03 August 2007

Friday Five: Post-pilgrimage edition

reverendmother from RevGalBlogPals has the Friday Five this week:
Hello friends, I am just back from a lovely time of pilgrimage in the isle of Iona, "cradle of Scottish Christianity." It has provided much food for thought, to say the least, and so, to keep the pilgrim mojo going:

1. Have you ever been on a pilgrimage? (however you choose to define the term) Share a bit about it. If not, what's your reaction to the idea of pilgrimage?
I think my trip to Wittenberg, Germany would definitely qualify as a pilgrimage, though of course dear Martin would cringe at the thought. In January 2003 I and four fellow students from Luther Seminary joined several students and a professor from Wartburg Seminary in Iowa for three weeks in Wittenberg and Berlin, with a few overnights to Eisenach, Erfurt and Eisleben. We saw more than I can tell here, but a few memories are very dear to my heart:
A. Worship in the areas of Germany where Martin Luther lived. Time spent in the Schlosskirche (Castle Church) and the Stadtkirche (City Church) of Wittenberg, where Luther preached and taught for most of his life (Luther and Melanchthon are entombed beneath the pulpit and lectern of the Schlosskirche);
B. Our stay in the Haus Heinstein, a hotel in Eisenach with a view of the Wartburg Castle on the hill above us;
C. The city of Erfurt, with its bridges and majestic Marktplatz and our stay at the Augustiner Kloster, where Martin was first a monk and priest - I especially remember our worship service in the sanctuary, where it was so cold we could see our breath as we sang;
D. Buchenwald Concentration Camp, which is not a dear memory but rather seared into my soul - I've never felt the palpable power of evil as I did on that frozen ground;

E. the friendship of the group with whom I traveled - we really did have an incredible cross-cultural experience. Not to mention a LOT of kostliche dunkel Bier. If you're ever in Wittenberg, the dunkel beer at the Kartoffelhaus is divine.

2. Share a place you've always wanted to visit on pilgrimage.
Well, Iona will do as well as anything, I suppose! I would like to travel to Jerusalem someday, but I know that a)travel in the Holy Land is dangerous and b)I would really struggle with the commercialization and tourist-ization of the places where our faith story was first written. Scotland would be wonderful, especially Edinburgh and the highlands and St. Andrews (a pilgrimage of a whole other kind). In my home country, Holden Village in Washington state has always been a goal for a long-term stay.

3. What would you make sure to pack in your suitcase or backpack to make the pilgrimage more meaningful? Or does "stuff" just distract from the experience?
1. camera
2. journal
3. Bible
4. clean underwear ;-)

4. If you could make a pilgrimage with someone (living, dead or fictional) as your guide, who would it be? (I'm about this close to saying "Besides Jesus." Yes, we all know he was indispensable to those chaps heading to Emmaus, but it's too easy an answer)
I'd love to see Cologne and the surrounding countryside with my great-great-great-grandfather, August Spengler, who was born and raised there. Ditto for Smaland in Sweden on the Johnson side. How about Dublin and Belfast with Michael Collins? Of course, I'd give just about anything to see Wittenberg with Katie & Martin.

5. Eventually the pilgrim must return home, but can you suggest any strategies for keeping that deep "mountaintop" perspective in the midst of everyday life? (don't mind me, I'll be over here taking notes)
Hard to say. Jesus himself struggled to 'keep the feeling' when he descended following the Transfiguration, and Luke tells us that Jesus often left to go away and pray. Could it be argued that mountaintop experiences are transformative rather than strengthening experiences? That is, our outlook on the rest of the world should change as a result of a pilgrimage, but it shouldn't be an escape - God hasn't intended the world to be a place from which we escape! Luther thought that holiness is found in everyday life; changing diapers, brewing beer, teaching, preaching the Word, forgiving sinners. If a pilgrimage shows us the rest of the world in a different light, maybe that was the point all along.

Pictures (all from my trip in January 2003):
1. The Schlosskirche in Lutherstadt Wittenberg, as seen from the Town Square.
2. The Schlosskirche pulpit, and the tomb of Martin Luther below it.
3. Luther's tomb up close.
4. That's me in front of the Thesentur (Theses door) of the Schlosskirche. The actual door burned during the Thirty Years War; this replacement was a copy of the 95 Theses cast in bronze.


  1. As I posted in my Friday Five, a Reformation pilgrimage - Wittenburg, Geneva, Zurich, Scotland, Ireland.

    Great pictures, and great play!

  2. Great photos! I love the pulpit with ML's tomb. That's just spectacular. And your experience at Buchenwald reminds me of my dad's telling of how he visited a just liberated camp right when the war ended. Chilling.

  3. Regarding your question 3, number 4---I was pleased to find that a sink and a small bottle of shampoo did the trick! :-)

  4. Your pilgrimage with your friends sounds wonderful and the pictures are great.

  5. I've also been to the Schlosskirche - but it was over 95 degrees. Couldn't see my breath in that temp...

    I found it to be a lovely, kinda ethereal place...


  6. yes, now I want to go to Wittenburg, but in honor Martin Luther, I won't call it a pilgrimage. I agree that holiness is found in everyday life, too.

  7. I went on the same trip in 2006 and it was GREAT! And isn't the prof, known as Yoda at Wartburg, just the greatest?

  8. Your pictures are incredible! -Angel