The German Protestant Kirchentag is held every second (odd-numbered) year. In 2017, it will take place from May 24th to 28th in Berlin and Wittenberg. Tens of thousands participants are expected to attend. They will experience fellowship, worship together, listen to concerts and participate in honest, passionate political debates - across denominational and religious borders. Six Kirchentag-style programmes 'on the way' will offer an opportunity to get to know other cities in Central Germany.
The Kirchentag in the anniversary year is a civil society forum, reaching far beyond a mere church event. Around 2500 individual events will deal with international policy-making and living together in family and society. Celebrity speakers will take up the Kirchentag topics in panels, debates, lectures and workshops, with a lot of public participation.
The closing ceremony of the 36th Kirchentag, a festive service of thanksgiving, will take place on the meadows of the Elbe River near Wittenberg.
Unity and diversity
Since some guests intend to come to Wittenberg but will not attend the Kirchentag in Berlin beforehand, it will be possible to stop over on the way. Visitors from Speyer and Garmisch-Partenkirchen, from Flensburg and Görlitz will travel together and worship on the Elbe meadows on 28 May. The backdrop of the service will be the unchanged medieval skyline of Wittenberg.
Kirchentag on the Way, held in six different locations, offers an opportunity to get to know a variety of cities in Central Germany, to rediscover an old cultural landscape, and to enjoy the hospitality of the people from the region. Starting with an ecumenical service on Ascension Day, with the same liturgy in all six venues as well as at the Kirchentag in Berlin, the respective locations will continue with their own programmes, reflecting their local traditions and history. There will be programmes of music, culture, spirituality - along with Bible studies, lectures, discussions, guided tours, activities for families and children, and outstanding concerts.
Local people devise the programme
Leipzig, Magdeburg, Erfurt, Jena/Weimar, Dessau-Rosslau and Halle/Eisleben will demonstrate their own special significance as Luther sites or important centres of the Reformation. During the days before the festive service and the popular festival in Wittenberg, these cities will offer varied programmes, prepared by local congregations, regional groups and municipal organisations.
In Leipzig, the programme will centre around music and the sound of freedom, while in Magdeburg it will cover topics from the Reformation communication centre. Erfurt will share its ecumenical experiences, e.g. Christian-Jewish dialogue.
Jena/Weimar will ask Gretchen's famous question from Goethe's Faust ("Now tell me how you feel about religion?") and invites scientists to enter into dialogue about religion and their faith. Dessau-Rosslau will focus on its cultural heritage - the Bauhaus and the composer Kurt Weill. Halle/Eisleben will recall not only the place of Martin Luther's birth and death in Eisleben, but also the adversaries of the Reformation in Halle.
The Kirchentag on the Way will offer a range of different stopovers on the way to Wittenberg - in addition, it will take up the tradition of churches in the German Democratic Republic, which used to hold their own Kirchentag on a regional level.
This text originally appeared (in German) in Arbeitsgemeinschaft Missionarische Dienste (AMD) as Studienbrief G 3.