Commemoration of the Fall of the Berlin Wall
Preparing for November 9, 2019: 30th Anniversary of the Commemoration of the Fall of the Berlin Wall
Many of us may remember or have heard the stories of the dramatic fall of the Berlin Wall in November 1989. For most in the West the sudden collapse of the communist regime in East Germany seemed abrupt and surprising. But in fact it was of course the result of years of resistance and in fact prayer. Many Lutherans do not even know the role their church played in the fall of the wall. Beginning in 1982 groups had gathered at St. Nicholas Church (where Bach was once music director) in Leipzig to pray for peaceful revolution. They gathered on mondays in a time when gatherings of more than a few people were suspicious to the Stasi secret police. They gathered and prayed for human rights and an end of the barrier between East and West Germany. By 1988 larger and larger groups were gathering to pray for peace and human rights. By September of 1989 these groups were growing bolder and by October 9th became a movement. Monday, October 9, 1989, seventy thousand people gathered against fear and oppression and faced the armed security forces chanting “We are the people”. This bold stand, that began in prayer groups on Mondays in a Lutheran Church helped lead to the events a month later when the Berlin Wall fell on November 9th.
As we remember the courageous people of Leipzig and all those who resist we encourage our communities to consider how barriers and walls continue to separate us. Some of these walls are more obvious than others. As your bishop I have seen the walls of separation in the Holy Land that keep our Lutheran Palestinian sisters and brothers from one another and from their historic lands. I have stood at the border wall between Texas and Mexico and heard and prayed over the refugees seeking due process. But closer to home I also know there are walls within our own cities and towns. Separation between rural and urban and suburban communities. Interstate highways that cut communities off from one another often on economic or racial boundaries. Public school boundary lines drawn strategically to include some and exclude others. Separation based on race, class, sexuality, gender, religion, partisan politics, all are realities in our lives. Yet we have a God who calls us to overcome boundaries, to break down walls.
Here you will find an array of resources (look for the Breaking Down Walls Toolkit) that we hope will assist your community of faith in remembering those who have helped bring down walls in the past and those seeking just and peaceful ways to bring down the barriers in our midst today. Included as part of these resources is a special liturgy that I hope you’ll use in your own candlelight vigil or service of remembrance this fall. The liturgy is patterned after the weekly prayer services that were held at St. Nicholas Church in Leipzig, Germany, during the Cold War. It is indeed right that we remember those who gathered in a Lutheran church, calling on the breaking down of barriers.
This is important for us as NT-NL as this year we are focusing on breaking down barriers of separation between us. Our Leadership Convocation this week will be focused on learning how being actively anti-racist can help us break barriers and work for the wholeness of our church. We have made investments through our Mission Endowment Fund’s generosity to ensure our Latinx and other historically marginalized groups can participate in camping and retreating ministries at Briarwood. We are actively working to cross generational barriers by highlighting the work and prioritizing youth and young adults. In April 2020 our assembly will be held at Paul Quinn College, the oldest HBCU (Historically Black College and University) in Texas. A college started because of the barrier of legal segregation and also a college in South Dallas, a community historically marginalized.
As we give thanks for the brave people of Leipzig thirty years ago we remember how Christ breaks down the walls of division between us through the waters of baptism. His death and resurrection are to bring new life and hope not just for some but for the entire cosmos (John 3:16). As Christ’s disciples we are invited into relationship with God and one another and called to break down the barriers, physical and otherwise, that separate us from one another. To cross borders and break down walls. To be a people of hope, to be #InMissionTogether.