We woke up earlier today because it was Sunday. We had an identical breakfast to yesterdays, and then headed off to church. It was a new building, but very nice.
Prior to the service there was a service of confession and absolution. Then, we celebrated the divine service. This of course, was in German, and my Lutheran pride loved it and swelled up a bit. I felt more Lutheran than usual, hearing the service in the mother tongue. Cool thing is, even though I didn’t understand everything, I understood large parts because the rhythm and pattern of liturgy is the same no matter what language. Here, they do not shorten hymns as many US Lutherans do. Here, they don’t skimp out on the number of hymns. Here, there is no Marty Haugen. Here, the propers are not just spoken. Here, the children’s choir does not sing in unison, and they do not sing sing songy childrens music. Here there are no “Twinkie Tunes with Ding Dong Theology” to quote the great Dr. Carl Schalk. Here, the pews are not empty. Here the pews are not padded with sound sucking material. (They are solid wood). Here, the bell doesn’t ring for just a few seconds before church starts. Here, people don’t show up dressed the way they look during the week. Here, there were no thick packets called bulletins. No way. This was high church and today we did Liturgy the way Liturgy was meant to be done. We sang a total of 10 hymns, some with 11 verses (and yes, we sang all 11). The pastor chanted EVERYTHING. The hymns all were from the 1500-1700s and were all sturdy and sing-able. The people were all dressed in their Sunday best. The people fully participated and truly were reverent and it was obvious they take their faith very seriously. The childrens choir sang sturdy chorals in parts, and unaccompanied. The cross, Word, and Elements were all brought in during the procession while we sang an entrance hymn. Here, communion was without a doubt the high point of the service. There was no rushing to get out in an hour, and no corners were cut. Even though the church building was new, only about 30 years old, they invested in a real organ. No speakers. No electro pneumatic junk here. And of course, the pedal board was perfectly straight, because here in Germany, there is no such thing as AGO. THANK GOD FOR THAT. Here, they know how do to do things right. They know how to do things well. As I sat on that hard pew listening to the service and taking in the sights and sounds and smells and tastes and feelings (total sensory… love it!!) the liturgical nerd in me was just in pure blissful happiness. Why can’t more American Lutheran churches get it right? For serious. Drives me nuts. The service here was amazing. Spectacular. Unforgettable. Worshipful. Mountain top experience. I have never felt so connected to my heritage as I did experiencing this service. Experiencing a Lutheran service is something I did not get to do the last time I was here. I am pretty sure I was on cloud 9 million. It couldn’t have gotten any better unless good old Marty himself would have been sitting next to me. OK, OK, OK, OK. I will make a confession. Being the Liturgical nut that I am, I did notice a thing or two about this service that were not so great. But then, I suppose even though Germany FEELS like heaven, it is NOT heaven, and there is NO perfect Liturgy in any church on Earth. To have the ultimate perfect liturgy, I’d have to die and go to heaven. No church on earth run by sinful humans could ever do everything right. The Liturgical mishap/error/unfortunate choice at this service took place immediately after the communion hymn. It was at this point that the organist burst out in an organ improvisation on the communion hymn. Why is this bad, you ask? Was it not common for even Bach to improvise on hymns? Of course. But in this unfortunate circumstance, the organist took this wonderful cantus firums and turned into a jazz circus. Seriously. I’m not kidding. He took this hymn and played it jazz style, overkilled the poor I-IV-V7-I chord progression, and made it sound a little like circus music. I’m certain both Bach and Luther would be rolling in their graves. This was a young organist and maybe he just was getting ansty or maybe he forgot to bring along his Orgelbuchlein this morning. I’m not sure. In any case, Heidi and I sat there red faced from trying to contain our laughter. We didn’t dare look at each other. I suppose looking back there could have been far worse things, and it wasn’t necessarily bad or sinful, but it was just very out of context for this service. After the service, I talked to the pastor who introduced me to the organist and then I got to play the organ. I was soooooo happy. True, this was not a historical organ, but none the less, Germans just don’t build bad organs. They build them REAL with tracker action and straight pedal boards.
The keys felt like velvet under my fingers. I could actually feel what I was doing and had a ton of control over the sound. It was a little organ (pedal with 3 stops and 2 manuals, each with 5 stops plus coupler, tremulant, and pedal pulldown) but so much fun to play. In fact, the pastor had to come drag me out of there 30 minutes later when the congregation was ready to eat the meal and I was still playing away with a goofy smile plastered on my face. After the meal, we got a quick picture with Rose Marie, our host, since there was someone there to take our picture.
Then, we went home to change, then took the train and went to a museum. This museum contained lots of exhibits on ancient Babylonia, Egypt, Greece, and Rome. It was pretty sweet. After this, you guessed it… it was time for gelato. YES, this was Sunday, a day of rest. But I don’t think the good Lord meant it as a rest from Gelato. It was delicious, and I got very happy. Maybe a little too happy. I think Heidi was embrassed to be seen with me. Just see for yourself how happy gelato makes me...
We people watched while we ate the stuff, then walked around an open air market, walked along the river, then found a café with internet access where I could update the blog over a deliciously bubbly apfelschorle.
Other than the Liturgy, there are other things in Germany that Americans could take a lesson from. For one, this is a very dog friendly place .More so even than the yuppy puppy trendy places in the US. Dogs are allowed on the busses, trains, in stores, and even in the restaurants. That being said, I will also have to make the disclaimer that in general, German dogs are much better behaved than American dogs are. And I can’t forget the concept of carbonated water. Why don’t we do this in America? It’s genius. On the trains, we have been frequently entertained by classically trained musicians who go from car to car singing or playing. It is a far more pleasant experience than being on an American train next to some teenager with headphones so loud you could hear the music all the way from China. It goes with out saying my thoughts about ice cream. Americans just can’t make good gelato. Also… you may recall the bike lane incident from last year? One would think I would remember this. But alas, I once again was walking in the bike lane this year. I am somehow subconsciously attracted to it, I think. I am happy to report and I am still alive and well despite this. If America adopted such a practice of bike lanes, I wouldn’t be so out of practice when I came to Germany to visit, and America would be a greener place .
While the majority of things done in Europe could be a great lesson and model for America to strive towards, some practices are probably best left in Germany. One example would be the Ukrainian woman at church who enjoyed her pizza covered with chocolate chip yogurt. Another example is the high smoking rate. Also, the next time you find yourself walking into a McDonalds or gas station to use the bathroom, count your blessings. Here in Germany, bathrooms are VERY hard to come by and when you are so fortunate as to find one, you have to have pay. It's the pay-per-flush system here. I don’t particularly enjoy flushing my souvenir money down the drain just because nature calls.
I’m telling you, Germany is an experience. And even for the bad things, it’s just all part of the experience. I’m pretty happy about being here. And I’m already thinking about where in Germany I will go next summer.