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Monday, 6 May 2013

Kirchentag 2013

Archdeacon Jonathan LLoyd with St Thomas Becket Volunteer at Kirchentag
The 34th Protestant Kirchentag was held in Hamburg from 1 to 5 May. There is no other event quite like it in the Christian world. It is an immense gathering of people of all ages and walks of life. There are addresses from global leaders, dozens of acts of worship each day according to many traditions, from Caribbean beat to Iona contemplative, cultural events, workshops, musical performances (brass bands are everywhere!), and a marketplace for churches, groups, movements and agencies to set out their wares. The  CAECG, the Council of Anglican/Episcopal Churches in Germany, were among the stalls at the marketplace.

Angela Merkel and Helen Clark
The theme for this Kirchentag was "As much as you need” taken from Exodus 16.18, which gave opportunity for focussed reflection on issues of sustainability of the planet and to examine critically systems which promote wealth, greed and excess. I attended one of the keynote events on this theme which was a brilliant dialogue session between German Chancellor Angela Merkel and Helen Clark, the former New Zealand Prime Minister, now the Administrator of the UN Development Programme. The two spoke passionately about issues in international development touching upon climate change, gender equality and the  sensitive political matter of balancing economic advancement for emerging nations such as China and India while encouraging responsibility for CO2 emissions.

I also attended an interesting panel discussion with the Revd Dr Olav Fyske Tveit, the General Secretary of the World Council of Churches and Archbishop Robert Zollitsch of Freiburg (who is also the President of the German Roman Catholic Bishops' Conference). The theme was Pope Francis and what he might bring to ecumenical life. Both the WCC leader and the Roman Catholic Archbishop were very optimistic about the ecumenical leadership of the Pope, particularly in a call for Christians to lead a more simple life, demonstrated in his own ministry to date. The hall was filled with 2000 mostly German Protestants, and they had some pointed questions for Archbishop Zollitsch, about the role of women and the future of ecumenical cooperation in Germany. The Archbishop was very candid in his responses. He said he was personally in favour of the ordination of women to the diaconate and was actively promoting a study of this issue. He also said, to the delight of the audience, that he recognised the German Protestant Church (EKD) as a church!

Over 130,000 people registered to be part of Kirchentag, with about 4,000 international visitors, bringing an atmosphere of celebration and Christian joy throughout the city. The Archdeacon of Germany and Northern Europe entered fully into that spirit!

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