After I graduated from seminary, I took part in an international program called the “Global Institute of Theology” at Kirchliche Hochschule Wuppertal/Bethel, Germany.
The Kirchliche Hochschule (“Church University”) was founded in 1935 by the Confessing Church movement, which opposed the Nazi regime. Students and faculty in this “illegal seminary” lived together in a sprawling farmhouse atop a hill that overlooked the small city of Wuppertal. Before long, the inhabitants of the city started referring to the hill as dem heiligenberg, which can be translated as “the holy mountain.”
The old farmhouse has now been converted into a retreat center that rests in the middle of the school’s elegant campus. Church leaders, theologians and exchange students from around the world are invited to step away from the busyness of their daily lives and join a community of faith and learning “on the holy mountain.”
For many who study there, the holy mountain is a “thin place,” where earth seems to touch heaven. To gather there is to take hold of a legacy. The legacy is one of courage, conviction, and commitment. It is the story of a group of Christians who risked everything for their belief in a church free of any ideology that would deny God’s mission of love and reconciliation to the world.
BMPC’s High School Winter Retreat is my favorite event of the church year. On Martin Luther King weekend (January 19-21), a group of high schoolers and adult leaders will set out for Camp Kirkwood, our very own “holy mountain.” Our time away in the Poconos can hardly be compared to the experience of those who gathered in Wuppertal under the watchful eyes of the Third Reich. Nevertheless, this weekend full of friends, fellowship, and faith bears witness to the same legacy. Whenever and wherever God’s people gather together around a shared commitment to the gospel’s promise of love and reconciliation, God is there. That time is blessed. That place is holy.
The dawn of a new year brings with it emerging challenges and possibilities for adventure. Wherever life takes you in the coming months, I pray that God will lead you to your own “holy mountain.” I pray that you will find new ways of living into God’s promise of love and reconciliation. May your time be blessed, and your life be holy.