Scholars in the study year 2019-2020
Taizé 2020 (5th-12th of July) – Personal Impressions
Right now, I am in Taizé and this is my first visit. Taizé is a spiritual place for the Christian world. One can only say that this is an ecumenical centre. Many people from many different countries come here. There is not only a dialogue with God but also with people who speak many different languages.
The first day was already a surprise for me. We moved into our room and I was looking for the key – but I was told that there is no key. I thought by myself that I could not leave my things there because I could lose something. Just a few days later I realised that one cannot lose, one can only find in Taizé.
The second surprise was that there is no liturgy like normally in the church. In Taizé, we pray three times a day and it is so simple. There are short songs and the readings from the Bible in different languages. I was sitting there and waiting for the liturgy. And then the silence came. It really is something special. We always ask and demand from God. Sometimes, we just have to remain silent and listen to the silence because God knows what we really need, and he gives us what is necessary and helpful.
The third surprise was the absence of hierarchy, the brothers are all equal. And they do not only serve God but also the people. A true Christian can serve God in serving somebody. This is the simplest and truest way.
In Taizé, the human being is standing between nature and God. We experience the most beautiful simplicity.
I am especially thankful to Frère Richard who was always ready to answer our questions. I am also thankful to Frère Christopher with whom we had a conversation about the Armenian and the Georgian Church.
I am thankful for the chance to visit Taizé, and I will come back.
Impressions by Meri (Armenia), translated from German
The momentary situation caused by the Corona virus is very unusual and it takes us time to get used to this new reality. During the pandemic in Germany, we, the scholars, have no chance to go to our home countries. Therefore, we thought about how to give meaning to this time and how to spend it the best way possible.
Dr. Oeldemann and his colleagues organised different ways of communication for us. Every week, we meet in an online forum and, most recently, on the online-platform of the university of Paderborn and discuss different topics: Easter traditions in the Orthodox und the Roman-Catholic Church, religious education in Germany, St. Irenaeus of Lyon, free churches and the seven sacraments. Sometimes we, the scholars, are playing soccer in the garden. In the evenings we are occupying ourselves with board games: Domino, Uno, Monopoli. All in all it is not only a good way to pass our time but also a great German practice. By the way, our university German course is also held online in the moment.
Report by Dzmitry (Belarus), translated from German
On Saturday, March 7, our group, led by Dr. Oeldemann and Christian Städter (spiritual father of the priests’ seminary), went to Meschede to the Benedictian abbey Königsmünster.
Brother Benedict who is responsible for the monastery’s youth ministry welcomed us there. He cared for our well-being and took us on a tour of the monastery grounds. Thus, we learned that the monastery was founded in 1928 and was confronted with a lot of challenges throughout the years. More than 50 monks live in the monastery nowadays. They run a school, workshops and a small shop with regional products. A small ecological self-run power station provides them with the electrical energy needed.
Especially interesting is the abbey’s massive church: There’s a symbolism behind every one of its details. We were blessed to take part in several fixed-hour prayers in this church. A highlight of our trip was the wonderful Holy Mass on Sunday.
Report by Roman (Ukraine), shortened and translated from German
On the 7th and 8th of February, we got the important chance to listen to the statements of a number of theologians about the church conflict in Ukraine and about the emerging separation within Orthodoxy. Furthermore, we got to know parts of Germany that were new to us, we visited Munich and its surroundings.
We took the trip, led by Christina Dietl, in a comfortable minibus. The conference took place in the Catholic Academy in Munich.
First, Dr. Oeldemann provided some background information on the momentary crisis and the question that arose in Ukraine. Thereafter, Dr. Sergij Bortnik (Ukrainian Orthodox Church of the Moscow Patriarchate) and archpriest Georgij Kovalenko (Orthodox Church of Ukraine) told us about their experience with the momentary situation in Ukraine. After a small coffee break, we learned a lot about the consequences of the Ukrainian crisis on the whole of Orthodoxy through a podium of representatives of different orthodox churches. At the end of the day, we were happy to hear the opinions of spokesmen of the higher Church hierarchy: bishop Dr. Gerhard Feige (Catholic), bishop Andrej Cilerdzic (Serbian-Orthodox) and regional bishop Dr. Johann Schneider (Lutheran). The day ended with a prayer and a talk with bishop Dr. Gerhard Feige. Before going to sleep, we took a small walk through the city centre of Munich.
