Saturday 27 May 2017

Meeting Merkel & Preparing for Preaching with Precision

Archbishop Thabo continues his blog from Berlin, where he and his wife, Lungi, are attending the "Kirchentag" See photos at the end of his post. 

Day 3

I had a fast-paced day, which was scheduled to begin with a meeting with Bread for the World | Brot für die Welt. But it did not happen because the person we were to meet was ill. So I used the time to walk around an exhibition hall, where church and other NGO and government networks were marketing themselves in an impressively coherent manner, with beautiful and informative stands.

Then we took a 90-minute drive to the tiny city of Lutherstadt Wittenberg through beautiful countryside, where all was green and fields stretched to the horizon. We arrived to be met by the imposing tower of the church associated with Luther, then crossed over the gentle River Elbe to the venue for Sunday's great outdoor festive service. There we saw the huge venue planned for the tens of thousands who are expected to come, and pictured it filled with the crowds tomorrow.

A huge makeshift outdoor amphitheatre has been pitched there for the service. The orchestra was rehearsing and welcomed me warmly, then I rehearsed the sermon as if preaching. My homily was five minutes too long so I had to cut it down to 10 minutes! The precision with which they are planning the service is mind-boggling. I met the main director and other leaders of the big operation. It was a great experience and the arrangements are out of this world.

Then we travelled back to Berlin, where we rested for a few minutes in an exhibition centre lounge before I appeared as a panellist at a discussion on religion and development organised by the German Ministry of Social Development's International Partnership on Religion and Sustainable Development (PaRD). After being transported back to the hotel through the high security arranged for President Barack Obama's visit the previous day, I immediately changed and joined a reception for international guests hosted by Bread for the World and Kirchentag. It felt like home, I met a lot of South Africans, friends from elsewhere in Africa and people from the ecumenical community, including the Archbishop of Sweden, Antje Jackelén, who was in Cape Town last weekend.

Then into a taxi and headed to the hotel for the last interview of the day at 20h00. I am not going to the gym this week but the programme makes me feel as if I don’t need to as I am always running.

Day 4

A quieter day, with one meeting as I still myself before preaching tomorrow.

The sermon is now 9.5 minutes and has been sent to the TV presenters and translators. I have no words to describe a church festival so well attended, relevant to old and young and the popular mood very positive. Some attendees can be seen jostling in the sun, on the grass and just enjoying the spirit. Perhaps for South Africans, the nearest comparison is the ZCC's great Easter gathering at Zion City, Moria, or perhaps what Angus Buchan organised recently in the Free State. But they seem a fraction of the sophistication I am observing here.

On a personal note, it being summer here, the pollen from the trees is flying like snowflakes so I am battling with my chest and sinusitis is affecting  my voice. I am nursing my voice for Sunday so that I am not “invincible in the week and inaudible on Sunday” as the joke goes about some clergy.

Today I bumped into Bishop Ebenezer Ntali after breakfast. I had only one meeting, with Dr Wolfgang Schäuble, Germany's Minister of Finance and the current Chair of the G20 nations. Now I am retreating from the crowds to rest and recoup before my sermon tomorrow. I will go for a swim later.

With Chancellor Angela Merkel and Bishop Bedford-Strohm

With Bernhard Felmberg of Eine Welt.

Planning for Sunday.

Rehearsing my sermon in front of empty seats - 9.5 minutes!

With Dr Wolfgang Schäuble and Renier Koegelenberg.

With Volker Faigle and Ambassador Stone Sizani

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