Tuesday, July 22, 2008


So on Sunday we rode through the German countryside until we came to Worms, pronounced verms. This is the place where the new reformer Martin Luther was called to defend his ideas about the church and the faith. He was condemned at this Diet of Worms, but he was able to find several rulers who were willing to defy the Holy Roman Emperor and defend him. According to tradition he said, "Here I stand, I can do no other." So at Worms we visited the Martin Luther monument that included several forerunners of the Reformation such as John Hus and Peter Waldo, two of the rulers who defended Luther, and several other statues.
Worms is still the home of an impressive cathedral, which is where Luther appeared. To me it appears to still be Roman Catholic. Northern Germany is mostly Protestant and Bavaria in southern Germany is solidly Roman Catholic. As I mentioned several rulers defended Luther against Emperor Charles V. In the Peace of Augsburg (1555) they enunciated the principle cuius regio, eius religio, "whose region, his religion." The ruled would follow the religion of the local prince or ruler. And so in this area of Germany it was a patchwork of Catholic and Lutheran rulers, not monolithic one or the other like in other regions. Not until after the Thirty Years War, a century later (1648), which paved the way for Mennonites to come to this region, did Calvinists become included in this pact between Catholics and Lutherans. And of course Anabaptists never were officially included, though they might be grudgingly tolerated here or there. Not until after the Napoleonic wars of the early 1800s were Mennonites and Amish granted freedom of religion along with all people. But of course Napoleon made an exception when it came to conscientious objection to war. That was just too dangerous.
Two things impressed me about the Worms Cathedral. The first is that the Joseph chapel included Joseph holding the baby Jesus, something I have not seen often. Usually it is Mary holding Jesus. The second is that there was a large sculpture depicting the resurrection of Jesus. Again, most churches focus on the cross, not the resurrection. While both are important, I think the resurrection needs more emphasis, as long as it is in the right way.
Worms also had dragons all over the place. There were these more modern ones that Jacob is beside, but it is clear that dragons were a symbol of the city long before, in various old fountains and other places. We also found our first Subway in Europe at Worms. Here I mean Subway the restaurant, the boys favorite restaurant. So we ate there.
Worms is where we returned to the Rhine River after our day's absence. We biked about 10 km up to Ibersheim, where we stayed at a beautiful bed and breakfast on Menno-Simons-Strasse. As you might guess, they turned out to be a Mennonite family. The farmhouse was in the middle of the village. But the Ellenbergers explained to me that that is how it is done in that area. The farmers have their farms in town and then their fields are spread out in the area around the town. So they own and work fields here and there outside of town.
The home was large and gorgeous. The Mennonites there have been prosperous. The hospitality was very warm. When Noah came down for breakfast in the morning, Isaiah welcomed him with the words "Welcome to breakfast paradise." There was bread, cheese, meat, eggs, yoghurt, fruit, and good things to drink. It was beautifully arranged.
The night before Traude, the wife, took us to the local Mennonite church, pictured above. The local Protestants, known as Evangelicals in German, also worship there, with each congregation taking turns, a Mennonite service one Sunday and then Evangelical the next.
Of interest in this church was that on each of two walls were memorials to the soldiers who died in the two world wars. The sign for World War I used lofty language of dying for the Fatherland and quoted the verse, "No one has greater love than this, that he lay down his life for his friends." The sign first listed the Mennonites who died and then the Evangelicals who died. The sign for World War II was plainer. It simply acknowledged who died in the war and didn't interpret what their deaths meant. Again it began with the Mennonites and ended with the Evangelicals. I of course asked Traude about the memorials and she said that there is sometimes discussion about whether they are appropriate, because of Mennonite peace convictions.
The Ellenbergers said we were the first American Mennonites to stay there. I hope we are not the last. It is a great place to stay. They do not appear to speak English. All of our conversation was in German, although Werner said a few things in English. Their daughter lived in the US for a little while and they stayed in Lancaster County. Much like our experience at Weierhof, they hosted us graciously and freely, saying that they wanted to return the hospitality that they had experienced in America.
On Monday we left early because our train for Paris left at about 12:30 and we had 40 km to go. We were a little nervous but made it in good time.

No comments: