Kirchentag - Final Service

Sunday 16th May on the Theresienwiese

Some of the Milton Keynes party did not have to beat a hasty retreat back to that fair city; instead we headed for the huge open area of Theresienwiese just 15 minutes walk from the centre of Munich. The weather was at its most discouraging; cold, blustery and wet. Puddles were our land marks and we stood next to a generous one, in what we felt to be a prized position because the brass band was behind us. Also behind us, on the skyline were the churches of Munich and at 10.00 a.m. their sonorous bells rang out in a variety of impressive tones. The focus of the service was the "wide and rebellious" Magnificat and the path it took us in was awesome in its sounds, its words, its silent action and its vision. It was such a shame it rained!

Ecumenism so often has to accommodate and this service accommodated no less than four sermons- from the Greek Orthodox, the Roman Catholic, the Methodists and the Chair of the Council of Protestant churches. Each caught the challenge of the Magnificat- "The hungry are to be filled with good things- without those of us who are rich going hungry. Women and children are to be valued - without we men being humbled and brought down." Throughout Kirchentag there was an awareness of how the Catholic church in the country had been hurt by revelations about child abuse. I found this especially so in my conversations with my host where the hurt and the fear for the future were palpable. At this final service Bishop Rosemarie Wenner reminded us that the encouragement the Magnificat gives to those who suffer has often been used in an attitude of silencing victims. "What have we done to Mary's song?" she asked.

There was a banquet of music, eclectic and challenging and remarkably present in that vast, cold and wet open air space. We were led by choirs, bands, huge Bavarian horns, Jazz musicians and an orchestra. Music ranged from powerful brass orchestrations, to Gospel; from Bach for choirs to gesture poetry with body percussion. At the end the brass bands saluted by lifting their instruments and only then did we realise we were surrounded by musicians!

We left the Theresianwiese cold and wet with strains of the Halleluiah Chorus bidding us a Kirchentag farewell.

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