On March 11, 2017, I took part in a Healing of Memories Service at St. Michael’s Church in Hildesheim, Germany.
In my role as co chair of the National Council of Churches in Germany, I served as one of the liturgists. The main actors were representatives of the Roman Catholic Church in Germany and the Evangelical Church in Germany. We commemorated a painful history of division after the reformation through Martin Luther and others including a 30 year long period of religious wars between Protestants and Roman Catholics from 1618 to 1648.
Even people of my age are witnesses of separations. My girl friend and I were not allowed to go to the same Kindergarden. Her family was Roman Catholic, mine Protestant. Theological, cultural and structural differences became obstacles for the common witness of the Christian Church. In the service in Hildesheim they were symbolized by a Greek Cross constructed in the Benedictine Abbey Koenigsmuenster. At the beginning it laid as a barrier in the aisle before the altar.
We saw the sad reality: We have to overcome many roadblocks on the journey towards life. Very often we ourselves put them up because we think we have to guard the truth or we are lead by fears of “the other”. But there is Christ.
Through his death and resurrection he overcame all that divides us from the living God. During the service in Hildesheim a group of young people lifted up the roadblock and put up the cross as a symbol for reconciliation.
That was hard work with a strong message: Obstacles can become possibilities because of the one who died at the cross and was resurrected. If we trust in Christ and take risks to reach out to others, we will become ambassadors of hope. Our learnings in ecumenism lead us in the peace building work with people of other faith and atheists as well as in concrete acts of mercy in our neighborhoods.
Meanwhile, a small version of the Greek Cross is on my desk. It reminds me of the journey of reconciliation on which Christ is calling us to go.