Generous Orthodoxy  




Wednesday, August 13, 2014

Two stunning stories about Christian leadership, little known in the USA

We hear so much about the awful things Christians have done and so relatively little about the great things. Yet over the past few years many examples have popped up here and there for those who are paying attention. I have posted several of them on this "Tips" blog. Here are two more from the recent news, both of which I find exceptionally inspiring.

The first is an obituary for Christian Führer, who was the Lutheran "pastor in the denim vest" during the worst of times in East Germany under the Communist regime. Deeply influenced by the example of Dietrich Bonhoeffer, he held little prayer meetings for peace in his St Nicholas Church in Leipzig, which soon grew to be "The Monday Demonstrations," held outside in the streets. "Not thrones and altars, but the street and the altar are what belong together," he preached. Before October 9, 1989 (the fall of the Berlin Wall), many people were skeptical about his people's movement of prayers and candles, but eventually the demonstrations led by Pastor Führer mushroomed into a mass movement of some 70,000, part of the mighty uprising that helped East Germany to throw off its shackles. For this, he deserves as much notice as Pope John Paul II gets for rousing the Poles. After he retired in 2008, he received many honors from Germany, but until illness slowed him, he never stopped preaching non-violent resistance. Here are links to the obituary and an even more informative article. If they don't work, just Google Christian Fuhrer, an amazing name!

http://tinyurl.com/kvgqy39

http://tinyurl.com/qg7ywqu 

And for further reflection about street demonstrations, see this link:
http://tips.generousorthodoxy.org/2014/05/do-protest-marches-do-any-good-glen.html

The second story is obscure but even more astonishing, and definitely should be better known. It is mentioned in a story in The New York Times today about the Ebola epidemic and the debate about creating a cordon sanitaire (closed-off zone)  in affected areas. The most famous voluntary cordon (not forced by government edict) took place in 1665, in an English village called Eyam in Derbyshire. The dread bubonic plague (called the "Black Death" in the Middle Ages) came into the village from London in a bolt of cloth delivered to a local tailor, who died from the bites of fleas that had been unknowingly folded into the cloth. The villagers, under the leadership of two local ministers, isolated themselves for 14 months. Only a quarter of the population survived, according to estimates, but the plague burned itself out and never escaped into the rest of the county. There is a museum in Eyam about these events, and a search for Eyam, the "plague village," gives plenty of information. The way that the whole village cooperated in this project under life-threatening circumstances recalls the more recently famous village of Le Chambon in the Cévennes mountains of France where, under the leadership of Pastor André Trocmé, a large number of Jewish children were safely sheltered throughout the years of World War II.


As always, the question arises, What would you and I and our Christian communities do under such circumstances? As always, it is something to ponder in our hearts. May we always have such leaders.