Burghardt visits Polish church to see Assembly preparations
LWF leader returns from 3-day trip to Warsaw and Krakow feeling “encouraged and inspired” by planning for 2023
(LWI) - The Lutheran World Federation (LWF) General Secretary Rev. Anne Burghardt has just returned from a visit to the Polish cities of Warsaw and Krakow to see first-hand how preparations are progressing for the next Assembly in 2023 and to meet with the Evangelical Church of the Augsburg Confession in Poland (ECACP) which is hosting the event. Though the 13 to 19 September Assembly may still be more than 18 months away, she says there is a “widespread sense of excitement” as church leaders plan to welcome delegates from all parts of the global Lutheran communion.
Accompanied by LWF’s Regional Secretary for Europe, Rev. Dr Ireneusz Lukas, Burghardt travelled first to the capital city for a visit to the headquarters of the Polish church. At the Lutheran Center, built in the 1960s with support from the LWF, she met with Presiding Bishop Jerzy Samiec and members of the Consistory Office, together with students from the Christian Theological Academy in Warsaw.
LWF General Secretary Rev. Anne Burghardt with students from the Christian Theological Academy in Warsaw. Photo: Michal Karski
On this first visit to a member church since assuming her office on 1 November, Burghardt discussed ways of making the work of the Communion Office more visible in the Central and East European region, as well as strengthening relationships among members of the global LWF family. In conversations with young theology students, she heard about their academic and pastoral preparation for ministry, including a request for more online educational encounters like the highly valued seminars organized by the LWF Center in Wittenberg, Germany.
The LWF leader also visited the landmark Holy Trinity Church in Warsaw, famed for its strong musical tradition, and met with members of the local congregation and choir. Originally one of the tallest buildings in the city, the Neoclassical church with its giant dome was inaugurated in December 1781 but was bombed and burnt down at the beginning of the Second World War. Post-war reconstruction was completed in the 1950s, but it has recently undergone further renovation work.
LWF General Secretary Rev. Anne Burghardt inside Warsaw’s Holy Trinity Church with Presiding Bishop Jerzy Samiec and Rev. Piotr Gaś. Photo: Michal Karski
In a meeting with staff of the ECACP Diakonia office in Warsaw, Burghardt heard about the work of local congregations to support some 2,500 migrants who are stranded on the Polish-Belarussian border. The migrants include women and children who are trying to enter the European Union and are sleeping outside in temperatures scheduled to stay below freezing over the coming weeks. “I was really impressed to see how the Diakonia team has been collecting parcels of emergency food and clothing, then driving them to the border for distribution among these most vulnerable people and others held in registration centers,” Burghardt said.
On the second leg of her trip, the LWF leader travelled to the southern city of Krakow where the Assembly will take place. She visited the main venues, including the modern ICE conference center and the ancient Wawel Castle where the opening worship service is due to take place outdoors in the main courtyard. The oldest parts of the hilltop complex and cathedral, where Polish kings were crowned and buried, date back to the 10th century and are seen as a vital part of the country’s national identity.
LWF General Secretary Rev. Anne Burghardt with members of the Local Assembly Planning Committee in Krakow’s ICE conference center. Photo: A. Godfrejów Tarnogórska
In Krakow, Burghardt met with members of the Local Assembly Planning Committee (LAPC) and with a representative of the Lutheran congregation, which together with other congregations, will be involved in the organization of Sunday worship for Assembly participants. Plans are underway for delegates to travel across the southern borders into neighboring Slovakia and the Czech Republic for worship with local congregations there too. She heard about the strong ecumenical outreach of the parish, both at leadership and grassroots level, as children from different churches come together to prepare Christmas gifts for struggling migrant families from Romania, Belarus and Ukraine.
The LWF General Secretary learned how church leaders in the different dioceses are preparing their congregations for the Assembly and its theme of ‘One Body, One Spirit, One Hope’. “I was very interested to hear how bishops will be using the next three years leading up to the Assembly and beyond to focus on the way the Spirit can be a source of unity, of reconciliation and hope in their own context,” Burghardt said.
LWF General Secretary Rev. Anne Burghardt with Presiding Bishop Jerzy Samiec of the Evangelical Church of the Augsburg Confession in Poland. Photo: Michal Karski
Burghard said she returned from her 13 to 15 December visit feeling “encouraged and inspired” by her encounters with the women and men who will be at the center of the Assembly preparations over the coming months. She praised the recent decision of the church in Poland to ordain women as pastors, noting that discussions are pending for the first ordination services expected to take place next year.
While there are many logistical and practical questions for members of the planning teams to face over the next year and a half, Burghardt said she came away confident that the church in Poland will rise to the challenges ahead. “I could see clearly how committed each person is to providing the best possible experience for Assembly participants, she said. “They are excited about the opportunities that the Assembly will offer to show how their church is able to witness in its minority context and work together with others to share the gospel with all Polish people,” she concluded.
The Assembly is LWF’s highest decision-making body, consisting of representatives from the communion’s member churches. It meets every six years to give general direction to LWF’s work, elect the President and the Council members, act on the reports of the President, General Secretary and Chairperson of the Finance Committee, and on matters related to the LWF Constitution.