Peter Townley: Forty years in the wilderness in East Germany

Although later perceived as a “church in socialism”, it was a Church in opposition which understood itself as a fellowship of the Crucified, thus echoing Bonhoeffer’s words in The Cost of Discipleship: “Every call of Christ leads to death.” A key text for them was Bonhoeffer’s influential book Life Together, first published in 1939 and greatly influenced by his time at the Anglican Community of the Resurrection at Mirfield in West Yorkshire.

What the Church achieved in East Germany before 1989 cannot be underestimated. Great sacrifices had to be made. There was no room for cheap grace; it was sacrifice lived as well as believed in. It was their network of contacts, which enabled them as a minority church to survive against a background of discrimination that was not always subtle. The University Church in Leipzig, for instance, had been pulled down by the communists and a bust of Karl Marx placed where the altar was.

However, during the 40 years of the German Democratic Republic the churches provided the forum where people could speak freely and democracy be exercised. Their strong pacifist emphasis was particularly inspired by the vision of Isaiah of turning swords into ploughshares and spears into pruning hooks.

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Posted in * Christian Life / Church Life, * International News & Commentary, * Religion News & Commentary, --Eastern Europe, Church History, Europe, Germany, Other Churches