christian means you pay the highest cost: a life of living for Jesus and spreading His gospel. It may be a high cost, but it is also the best thing you could ever pay.

After completing the bible studies, candidates must also proclaim the baptismal vows on the day of their baptism. Some churches do this in private, between the pastor and the candidates alone, but I prefer it when it is done as it was today – publicly, in front of the church body. This is when the true presentation of faith takes place – verbalization of a belief can change one’s whole perspective and sometimes even that of someone else. It is a moment to be a witness in a way we seldom get the chance otherwise.

I am so glad to have been able to participate in today’s events; I was blessed and reminded of my own baptism in a river in the jungle of Belize and what that meant for me and my life. My prayers are with the candidates as they now start anew with new birthdays and fresh beginnings.

Please click here to enjoy our singing as we walked the candidates to the water.

If you are interested in learning more about what Seventh-day Adventists believe in baptism, please click here.

God bless, and until next time – safe travels.

-Wandering Minstrelette

Checkpoint Charlie

Berlin – for a year my mind has been imagining what it would be like to roam the streets of a city that, in its current state, is technically only as old as I am. Of course, there are centuries of history all throughout the city but it obvious that the events of the 20th century are the most vivid and discussed. A city once glorious, then divided by the very physical manifestation of the Cold War’s tense relations and separatism in the form of the Berlin Wall, is finally reunited in 1989 when the Wall was torn down and a flood of families spilled over to embrace one another after years of separation. It was something I had often heard in my history classes in secondary school – after all, World War II is kind of a favorite subject for Americans, both for the tragedies and the heroism. Now I have been to where before I had only heard and could imagine. My understanding grew and I received a much fuller, larger picture.

  
Checkpoint Charlie (Checkpoint “C”), in the American Sector, was the best known crossing point between East and West Berlin during the Cold War. Here, many East Berliners attempted to escape into the west, at least 100 died doing so. Families were separated, unable to have any form of contact for many years.The Wall was tragic and terrible, “fencing in” the East Berliners with little hope for a brighter future.

Diplomats, journalists, and non-German visitors were allowed to pass on a one-day visa and had to exchange currencies before entering. Just before I left Washington, DC for Berlin, I had a conversation with a fellow church member who is part of my mom’s craft ministry. She told me that she had gone through while the Wall stood, and that it was one of the scariest thing she had ever done in her life. The faces of those who lived in the Soviet Sector were pallid and ashen faced, much like their buildings. It was overwhelming and depressing, and she was glad to soon be able to return to the other side once again.

Yesterday I stood in front of Checkpoint Charlie.

  
There was no sign of where the Wall used to be, the division had clearly been mended (at least in the physical sense). Parts of the Wall had been kept as keepsakes and memorials, the graffiti that originally showed displeasure and hatred for the separation it caused were now hung up as art. Pieces of the wall were for sale in all of the souvenir shops (makes you wonder if they are all real…). Portraits of sullen-faced young soldiers, enlarged by several times, were place before the checkpoint – an American face when walking by from the East and a Soviet face when walking by from the West. The Haus am Checkpoint Charlie Museum stood in the corner by the original gate, filled with photographs, video, and most importantly, stories that told of what life was like for the people of Berlin, of both sides, when the Wall stood.

  
  
It took several years for East Berlin to recover from its time under Soviet rule. Even today, there is a rather obvious difference in the style of buildings when one “crosses the border.” However, the stark contrasts of decades past no longer exist – people easily cross from one side to the other. Flourishing business have been placed in both sides and the standards of living have slowly become more equal. This is the 25 year anniversary of the fall of the Berlin Wall and by all accounts, healing has taken place.

And yet, a part of me wonders… While I understand the importance of remembering history and the events of the past, especially in the hopes of preventing the awful ones from happening again, I feel compelled to ask if true healing can take place when all that is talked about and displayed is the hurt. Rather like a wound that you keep checking on by lifting the band aid – it will take longer to heal this way than if you had just left it alone. While the Wall is physically down, I have to wonder if it still somewhat exists in the minds of some residents. Of course, I cannot give an accurate opinion of the state of affairs or how things have changed and improved over the 25 years of my and the unified city’s life.

What I hope and pray for is that the wonderful people of this city truly do receive healing from all that they and their ancestors suffered. May the lessons learned from this experience be remembered by the world, but not so discussed that we forget the progress that has been made since.

I look forward to more adventures here in Berlin as I learn more about this amazing city with all its history and importance. I hope you will join me as I write about my adventures – and feel free to leave a comment! I’m here for the next month, so I’m sure we’ll be discovering many things together.

Bis später – Until next time!

-Wandering Minstrelette