Our time in Minden is over and all three of us enjoyed our time. Especially in the last days there were a lot of things happening. In the local there was an article published about us and the temporary community and even though we weren’t qiote happy with how it turned out there was a lot of positive feedback. Unfortunatlyit was published on Wednesday – two days before we left – so the people who wanted to join our prayers then didn’t really have the chance to.
The volunteers working in the St. Simeonis church said goodbye to us with a little present. This was very unexpected because we didn’t talk much aside from greeting us every day. But they said they were very happy there were some people bringing live into the church and using it on a regular basis.
On Thursday evening we had our goodbye dinner with some of the people from the association Wiebke, Julian, Simone and the sisters. It was a nice gathering for the last evening. Afterwards Marta left and Sarah and me left on Friday morning.
Our time wasn’t always easy and we had our struggles. Frankly sometimes we had so much free time we didn’t exactly know what to do and on the other hand towards the end we felt a bit overhelmed by how tightly scheduled the last days were. Also people normally were having some issues with talking English to us. During the first days we also didn’t manage to always keep it in English but we adapted. But for a lot of people we met it was way harder. Most people in Germany can speak English. And they did speak English to us in the beginning of the conversations. But after some minutes or when Marta didn’t say much they switched to German. That was really a pity because then it got way harder to go back to English and Marta was excluded from the conversation. Only because it was easier for them to talk in German. Trying to translate what they were saying was also a nearly impossible task. However there were some people we could communicate well with. For example the sisters really tried. Our English wasn’t perfect and the both of the sisters have lived some years in Italy so we had funny mixtures between English, German, Italian, French and Polish but most importantly everyone understood what the others were saying.
Sarah, Marta and me became friends during our stay and were going along really well so we are very sad to not live together anymore. After some problems in the beginning (which is normal I guess) we got to know each other better. We enjoyed being around each other but also giving the others the freedom they need and not spending the whole time together. But to be honest looking for each other in that big house was just a mess.
We have learned a lot working in the Wärmestube. Which kind of people go there and how such an institution is organized. Also we got to know the people volunteering there and their reasons behind it which was inspiring. We actively had to practice forgiveness on a daily basis. The people coming there don’t have much money and material goods in general. They don’t have enough to make sure they have got a warm meal every day. So the Wärmestube is a very important place for them. It’s a safe space because they know Sister Annette (and the other employees as well of course) deeply cares about them and they won’t be judged for who they are and more importantly who they are not. But that doesn’t mean working with them is always easy. There are some that get aggressive. There have been cases where people stole food and cooking supplies. So working in the kitchen you have to learn how to forgive. If someone tries to scam you you have to learn to laugh about it and not to get angry.
The temporary community was a very unique experience for the three of us. We grew here and learned and especially in the future we are going to see what we took with us during our stay.
On Friday we had a tour around one of the churches and we learned some of the historical background of the reformation here in Minden.
It was the first city that turned Protestant in Westfalica and therefore was an important example for the churches following it.
Also the World Wars played an important role for the city – especially on an emotional level. A lot of soldiers died in both world wars and in 1945 it was the target of a bomb attack. In the St. Martini church’s entrance there’s a book in with the names of the soldiers who died or went missing during the wars. Each day the pages are turned to the current date and you see the names of the fallen soldiers of that day. Also after WWII the citizens decided to carve the names of the soldiers into the columns within the church.
With that knowledge in the back of my mind I decided to visit a historical reenactment of the prayer that was held 400 years ago in Dresden. It was the lasted for three days and was accompanied by a lot of music. Ronald Wilson now recreated this music out of fragments and notes left from back then and it was performed by a choir and an orchestra – which was using historic instruments – during that prayer.
On Thursday we went on a bike trip with a polish Protestant pastor we met on Wednesday at the pastoral conference. Together we visited Petershagen to his new parish and church and afterwards we had some ice cream.
On Saturday Marta and I cycled to Lübbecke which is about 25km away. Afterwards we attended a service to honor the 200th birthday of Pauline von Mallinckrodt in the dome. She was born in Minden and founded the Sisters of Christian Charity (Kongregation der Schwestern der Christlichen Liebe) of which Sr. Anette and Sr. Angela-Maria are part of.
On Sunday we celebrated Pentecost together and took a short trip to Bielefeld.
Monday evening there was a ecumenical service in the St. Mauritius church. The parishes of Minden are really trying – or at least they seem to be – to overcome the boundaries the separation of the church has created. Ecumene is a topic that is mentioned very often especially during sermons. But people are trying to find new ways to make the church more attractive for others. To explain what’s happening and to build a community which Christian and non-Christian people. The Simeon’s Herberge is one of their projects in which they’re offering special activities like a game evening or cooking together for everyone who likes to join. Furthermore they’re actively approaching people living in Minden. Not to talk about God or religion but just to get to know them and show what the project is about. I think it’s an amazing project showing outsiders that the church is open, accepting everyone and wants to create a local community.
Wednesday evening we were invited for dinner by a pastor and his family who have been in Taizé some times before. It was a beautiful evening for all of us and one of the rare occasions where everyone was speaking English so no one is excluded. The language is actually a bigger problem than we thought in the beginning. If it’s just us three we talk English among ourselves. But if there are more people around it’s hard to keep English as a common language. Either people haven’t learned it or it’s been quite some time since they’ve been using it. Or they just forget that not everyone present is able to speak and understand English. And they haven’t got any bas intentions for sure but it’s hard to constantly remind them not to talk German so pretty often not everyone is included in the conversation which is upsetting. This is why we’re so happy when we are meeting people who are willing to accept having to talk English when they are around us and also try to improve or at least ask for a translation.
