By Barb Mazarakos
Until very recently, the only “land” I was familiar with was in California and focuses on a giant mouse and his animated friends. I had no idea that nearly 6,000 miles away you could tour “Lutherland” and be encouraged not by characters of the imagination, but by the acts of one man who only intended to maintain the true Word of God, even when it wasn’t the easiest thing to do.
This summer, Christ Lutheran member Mary Lee Rauch had the opportunity to take a 10 day trip to Lutherland with her sister as part of a tour group. They began in Berlin with a half-day tour featuring the Berlin Cathedral, where Mary Lee was able to learn so much more about the reformation than she already knew. They also visited the Brandenburg Gate, Checkpoint Charlie, remnants of the Berlin Wall, and the Holocaust Memorial.
The next leg of the tour brought the group to Wittenberg for three days. While there they visited the new Luthergarten, which is located on the grounds of the former town fortifications. From this location and throughout the city, 500 trees will be planted by various churches to commemorate the 500th Anniversary of Reformation. They were able to see the actual church doors where Luther nailed the 95 Theses as well as Luther’s final resting place (his friend and supporter Philip Melanchthon is also buried there). Luther’s home and Wittenburg University were also part of the tour, and the group celebrated Sunday worship at Town Church, where paintings of Martin Luther are plentiful. While in Wittenberg the group also took a tour to Leipzig and St. Thomas Church, where Bach served as music director for 27 years and Martin Luther once preached.
They next went to Eisleben where they visited the places of Luther’s birth and death, as well as the church where he was baptized. The last part of the tour included the Augustinian Monastery where Luther became a monk; Buchenwald concentration camp; and Wartburg Castle, where Luther translated the New testament into German while being hidden from the Pope and the government officials who wanted to execute him.
Mary Lee has had this trip on her bucket list for a number of years, and is glad she had the opportunity to go with her sister and the tour group (which was under the leadership of a guide with a PhD in Reformation History!) As to how this trip may have changed her perspective, Ms. Rauch says, “I just feel like I am glad to be Lutheran, especially since I was Catholic for the first 31 years of my life. I also have a different perspective of Germany. They may not have the wall to separate them but they have an invisible one. The westerners look down on the easterners and almost blame them for being behind the wall. It’s kind of complicated but Germans do not get along that well with each other.”
This trip of a lifetime is definitely one she would recommend, especially after you brush up on your knowledge of Luther and reformation history. As for one final piece of advice from Mary Lee? You may want to wait until AFTER 2017 to go. She has a feeling it will be pretty crowded with so many wanting to trace the steps of our church founder, all the way through Lutherland.