The whole world in one room

Participants of the 19th International Seminar for pastors during an excursion in Wittenberg, Germany. Photo: LWF/A. Weyermüller
Participants of the 19th International Seminar for pastors during an excursion in Wittenberg, Germany. Photo: LWF/A. Weyermüller

Retrospect from participants of the 19th International Theological Seminar in Wittenberg

(LWI) – Irrespective of their home countries, the participants of the 19th International theological seminar at the LWF Center Wittenberg in Germany agreed that this was an enriching and valuable experience combining the Lutheran communion of churches, theological study and excursions to historical sites.

“To meet and talk about our churches and congregations, about faith, love and Martin Luther has created a strong fellowship amongst us in a short time – it’s amazing and I feel blessed!” said Susanne Öhlén, participant from the Church of Sweden. Bishop Kenneth Sibanda from the Evangelical Lutheran Church in Zimbabwe added: “Studying together and sharing various experiences encouraged me. I got to understand the work of Christ as it is done by sisters and brothers all over the world.” 20 pastors from member churches of the Lutheran World Federation (LWF) in 17 countries had gathered for the seminar.

Studying together and sharing various experiences encouraged me.
Bishop Kenneth Sibanda, Evangelical Lutheran Church in Zimbabwe

Taking time to study Luther’s writings with a focus on social and ethical aspects of his theology proved to be an enlightening exercise. Asked about what left the deepest impression on her, Triin Käpp from the Estonian Evangelical Lutheran Church said that “it was important to contextualize – to the historical medieval time but also to our time and to our various contexts that we came from. The biggest discovery for me was the understanding of fear – an important figure both in medieval times and today – and power – those who are in power need to speak up for those who lack a voice.”

What struck Jürgen Grauling from the Union of Protestant Churches of Alsace and Lorraine most was how well topical issues related to Luther’s theology on the freedom of a Christian and his understanding of the priesthood of all believers. Lise Palstöm from Evangelical Lutheran Church in Denmark put it this way: “It was surprisingly meaningful to read and especially discuss the writings of Martin Luther – it was as if the 500 years shrunk, because we are dealing with similar topics and problems in our time, in our countries.”

Rebecca Sheridan who came from the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America pointed out another aspect of the two-week seminar: “I have always wanted to visit some of the historic Luther sites, so for me this was a sort of ‘pilgrimage’ that I could read Luther’s writings and visit the same places where he was teaching, preaching, and writing. At the same time, our excursions included listening to the stories of Germans who lived in the German Democratic Republic and what it was like for them to experience a radical change in the reunification of Germany, thanks in no small part to the Peaceful Revolution starting with Lutherans praying for peace in Leipzig. That expanded the importance of the Lutheran voice in the world, for me, to hear these personal stories.”

Wittenberg as the location for the seminar had provided new insights also for Annette Kalettka from the Evangelical Lutheran Church of Saxony who serves in a parish approximately 200 kilometers away. “Visiting Wittenberg made it possible to understand the time of Luther more wholistic,” she said. “Although I have been to Wittenberg before, I discovered and learned many new things. It may sound strange, but I felt like being in another country, not my own. This – I think – is partly due to the perspectives of the other participants. They brought in their admiration for the old history and the beginning of the Lutheran church.”


The 19th International Seminar for pastors took place at the LWF Center in Wittenberg, Germany, from 2 to 16 March. The theme of the seminar was “The Ethical und Social elements of Martin Luther´s Theology” and it was led by Prof. Dr Ľubomír Batka (Slovakia) and Dr. Hoyce Jacob Lyimo-Mbowe (Tanzania). 20 pastors from member churches of the Lutheran World Federation (LWF) in 17 countries participated.

 

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