On Sunday we went to a Protestant prayer with Wiebke and Julian. It felt like the complete opposite of a Taizé prayer. There were chairs instead of benches and the songs were really joyful and cheerful. They even offered a translation to English and Persian which Marta joined. For us, it was a really different experience for a service since we all are Catholic and haven’t joined many Protestant prayers before but nevertheless, we enjoyed it. Also, they were trying to make the prayer as open, modern, understanding und inviting for everyone and we think that’s a really nice initiative. During service, there was a child being baptised as well which was something really special and moving.
Monday morning we moved back to the hostel. Even though we were excited to be back and have our own place again we were a bit sad to leave the sisters. It was a lot of fun living together with them for a few days and we had such nice and beautiful talks with them. In addition, Sarah and I seized the opportunity to help them a bit. Sarah gardened and I fixed their internet and telephone issues. Later on during the day Marta, Sarah and I took a bike trip to the Großer Weserbogen. Marta and I are slowly getting the hang on how to handle the tandem.
Yesterday evening Sarah made tarte flambée and we invited some people over.
Today there was a gathering of pastors and others who are actively very engaged in the Protestant parishes in Minden in the Simeon’s church. We were invited as well and sang some Taizé songs together. It was really beautiful because most people knew the songs and the church was filled with the sound and harmonies. Afterwards, there was breakfast in the church and the association Weitere Wege (who had the idea of starting a provisional community in Minden) presented their current project of the Simeonsherberge in which Sarah, Marta and I are living.
This afternoon I went the school again and it’s a lot of fun working with the kids. We played some games and I helped two boys with their German homework. Even though it’s not always easy it is actually very enriching to spend time with them because they are very gracious – in their own ways.
In the past few days, there were quite a few people who decided to join our daily prayers and we are very happy to inspire others to find some peace and rest within their day and discover something new within their city.
On Saturday we took a bike trip to a village nearby where we had some drinks and cake. Marta and I were going by tandem (it was the first time for both of us) and it was a lot more fun than we initially expected.
On Sunday evening there was a Taizé prayer in the church next to our accommodation. The group organizes one every 2-3 months. It was very beautiful a lot of musicians joined and they put up gorgeous decorations. We were included in the prayer as well and they asked for advice to make the prayer more like the ones in Taizé. Personally, I didn’t have much to criticize, it was a beautiful prayer and one could see the people organizing it put a lot of effort and heart into it. Afterwards, we gathered in the back of the church with some wine and had the possibility to get to know the people.
Some thoughts about our first week: we fully arrived here. Each of us has developed their personal routine and everyone is preparing one prayer per day. We use the Protestant church right in front of our lodging for our prayers about which the pastor is very happy. He said it’s a gift of God we’re bringing back some life into the church since it is not being used on a regular basis. Each day we help in the soup kitchen for some hours. Our work there is different every day. Sometimes we help prepare the food, we give out the meals, we tidy the storeroom and we talk to the people. The latter turned out to be the most difficult one for the three of us. In the beginning, we were very insecure about how to approach people, we were wondering if they wanted to talk to us in the first place. But they started initiating the conversations themselves and seem to be happy that we’re there to listen. It’s not just homeless people coming to the kitchen. There are also quite a few with too little money to provide the necessities, people without a job and people that feel lonely.
Yesterday I also went to a local school to supervise children staying at the all-day school. It’s just me doing this job and I work there every Wednesday for three and a half hours. I had a lot of fun overseeing the 5th, 6th and 7th graders. They were very curious and asking who I am, what I am doing here, if I went to this high school etc. Also since today is father’s day in Germany (well, it’s more of an unofficial father’s day but today it’s Ascension Day and it’s a holiday in Germany so people just use it as father’s day) we did some crafting and made cards for the kids to gift their dads.
Yesterday we had to move from our beloved hostel to the sisters’ house because the space is needed for a group staying till Sunday. The sisters welcomed us were warmly and we just had to move a few meters. The house is directly in between the Protestant and the Catholic church. One can literally walk from the Catholic to the Protestant one through this house. So they are truly living an ecumene.
Today we celebrated Ascension Day. There was a prayer outside the St. Simeonis church and people from many different parishes joined. It was accompanied with a trombone band and it was very interactive. Afterwards, we had some soup and some drinks were offered as well.
Now it’s YOUR tutn to turn the world into a better place.
On Wednesday evening Sarah and I finally arrived in Minden and Marta joined us at the night. After a few beautiful days spent in Taizé, we finally got to meet Wiebke, Simone, Julian, Sister Angela Marie, Sister Anette and many more people involved with the association during a gorgeous welcome dinner yesterday.
Simone showed us a bit around the city – all of us agreed it’s a truly beautiful and captivating city. Today we worked for the first time at the Wärmestube, the place we’re going to help at- it’s a soup kitchen Sister Anette is working at – to get to know the people working and eating there.
The house we’re staying at is great. Everything is new and there are still some things under construction (with which, as a side note, we are helping with as well), but the house already looks amazing. Behind the house, there’s a protestant church and a catholic church in which we’re going to hold our prayers.
Tonight they hosted a board game evening which we attended as well. DIffernt people from the neighborhood joined and it was a lot of fun playing all various kinds of board games and getting to know the people living in Minden better.
Since 2014 the small provisional communities have been an enriching experience, both for the communities that have welcomed them, the parishes, the places of solidarity and for the young people themselves who take part in this spiritual adventure. And so we are very happy to be able to continue with the project. Life in the communities follows a rhythm based around praying together three times a day, taking part in pastoral and social activities with local Christian communities, visiting lonely people or those in difficult situations, and leading prayers and youth gatherings.