After attending a 10-day ecumenical gathering in early June, Eszter Feke reflects on her time in Germany. The European ecumenical study course has been taking place in a small town near Munich for the last 50 years, gathering religious professionals for discussions and community building. This years focus was arts and faith.
“It is the right train, isn’t it?”
“I have no idea. I can’t find Fischausen-Neuhaus on the list.”
“But the direction is right?”
“It is the right train, but not the right car. We have to go to the front in the next station so we’re going in the right direction.”
Finally we arrive at Josefstal. We have 10 minutes to have supper and I feel that we are in Germany. I can’t play with time during these 10 days. I have to surround myself with punctual people so that I won’t be late…
But why are we here now? Josefstal is a small town near Munich. There is a European ecumenical study course that has been taking place every summer for 50 years in the study center of the ELKB. This year the focus was on arts and faith.
Every day we looked at new perspectives. There were lectures about the theology of icons and about the reformed perspective. We went also to an arch-shaped reformed church. Instead of pictures, the whole building is a collection of symbols with amazing artwork on the front above the doorframe. We also visited a catholic church full of pictures and sculptures. It is interesting that both have a message which speaks to people – some understand this while others understand that. We also talked about how to make a Christian broadcast with an officer of radio broadcasting and television of the ELKB: is it required to speak directly about Jesus? We talked about the provocation of arts, whether it is useful, necessary or useless. On Saturday we had an off-topic day and thought about refugees.
Art, faith, everyday-life, identity, culture, diversity, unity…Time stops and it is an endless conversation for 10 days.
We could experience the beauty of the diversity during this ecumenical gathering. We were there from different cultures and different churches, but we could sing in the choir together and practice some songs for the Sunday sermon. It’s always amazing to me. This whole course is like a choir: we sing in different tones a different melody about the same and the fugue is composed. As long as we have a good sense of humor and some good Bayern beer, we don’t need anything else for some memorable evenings.
“Eszter, we haven’t talked about literature for a day.”
“Oh, right. Let’s turn back to it.”
And we talk about literature for a while. Then other topics, jokes, and songs come. We don’t only have spontaneous discussions; we have organized ones as well. We had three so called Forum Europe evenings when we had an opportunity to present our church and congregation. Then we could ask questions and learn from the faith of each.
One amazing supper is at the Culinary Forum Europe. We were told to bring a culinary specialty from our country. We started to set our national table and I looked around: foods which I have never seen before, sweets, cheeses. I will start with some cheese…
“Is it a Tokaji wine? Can I try it?”
“Of course, I will not bring it back.”
“Right, you won’t.”
First I think I have to try every kind of food – it is mission impossible – but it is somehow impressive. We all have something to be proud of and I cannot choose only some because everything is unique. The night is long…
This is also a kind of art: to be in unity and at the same time also be a diverse community – to reserve our identity and also share it with others.
It’s the last day. We prepare for the last sermon. We collect the icons which we got in the first day from Sister Marina who’d written one all to us. As people enter, they place their icons down in front and at the end, with a blessing, the icons are given back to everyone so that they make take their blessing with them. “Take this icon as a window to God.”
This icon is on my table now and when I look at it, a prayer comes to my mind for those with whom I am connected. I have never been able to interpret icons, I don’t know these symbols, but now I think I’m getting closer, for we are all icons to each other. In this world, we are the reflections of God’s love and the creativity of His creation.
Article by Eszter Feke