German Protestants agree to help rebuild notorious Potsdam church – with peace in mind
The Garrison Church in Potsdam would seem an unlikely monument for present- day Christians to want to rebuild.
Located southwest of Berlin, it was the parish church of old-fashioned German militarism.
Built in 1735, the Garrison Church was where pre-war Germany’s Protestant kaisers, kings and generals went to pray for victory, entering amid military ornamentation and sitting among the captured flags of defeated armies. Prussia’s legendary King Fredrick the Great was buried there.
The church is notorious in modern German history as the place where Reich President Paul von Hindenburg, a former general resplendent in full uniform, medals and spiked helmet, symbolically handed over power to the new Chancellor Adolf Hitler on 21st March 1933.
Two days after their famous handshake, the Nazis and other right-wing parties in the Reichstag passed a law abolishing democracy. The Third Reich was born.
A British bombing raid in April 1945 destroyed the elegant baroque church. Left in ruins by the communist rulers in East Germany, it was finally demolished in 1968.
THE HOLY SPIRIT
Pentecost is the season in which the Church rejoices especially in the gift of the Holy Spirit and in the power of the Spirit at work in the Church and in the world. The Spirit is not confined to the Church, let alone by the Church, but is entirely free in bringing the life of God to the world wherever, whenever and however. The Holy Spirit is God at work. Indeed, the experience of the Holy Spirit as recorded in the Acts of the Apostle shows the Spirit at work in unpredictable and yet most creative ways.
Perhaps Christians, at times, tend to view the Spirit too much in terms of the present – giving strength and comfort for now – but equally, if not more than equally, the Spirit is also about the future. Where the Spirit is, life is moving forward and ever in a God-ward direction. The Spirit guides the Church into all truth (John 16: 13) and it is for that reason that, especially at times of confirmation and ordination and, indeed, at synodical meetings, the Spirit is invoked. The Spirit leads forward and the presence of the Spirit speaks of the new age of the Kingdom itself.
Still, the presence of the Spirit in the individual’s life leads to certain qualities in that person and, by extension, in the Church itself. St Paul describes the fruit of the Spirit as “love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self- control” (Gal. 5: 22f, NIV). These are all qualities for which individual Christians must constantly pray because they are the qualities God wants to see in those who follow and confess him. Where the Spirit is present, the fruit of the Spirit is to be seen.
The Holy Spirit is, of course, one person within the sacred Godhead of the Trinity and thinking about the Spirit, we should not lose sight of that context of all that the Spirit is and does. Anthony Thistleton has recently written: “All four Gospels agree in marking the baptism of Jesus as an important event, in which God the Father, Jesus the Son, and the Holy Spirit are integrally involved. Moltmann, Pannenberg and Rogers call it a Trinitarian event, recounted as a Trinitarian narrative.” (Systematic Theology, London, SPCK, 2015, p.271) The life of the Holy Trinity – while a sacred mystery, to be sure – nonetheless may be described as the life of God who is wholly integrated in his nature and being. The Holy Spirit’s place is within this integrated, divine life.
For every Christian, the life of faith and witness is sustained by the indwelling Holy Spirit and the Christian’s life of following is led to its best end by the Holy Spirit, who brings us forward to the place where God wants us to be, to do the things God wants us to do and to be the people God wants us to be.
In their Pentecost message for this year, the Presidents of the World Council of Churches say: “Today, as we celebrate Pentecost, we pray for the Spirit to fill us. When the Spirit comes to us, we can share, educate and guide others to what is more than us and to all things good – ultimately to the triune God, whose Spirit can unite a broken world and renew every culture.” The Spirit enables the individual believer and the whole Body of Christ to reach out to the world with a special strength of compassion and a special message of hope for the future.
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Letter to the Editor
UK referendum on EU membership
WHILE LARGELY in agreement with what Robert Irwin states in his letter published in your edition of 29th April, may I, at the risk of seeming pedantic, clarify a few points regarding the relationship between the European Commission and the representatives of the Member States and the European Parliament (EP).
Once every five years a new College of Commissioners is appointed. Each Member State puts forward the name of a Commissioner.
The President of the Commission is appointed by the European Parliament on a proposal from the Council (the Council consists of a representative of each Member State).
The President-elect of the Commission then proposes a portfolio for each of the candidate Commissioners, which has to be approved by the Council (i.e. the Member States).
Each candidate Commissioner is also the subject of a hearing by the EP parliamentary committee or committees responsible for his or her sector (it has happened that the EP has rejected a candidate Commissioner and a new one has to be proposed).
Then the Commission as a whole is approved by the European an eminently procedure.
The Commissioners do not appoint the EU civil service. They may only recruit their own personal assistants and advisers, their ‘Private Office’ (usually referred to by the French term ‘Cabinet’, which has nothing to do with the British or Irish concept of the Cabinet) for the duration of their mandate.
Permanent Commission officials are normally appointed by competitive civil service public examinations (known as ‘concours’), analogous to the British or Irish Civil Service entrance examinations.
While Mr Irwin is generally correct in stating that the Commissioners “run the EU for the next five years”, this statement needs to be understood in the European inter-institutional context.
The Commission’s role is to put into effect European legislative measures and to run the Union on a day-to-day basis. Though the Commission may initiate (propose) legislation, it can only implement legislation which has been adopted by the Council (the Member States) and the European Parliament.
The Commissioners cannot operate without or outside such legislation.
For example, in the case of international agreements, the Commission conducts the negotiations on behalf of the Union but strictly on the basis of a negotiating mandate provided by the Council.
At the end of the negotiations it is the Council that signs the agreement on behalf of the EU and which adopts the final decision, with the assent of the European Parliament.
Such limitations similarly apply in other policy areas.
Thus, the Commission’s powers are much more circumscribed than is generally recognised by the public. There is certainly no question of “divine right”.
J. B. L. Rose
1 rue de Roodt.Syre L-6933 Mensdorf Luxembourg
ABANDONED CHURCHES OF IRELAND
Author: Tarquin Blake
Publisher: The Collins Press
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