At university -,the Student Union Travel company offered a cheap ski week over Easter in Bavaria. I persuaded a Sherbrooke Youth Fellowship and University friend to join me and off we went.
We arrived in a deep valley with a stunningly beautiful town in which all buildings, including the Town Hall, were white-painted traditional Bavarian design. Most had spectacular murals of country scenes, flowers,animals but particularly religious scenes.
The town was of course Oberammergau, which, every 10 years, performs the Passion Play to thank God for their valley being passed over by the Bubonic Plague of March 1633 which decimated the populations across Europe. The play is performed, over 5 months, by villagers and the accolade and responsibility of a main part remains for life.
We were the only Brits amongst our group of 8 young French students and about 40 sixth form college youngsters from Germany. On Easter weekend we were simply told the slopes would be shut on Easter Sunday morning and we would be taken to church by our ski instructor.These youngsters did not seem like church goers but fascinatingly there was not a single murmur of dissent or even surprise and on, Sunday we all walked our noisy and happy way, in holiday clothes, to the church a surprising distance out of town.
It was huge. But the surprise of its exterior had nothing on the impact of the interior. It was stunning, with ornate decoration,a truly magnificent organ,more gold leaf than Versailles and all the side alters competed with each other in their desire to thank God for their delivery from the Black Death.
Not speaking German, we were prepared to politely sit out the service in silence but when the hymns started we were reminded that Christianity is truly multinational and the great Lutheran and translated Charles Wesley hymns-Crown Him with many a crown- were blasted out from that great organ. Robin was an ex school chorister and as soon as we realised we didn't need a hymn book we were belting out these great hymns in English, causing great smiles and nods of approval from those around us.
Every Easter I remember Oberammergau; the town's determination to remember and thank God for their deliverance from a killer infectious disease ,the acceptance of young people that on Easter Sunday we thank God together for his Son's sacrifice.
How sad that we cannot be together in our church for Easter as we too pray for deliverance from this killer infectious disease 400 years later.