As I stood on the platform at Berlin’s main station, waiting for my train to Lutherstadt-Wittenberg. It suddenly dawned on me that I was going on a pilgrimage of my own. Pilgrimages are almost always very personal, and reflect your relationship with God at that time. No one pilgrimage is the same, even to the same place, such as Lourdes or Mecca. That’s what it is feeling like for me. Many people will visit Wittenburg year-on-year, mainly for the purpose of visiting the most significant places in Martin Luther’s life. But what people get out of it will be quite different, and quite unique. The Lutheran Church, worldwide, takes its roots more directly from the work of Luther (maybe the clue’s in the name?), whereas the URC and its predecessors owe a lot to John Calvin and others for our roots. Luther’s life and work has had an immeasurable impact on the faith we celebrate today as the United Reformed Church, but also of (dare I say it) every body of Christians around the world, so I felt privileged to be visiting the place where it all started.
When I first booked to go to Berlin, I was sure I was just going to stay around the city, which has more than enough in it to visit and keep me entertained. But I felt something nudging me to go to Wittenburg, a sense of calling.
Wittenburg was a beautiful place. So quaint, old style shops and cobbled streets. 500 trees had been planted around the town, each sponsored by a denomination or similar organisation from across the globe, to commemorate the 500 years since the Reformation began in that very town.
Setting foot in All Saints’ Church, where Luther was believed to have nailed the 95 theses to the door was, for me, a monumental moment. It felt right, it was very moving. I prayed there for nearly an hour, it was very special.
Other bonuses of this trip for sure was travelling on a double decker train, eating currywurst and drinking gluhwein!
So many thoughts ran through my head during my time in Wittenburg. The crucial one for me was the inspiring message of Luther’s ability and courage to stand up for what he believed in, and to challenge the status quo.
Whilst this was a trip I took on my own accord, it felt like a fitting end to my year as Moderator where, I feel, I’ve been trying to challenge the status quo too! It was a truly inspiring to end a truly inspiring year.