Below is a report shared by Sylvia Schoenbeck in the Paulsgemeinde church newsletter following their trip to the United States. It’s a wonderful account of their experience with us at Holy Trinity. Thank you to everyone that helped make possible this unique and wonderful example of worldwide church community!
In the early morning of 21/10/2017, we started a group of 13 people – six adults and seven teenagers. After Steve Wachtmann, the pastor of the HTLC, had visited us several times in the last 15 years – sometimes with youth groups, sometimes with adults – we wanted to visit the 500th anniversary of the Reformation. For nine months we had prepared ourselves and we were accordingly excited when our trip finally started.
First, we should spend a few days in New York, then fly to Columbus, Ohio. Luckily, not only did the outward journey work, but above all the immigration effortlessly, so that we could take the first glimpse of the night city when we took our shuttle bus to the hotel in Manhattan. New York has impressed us all – big, full of people, lights. When we visited the first day of the Empire State Building, we had a stunning view of Manhattan. The weather was good for us – with summer temperatures we not only had a great view, but also the ride on the Staten Island Ferry past the Statue of Liberty, the tour through the financial district and in the evening in Times Square gave us a little insight into the huge city.
Two and a half days later, full of impressions and blisters on the feet, we went on to Columbus. The welcome we received there should be indicative of the time we could spend there: warm, welcome by friends, as if we were coming home. Pastor Steve and his congregation, the host families and the people who have accompanied us through the days, not only organized us a brimming, mixed and very varied program, but the cordiality and friendship brought to us have led to the time has become unforgettable for us.
Starting with a joint service at Trinity Lutheran Seminary (where pastors are being trained) and a tour of Capital University, where we were impressed with lunch at the cafeteria, There, as in the seminary, we had the opportunity to look at shelves full of old books, in particular Bibles, for the most part also in German.
During trips to the surroundings of Columbus we got to know the landscape. So we made a hike in the Hocking Hills: an ancient sandstone canyon, which was very impressive. After the hike there was an excellent dinner in a barbeque restaurant. The visit to the Amish People (a Mennonite Christian community with a very traditional way of life) was very interesting. During a tour of an information center, we got a lot of insight into their way of life and self-image from a member of the Amish.
Another highlight for us was the common worship service on the occasion of the “Reformation Sundays” – that was the Sunday before the 31.10. It was a special honor for our Pastor Christian Heydenreich to give the sermon of this especially festive service for the reformation anniversary (in English, of course, so that everyone could follow). The service was framed musically by the imposing organ playing of Joshua Brodbeck, HTLC’s “Director of Music”, the children’s choir and church choir. We also participated with a song. (Incidentally, Josh will be heard live on July 1, 2018 in the Pauline Church in Schwerin – an urgent recommendation: save the date!) The day started with a breakfast in the community center and ended with an organ concert “four hands – four feets”.
For many of us, another highlight was the Ohio State Buckeyes football game against the Penn State University team: the huge stadium with about 110,000 spectators, several hundred musicians, cheerleading, opening acts and in addition to all this, a thrilling game won at the end by Ohio. It was a special experience even for the hearty local fans.
Some of our teenagers had a special program together with young people from Columbus. So they have on Thursday, our second day in Columbus, the teenagers accompanied their host families to school. It was exciting to see how a school in the US works. That day we were also from the Bishop Dillahunt in the synod church administration warmly welcomed. The day before last, they bowled together with HTLC’s “Youth Group” and had a lot of fun doing it.
Finally, there was a party on the last day, so we all had the opportunity to celebrate a real American Halloween. In the afternoon, some of the young people moved around the houses together with the children of our host families and collected tons of sweets under the motto “Trick’r Treat”.
Given the multitude of experiences, it is incredibly difficult to summarize our visit in a few words. If anything should be emphasized, it was above all the encounters with the people – we were very, very warmly received by Pastor Steve, the host families, the parishioners and all those who accompanied us, and had many interesting conversations and common experiences. Experiences that made us all feel welcomed by friends. For this gift we can not thank our friends in Columbus enough. The departure was very difficult for us all and we look forward to a next reunion, either here or there. As Pastor Steve said in his sermon in the summer in our Paulskirche: Across all borders and distances, we all have experienced and felt the community in the spirit of Jesus. And this on the occasion of the 500th Reformation anniversary! On Tuesday, 23.01.2018, we invite all interested parties at 19.30 clock to hear travel report with pictures in the parish hall.