Travels in Lutherland

Second year ordinand Eilidh Proudfoot, shown front left in the photo, shares tales of her recent pilgrimage through Luther’s Germany.

I was delighted to be invited to join fellow students from New College who are Church of Scotland Candidates on their recent trip to Germany. The itinerary included Erfurt, Leipzig and Wittenberg to explore the land of Luther.

Our first night was spent in the Erfurt monastery where Luther first entered monastic life. We enjoyed an introductory session from Reformation specialist Professor Susan Hardman Moore which proved invaluable in getting the most out of the following day’s walking tour, setting the scene with Luther the man and the world he inhabited. We ended the night with SEC Compline in the Chapel where my Church of Scotland colleagues picked up the asterisk pause like naturals!

From Erfurt we travelled on to Leipzig, a bigger and busier city where we met Dr Robert Moore who showed us round St Thomas’ Church (shown below) and the Bach Museum. We also had time to visit St Nicholas Church and the Stassi Museum. This historical input helped understanding the church in Germany today which, like Scotland, has its own quirks! Attending an Ash Wednesday service proved to be a poignant highlight. Listening to the liturgy in a foreign tongue could have been disorientating but the familiar rhythm was there and we were carried along despite not speaking the language. Receiving ashes in this place reminded me of how vast and diverse the global body of Christ is and how small a part each of us plays. How reassuring.

We left the busyness of Leipzig behind to finish our trip in Wittenberg. We explored the museums of Luther House and Melanthon House and visited the Schlosskirche, where Luther may have nailed his famous thesis to the door. After all this input it was time to stop. A very fitting end to our trip was celebrating Communion together at the Stadtkirche, a church considered to be the mother-church of the Protestant Reformation.

The vast swathes of historical content has helped ‘join the dots’ of various dates, places and people, providing useful context to understand this part of our church history. My studies and I will benefit from this German adventure going forward and I’m grateful to the St James’ Fund for making it possible, and Anne Tomlinson for encouraging me to go. The staff and students of New College, as always, made me feel very welcome. It has been a rich feast of new experiences and too many potato dumplings!

Photos courtesy of Eilidh Proudfoot