As we headed further into Germany today, I loved watching the landscape change from flat fields reminiscent of the Netherlands to a much more up-and-down experience–large hills or perhaps small mountains, all covered in tall evergreen trees. We were heading for Schwarzenau, the place where the Church of the Brethren story began. On the bus, our three tour members with a Church of the Brethren background (John Long, Brad Yoder, and Jeanne Smucker) shared with us about the history as well as their current experiences in the church.
In Schwarzenau, we stopped at the Eder River where the first eight baptisms took place, marking the beginning of the Church of the Brethren. As we stood among the tall grass by the river’s edge we read the recently-erected plaque and admired the beautiful pastoral scene.
Then we reflected on what the story meant. Alexander Mack and his companions were acting as the spirit led them–where is the spirit leading us today in our context? An important question to end a meaningful visit.
Nearby there is a small museum dedicated to Alexander Mack, up a narrow road, and we were pleased that our bus could at least get us within 400 metres of the museum. Some chose to stay with the bus while others made the walk along an even narrower road to reach the museum. We were able to find the curator to open the museum to us and he showed us around the exhibits.
As we drove out of town I continued to consider the landscape. I always like to understand the geologic history behind the places I visit and this one was new to me so I had no answers. All I could tell for sure was that slate was likely involved because many houses had siding made of slate shingles, which is a housing style I have never seen before and which I only saw in this region. If you are also curious, I’ve now googled it and come up with the answer: look up the Rhenish Massif for the details. I won’t bore you with the description here!
Our next destination was Cologne, with its famous twin-towered Cathedral. John told us about the Anabaptist history of Cologne, then turned us loose for free time to explore in the area by the Cathedral. I discovered that the Cathedral offers the possibility to climb the tower for a small fee, and I can never resist the opportunity to climb something. It’s 533 steps to the top of the tower, up a narrow spiral staircase. A challenging climb but worth it to me.
We’re getting better as a group at making it to the bus by our arranged meeting time, so we were prompt in our departure from Cologne to reach our final stop of the day–our hotel, always a welcome sight at the end of a full day.
– Morgan Regehr