On the second day, experts made us aware of the results of the conference. We also exchanged our opinions about what we had heard among us scholars. On the way back to Paderborn, we stopped to visit the concentration camp of Dachau in which also the Patriarch of the Serbian Orthodox Church Gabriel V. was imprisoned. All of us appreciated the chance to not only broaden our theological knowledge during the conference but also to commemorate our fallen fellow countrymen.
Report by Kostiantyn (Ukraine), translated from German
On the 14th of November, in the course of our Thursday seminar, we made an excursion to the sacristy of Paderborn cathedral where we met students' priest Dr. Nils Petrat. Together with the sacristan, he explained to us which preparations precede a Catholic liturgical service and which vestments, books and vessels are needed. He put on the priest's clothing for mass for us and answered our questions. There was also enough time to discuss the similarities and differences between Orthodoxy and Latin Catholicism.
On Monday the 11th of November, we were invited to the meeting place of KHG (Katholische Hochschulgemeinde), the Catholic Students' Community of Paderborn. We got to know students from Paderborn and its surrounding area. The evening started with a wonderful Taizé prayer and continued with a get together in the common room. Students' priest Dr. Nils Petrat and referee Helena Schmidt told us what is known about the life of St. Martin whose feast day is the 11th of November and introduced us to the typical St. Martin's traditions. After that we got active ourselves and made our own St. Martin's lanterns. We lit the candles, started a small procession and sang the appropriate song "Ich geh' mit meiner Laterne" ("I go with my lantern").
On Tuesday the 5th of November in the evening, we were invited as guests to the building adjoining ours which is the priests' seminary. At 18:30, we started with the mass in the modern chapel of the seminary. The leader of the seminary, Msgr. Dr. Michael Menke-Peitzmeyer held an appealing and well comprehensible sermon on the hope for the coming unity of Christianity. He expressed appreciative words on the characteristics of the different denominations.
Afterwards, we introduced ourselves using only a view words ("hashtags") and got to know each other's interests and hobbies. We sat down for a tasty dinner along with interesting talks and exchange. Those we were able to continue afterwards in the "Pinte", the bar of the priests' seminary.
On Monday the 7th of October, we had the special chance to explore the cathedral of Paderborn together with the students' priest Dr. Nils Petrat. We were allowed to go up the choir area on the western side of the church and even up to the bells in the western tower. We looked with interest at the huge monument that was erected for prince bishop Dietrich von Fürstenberg in the 17th century and at the altar. Afterwards we entered the sacristy where we got to see the liturgical vestments and went down to the crypt to the bishops' graves.
We left the cathedral right at the closing hour - and still we hadn't seen all of it. During our study year, we will have time to explore more.
In order to get to know each other better and to live out our creativity, we attended a workshop of another kind on the 26th and 27th of September. We went to "Landhaus am Heinberg" where two theater pedagogues were already waiting for us: Katja and Boris from "Theater A Parte". Throughout two half-days, they showed us how to move along with the music, how we can make the best use of our voice, how to pantomimicly sew, catch fish and do handicraft work without having tools in our hands. Especially the group tasks were fun: Together we formed a wind-beaten tree and had to get from sinking boats through the imaginary water to the safe coast.
On the 18th of September 2019 after the morning prayer, we were off to the LWL open-air museum in Detmold together with Dr. Oeldemann and Christina Dietl. Walking around in the large territory, we enjoyed to be in the nature and felt like traveling back in time. The architecture and many parts of the houses that we were looking at and entered are up to 500 years old. We got a good picture of how people in Westfalia were living, cooking and working in former times. Even the workshop of a smith was open to us so that we could see how he was making pliers out of iron.
In continuation of our journey, we went to the Externsteine rocks. First, we settled down at a restaurant for lunch. Because of the long wait for our food we couldn't climb the rocks afterwards. We admired them from the ground, though, and made some nice photos to never forget this wonderful day together.
Afterwards, we visited the beautiful castle Corvey, formerly a monastery and seat of the prince bishop. In the course of a guided tour in German and English, we got to know a lot about the history of Northrhine-Westfalia; we looked at the church and the western part of the castle.
In order not to be late to our German language course, we made our way back to Paderborn then.