"The Kirchentag Presidium has chosen an unusual theme for 2007. It expresses the desire for a Protestant profile. This passage is taken from the letter to the Hebrews in the New Testament: 'the Word of God is living and active, and sharper than any two-edged sword...' The Kirchentag seeks to enhance clear-eyed discernment, lucid thinking and courageous action. Listening to God's word can be of assistance here and exploring, even hotly debating, the issues of our age. The whole will be laced with lively celebration, active singing and prayer, and distinctive cultural programmes..."|
Cologne is the second most Catholic city in Germany after Munich, with many more Catholic churches than Protestant - a Roman Catholic stronghold lying in the protestant heartland of northern Europe. However, despite this, there is great goodwill from Cardinal Meissner, who will be taking part in the Kirchentag, and there will be many churches open for quiet prayer until midnight - Stille Kirche. Kirchentag coincides with the Catholic festival of Corpus Christi, which is the focus of a major celebration in this city of pilgrimage, with river-borne processions along the Rhine. Thousands of Catholics are expected there on Thursday, alongside the hundred thousand Kirchentag visitors.
The history of Cologne is bound up with the Cathedral, which houses the important relics of the bones of the "three kings" - encased in a large golden reliquary which dominates the distant view as soon as you go in. In the Middle Ages this was a major focus of piety, with huge indulgences available for pilgrims who made the journey and paid up the money - no wonder that Luther made a public protest (and was thrown out of the cathedral by the tour guides of the day) The protestants of Cologne refer to themselves as "protestantisch" rather than "evangelisch"! The Catholic/Protestant balance is about 80% / 20%, reflected in the fact that there are only 5 protestant churches in the city centre, to about 25 Catholic. Indeed, it was only in 1803 that the first Protestant church was allowed to be built. However, we have been assured of a warm welcome and there is good co-operation between the churches in preparation for the Kirchentag. On the Kirchentag side, it has been agreed that the "Feierabendmahl" should revert to Friday evening, to avoid clashing with the Catholic (pre-Sunday) masses on Saturday evening.
In 1934 a Declaration was signed at Barmen which repudiated the theological claims of the Nazi state. It was drafted by Reformed theologian Karl Barth and Lutheran theologian Hans Asmussen, and expressly repudiated the claim that other powers apart from Christ could be sources of God's revelation. The pro-Nazi "German Christian" movement claimed that racial consciousness was a valid source of revelation alongside the Bible, and wanted to "aryanise" the church. Like Barth and Asmussen, Dietrich Bonhoeffer was opposed to this, and he with many others was arrested and executed. The spirituality of the Barmen Declaration was a profound influence on the emerging post-war church in Germany. Barmen is north-east of Cologne near Wuppertal, and there will be an event to highlight the Barmen Declaration.
Most events will take place at the Messe, the exhibition ground, which is located very centrally in the city across the river from the station, and at the Cathedral. Preliminary plans are for three open-air Opening Services, with the Abend der Begegnung ("evening of encounter") around the bridge and the river. The closing service will be on the site used by the World Youth Day in 2005.
Another feature of Cologne is their ability to party! This is the capital of "Karneval", the pre-Lenten orgy of extravagence and drunkenness. You will find references to Karneval all around, with costumes and characters, balloons and beer. Indeed, beer has a cult status there, and you will be hard-pressed to find any restaurant or bar which offers anything other than "Kölsch" as the first item on the menu. They do not seem to know of the existence of wine. "Kölsch" has a special status, with a range of "free" breweries producing the beer in their own cellars. Once you have ordered your first one to drink (normally 20cl), you will be automatically plied with replacements (without asking) until you actively refuse any more! Fortunately, it is quite light, good and inexpensive!
Messegelände: The Messe is an excellent site - very compact and easily accessible. The whole site will be used, but mainly concentrated on the Southern half, with additional facilities just outside on the "Rheinpark" river bank area. That will be mainly given over to youth activities, centred around the "Tanzbrunnen" and the "Rheinhallen" , with a large area to the North given over to the "International Youth Camp" which will take place during the previous week as a pre-Kirchentag preparation event involving young people from around the world, invited by their partner congregations in Germany. A number of major venues in the City Centre will also be used as well as churches - all locations are close together and easy to find.
International Youth Camp
From 1st to 10th June there will be an International Youth Camp, at which around 1000 young people from across the world are expected. Discussion, study, reflection and partying, in tents, in activities, in the city and in worship. Ages will range from 16 to 25, and the cost is €159 per person. For further details, email firstname.lastname@example.org or phone +49 221 379 80100. You can browse the website as well: www.kirchentag.de/jugendcamp
It is nearly always the case that the youth camp cuts right into the school term in the U.K. However, if you know someone who happens to be free, pass on the information.
Cologne is divided by the Rhine. Three bridges cross the river at the city centre - the Hohenzollernbrücke rail bridge (pedestrians can cross, too), the Deutzer Brücke road bridge, and the Severinsbrücke. Adjacent to the rail bridge on the west bank are the main station (Hauptbahnhof, or Hbf) and the Cathedral. Adjacent on the east bank is the Messegelände (Exhibition Centre). North of the Messe is the Rheinpark, where many of the youth events will take place. The opening services take place in the Roncalli Platz (Cathedral), Heumarkt (by the Deutze Brücke west bank), and the Pollerwiesen, south of the Severinsbrücke on the east bank. The open-air closing service will also be on the Pollerwiesen.