A Birthday at Zionskirche

As I've mentioned, I'm doing some reading and reflecting on Dietrich Bonhoeffer while in Germany this month. So while we were in Berlin I wanted to visit Zionskirche (Zion Church).

If you don't know Bonhoeffer's biography very well, Zionskirche was where Bonhoeffer taught a confirmation class for a group of boys in a poor part of the city. More on this tomorrow, but this is one of my favorite parts of Bonhoeffer's life and witness.

Anyway, with very full days devoted to the students I was struggling to find time for me to visit the church.

Sunday morning was my birthday, and we weren't heading out until 10:00. Zionskirche was about a mile away from the hostel, about a 25 minute walk.

So I got up early and headed out around 7:30. I found a cafe close to the church to get a cup of coffee and say my morning prayers and do my daily Bible reading. I took my time, stopping to take pictures of the "stones of stumbling" as I came across them.

Around 8:30 I got to the church. There's a plaque to the right of the door commemorating Bonhoeffer's time serving at the church. And to the west of the building there is an abstract sculpture memorializing his life and death.

The church was closed, so I took a walk to Oderberger Straße 61. During the year he taught the confirmation class, Bonhoeffer rented an apartment at this address. I was delighted to find that there's also a plague to Bonhoeffer on the Oderberger Straße apartment building stating that he'd once resided there.

I then walked back to the church, noting in my mind that this would have been the exact path Bonhoeffer would have walked from his apartment to the church. I pulled out my prayer beads and said a "Bonhoeffer prayer" from the Cost of Discipleship on each bead: "When Christ calls a man, he bids him come and die."

By the time I got back to the church around 9:00 the musicians for the 10:00 service were gathering out front. They opened the church soon after.

So from 9:00 to 9:30 I got to sit in the pews listening to the violins and cello as the musicians practiced for the coming worship. The morning sunlight streamed through the stained glass windows. And I was very, very happy.

At 9:30 I had to leave to get back to the hostel by 10:00. I wish I could have stayed for church, but the students were waiting for me to start our very full and busy day.

Later, the students found out it was my birthday. They felt sad that it didn't seem like I'd had a chance to celebrate that day.

"Don't worry," I said. "I've had my birthday moment today. It was a very good day."

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