it’s 5.28PM, Nov 7 … the sky is already dark and I’m supposed to be off for a women’s meeting (with supper!) leaving at 6:10PM. But I thought I’d quickly put a post before I go.
The focus would be on the weekend ministry I had at Nuremberg with a Pastor, his family and the congregation he’s part of.
I was picked up on Saturday by Rev. Gerhad Helmreich (Helmreich means Rich Helmet apparently) and a lay leader for Missions work Ursala and we had a evening drive back to his home at the suburbs of Nuremberg.
Elizabeth (Pastor Helmreich’s wife) welcomed us at the door and I was later also introduced to my translator for the Sunday service and meeting – David Helmreich (a good looking 28year old English/Geography major who will be a teacher after he finishes university).
After dinner which was noodles … we went to prepare for the LCD projector (they call it “beamer” here) and I was surprised to see a more “modern looking” church as compared to what I’ve seen in Germany thus far. This church was built in this century (which was a change *smile*). I was interested to get to know Robert who joined us later for the evening. He and Pastor Helmreich are planning to start a group for young adults (which is a missing group in the church). Most of the church attenders are senior citizens, and perhaps those more middle aged with their teenage children (who in this culture would be confirmation candidates). So, it was refreshing to hear about this effort to “reach new people” (esp. unchurched people – who might be nominal Christians).
So, it was nice to give a more “private” viewing of some video clips to Robert and the Helmreich family, and had some good conversations. Pastor Helmreich with his smile was always affirming and encouraging. Based on our conversations and input from Robert. I get the impression that Germany is “hard” ground when it comes to living Christian faith. My mind couldn’t help but think of what Lesslie Newbigin who prophetically highlighted when he returned from India to UK how hard it is to communicate the Gospel in more “post-Christian” Europe. It’s heartening for me to feel it more as I get in touch with people serious about sharing and living the Christian faith in Germany for example.
[Evening Worship at Nuremberg Video]
The evening ended with a beautiful (unexpected) time of worship with Rev. Helmreich leading us to sing “Father, I adore you”. I REALLY valued this because it closed our evening with a sense of the sacred and a moment of peaceful prayer. The weather may have been cold outside, but I was delighted to be in a household of warm faith.
The next morning I slipped into the white robes and put on the green stole (provided by the Missionswerk) and stepped into the service at Nikodemuskirche Nürnberg ready to share a message entitled “Love your neighbor, Love your enemies” based on Matthew 5:38-48. I realized the service wasn’t following strictly the normal Lutheran liturgy (which was another unexpected surprise). And I felt the general atmosphere to be open especially as I shared (with David translating excellently – that’s what his mother said!). I later gave them a short appetizer for the meeting after the service where I shared our BLC story and lessons I’ve learnt living and serving as Christian (and a pastor) in Malaysia.
I was surprised a third time to see many people stay back (for German standards it’s quite good to have 20-30people stay on after service). We had a great time especially during some Q & A sessions where they asked about life in Malaysia, reaching younger people, relations with people of other faiths, etc. So, I felt the weekend went very well … and some of my fears about whether I could relate were dispelled.
For me personally, the time with the Helmreich family and people like Ursala and Robert were precious. It’s like the Spirit is blowing life into the German church through people like them. And I just wanted to encourage them to persevere and not give up in spite of the challenges from all areas whether it’s church institutional structures or the already secular and increasingly post-Christian or irreligious climate of German culture. This hope is not based on anything else but the promise of Jesus to be with us and the empowering presence of the Holy Spirit.
A special time I had was with David, and interaction with him gave me insights into what young people like him are looking for in the Christian faith and the Church as a whole. While it’s hard for younger people to relate to the church, it doesn’t mean they are not interested in genuine faith and spirituality. David has been to Taize for example. The question remains for the church in Germany how will they face such challenges. And I think it’s important for the worldwide Christians to continue supporting them in whatever way possible. There’s more I’d like to say but it’s 6:08PM and I’m off to another meeting …