Wednesday, June 18, 2008

More Bienenberg Buzz

I have been writing so much history lately that there hasn't been much news. This past weekend I stayed at Bienenberg rather than travel around. The reason is that interesting people came to Bienenberg. Alan Kreider, a professor at Associated Mennonite Biblical Seminary and former missionary in England, spoke on the end of Christendom, that time when church and state were united in Europe. He commended to us the early church's model of lengthy catechesis as a way to make our congregations distinctive from the culture around us. We met in the building above.
The participants were from Switzerland, Germany, and France. Alan would speak in English, someone would then translate into German, while someone else was translating into French on ear pieces. One time they reversed French and German, but so many of the people spoke German that usually the French needed to special headphones.
Whenever Alan wasn't speaking, someone would speak in German or French and then the other person would translate into the other language. It really wasn't that bad, except that I don't know German well enough to know what was going on. I could understand the directions about snacks and the Biblical passages, the important things.
I saw some people I knew, including the Mennonite pastor in Ingolstadt who came to the Lombard Mennonite Peace Center trainings for several years, at least one of them with me. I also met some people, like the former leaders of Christliche Dienst in Germany. They knew several former Forest Hills youth that I had worked with, including one who is getting married in Germany in a few weeks. And then I met her fiance who was one of the attendees! It was wild to make these connections.
I must admit that I often used English in this setting, because my German is so basic and the people at this gathering mostly knew English very well. It is essentially a modern Latin. I also enjoyed meeting Neal Blough, long-time Mennonite missionary in Paris.
Finally I met a woman who spoke great British English but turned out to be originally from East Germany. She knew some Russian, like one of our waiters here. She basically wants to become Amish. So we had a good conversation since I am trying to understand the Amish. I had noticed her head scarf but it really didn't connect at first. She wrote to Family Life asking if it is possible for someone from the outside to join but she received no reply. I told her I had heard of it but it was rare. I gave her some ideas for people to contact. I must say that in talking to her she gave answers that suggested she really could be Amish, as much as I know, at least. When I asked her about her children not be educated beyond the 8th grade she spoke about how education pulls you away from the community and so basic education is enough.
The fountain at the top of the blog is the first station in a peace path coming to reality here at Bienenberg. They see this as a way of telling the gospel with art. This sculpture is creation and was donated by the PAX boys, American volunteers who gave several years of service here. The speaker mentioned that many of them stayed with the Mennonite faith because of the influence of the PAX boys. They are taking each spot one at a time, looking for ideas and donations. Do you have any?

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