Yes, Lutheran Nuns. And Monks Here in Germany there is an order of Lutheran Sisters and Brothers that was founded in 1949 by the Evangelical Lutheran Church of Germany in North-Bavaria. They call themselves the Community Christusbruderschaft Selbitz. Their organization is similar to the Franciscan order of the Catholic Church. The live under vows of chastity, poverty, and service. There are fewer brothers than sisters. The brothers all live near Halle and many of the sisters live together in Selbitz. However, there are also some who live in city communities. In Wittenberg, the city that we are currently visiting, houses three sisters.
A couple of nights ago, we visited them and had the opportunity to listen to their story. In Bonhoeffer’s Life Together, he writes, “The physical presence of other Christians is a source of incomparable joy and strength to the believer.” Immediatley upon our arrival and before our conversation it was very easy to see the this joy and strength embodied in the sisters, both because of their life to together and our arrival. They took great joy in serving us coffee and cheese cake, attending to any need we may have had before they sat down to begin our conversation. This visual exhibition of joy was confirmed by their explanation of their life in the convent, even in the acknowledgement of their imperfections and disagreements whether they be a clash of personality or theology or any of the numerous struggles that occur in the midst of community.
“The first service one owes to others in the community involves listening to them….The other service one should perform in a Christian community is active helpfulness….Thirdly, we speak of the service that involves bearing with others. ‘Bear one another’s burdens, and in this way you will fulfill the law of Christ.’ (Gal. 6:2)” –Dietrich Bonhoeffer, Life Together
Having read this text as preparation for our time here in Germany, it was a blessing to meet and converse with the sisters. Their answers to our questions concerning their vows to service and their daily routine all had a common theme: listening to others. All activities that they have during the day are centered on making themselves available whenever to listen to whomever may enter their presence. The sisters often times wander the city streets, making themselves available to passers by who might need someone to listen to them. All of the service they provide to the community of Wittenberg is centered in a model of accompaniment, a model of listening and bearing. They provide spiritual direction and pastoral care to anyone, especially in conversations that deal with life and faith. They mentioned that it is fairly common for someone to see them in the city and stop them to tell them about their lives. They also lead morning and evening prayer worship services for the community on the weekdays. Again it was easy to see the joy and the devotion to their call.
What a blessing to have experienced this witness to the Gospel and this testimony to what it means to live in community! The feeling of God’s presence permeated our time together and our conversation with these sisters. We closed our visit with prayer, and it is my prayer that we, with the example of these sisters, continually ask God for the faith, strength, and courage to be a physical manifestation of the body of Christ with those in our own communities, whatever and wherever they may be.
Thanks be to God!