It is well-nigh impossible to give a flavour of such a remarkable event as the Kirchentag. The scale and variety are such that you have to be here in the heat to witness the number of people and the huge range of public events all around the city. And it is such a beautiful place.
Unlike Berne (which I visited last week and which demonstrates what you get when you’ve had no war or town planners with bright ideas of modernity for 300 years), Dresden bears the scars of conflict – and also the power of reconciliation.
The architecture tells it’s own story. The Christians built the Frauenkirche. But what philosophical, theological or anthropological convictions went into the design of the Communists’ Kulturpalast? Just look at them.
What is interesting here is that when the people of post-GDR Dresden were asked what they wanted to with the city centre, they strongly went for the rebuilding of the Frauenkirche. Church authorities didn’t exactly warm to the idea, but the momentum was generated by the people and the church was rebuilt – a story worth reading in its own right. But, I think there is an even more interesting perspective still.
The centre of Dresden was actually rebuilt around the Frauenkirche. In other words, the church stood at the centre and huge space was created around it in which other buildings found place. The development continues. Yet, it was this church which stood (and stands) at the heart of it – not just in a symbolic sense, but physically.
This makes real the sense behind a phrase I often use to describe the vocation or role of the Church: to create the space in which people can find that they have been found by God. Regardless of what may or may not go on around the church, we are to stand at the heart of the city and provide the point of reference for other developments. The world changes, but the is something powerful about the nature of that which stands at the heart of it.
In the end, which building speaks of the soul of people and place? Frauenkirche (the gold cross atop the dome having been made by the son of one of the English bombers who destroyed the original building) or Kulturpalast?
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