(A post by Susan Martin)
This poem by Lydia Maria Child was written in 1844 when the author was living far from the rural setting it describes in urban New York. As I look out my window this morning, the white and drifted snow of southern Germany reminds me of this cheerful sleighing song. The song celebrates the carefree and sometimes heedless attitude of children toward their play. Of course, crossing rivers and going through a wood in deep snow is not child’s play, but here it is treated lightly as the children have complete trust that the horse—and driver—know the way.
Sometimes I think that is what I am doing in Germany—a kind of play. But it is the best type of play, that has meaning and purpose. I have crossed the river—actually many of them—and comet through the wood to Grandfather’s house: to Germany. Germany belongs to the welcoming, loving and forgiving heart of our Father in heaven. And it is this spirit of the Father that makes it easy, or at least easier, to trust that the pathway from heaven to earth will be adventurous, sure-footed, and joyful in his hands.
Miss Child’s poem tells the story of two houses, the house the children start out from—presumably where study and duties prevail—and the longed for Grandfather’s house (only later changed to grandmother’s house) where the children shall have a day of play. My life in Germany is also a story of two houses, Christ the Reconciler in Elgin Texas and Koinonia. House in Biburg, Germany. Koinonia House was founded in the nineteen nineties in the midst of the Catholic Charismatic Renewal and an Evangelical revival movement in Germany (for an interview with Father Peter Hocken about the Importance of the Charismatic Renewal for Christian Unity) and life lived together. It has remained true to its calling now for over thirty years. I must admit I had misgivings when I first heard that an apartment had opened up in a German commune. (I pictured myself painstakingly sharing out one stale bun among four or five hungry rumpled children and praying for revival in my bathrobe.)
The most important aspect of Koinonia House today is play and celebration together. Creative house members sponsored our first ever German Thanksgiving Day this year, and our second year of community Advent celebrations despite Corona restrictions. We believe that play between the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit is a key element of the Trinity and one that should be made manifest on the earth.
I would not be a part of Koinonia though, had another house not dressed me, and furnished the trappings and bells on my sleigh: Christ the Reconciler. CTR is the home we started out from in 2016 to be part of the Wittenberg 2017 reconciliation initiative in Europe. We were privileged to receive the original teachings on reconciliation handed down to Amy and Thomas Cogdell from George and Hanna Miley, and we still carry that anointing along our way in Germany.
There is one more structure that Child’s poem speaks of but does not name: the bridge. One of the tools we brought with us to Germany was something called “Bridge Prayer.” But what is the connection between bridge-building and prayer? Bridge Prayer builds connections between Protestant and Catholic traditions of prayer. When we pray together as one body we believe it strengthens connections between what God is doing in Austin and in Augsburg.
It is an important time to be thinking about international connections in the heart of the Father. We received news of how the Spirit is moving in our CTR community in Elgin, stirring members of a German ministry, HFAN, to break down walls of hard heartedness. Some of the German members will go to Texas. Perhaps more of the Texans will come to the grandfather’s house in Germany.
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