Friday, December 30, 2011

A Tree Grows in Wittenberg - and in Philadelphia

To close 2011 and continue the Tercentenary story of Henry Melchior Muhlenberg, here's a story you may have missed from earlier in the year. The Legacy of Henry Melchior Muhlenberg celebration at LTSP continues in the year ahead. Happy New Year!

Seminary plants a tree in Wittenberg, Germany; 'Luther Garden' commemorates the Reformation

A Flowering Ash tree sponsored for planting by The Lutheran Theological Seminary at Philadelphia (LTSP) on May 28 became the 76th tree to be placed in a commemorative “Luther Garden” in Wittenberg, Germany. The garden, designed as a symbol of the global magnitude of the Reformation, also is intended to mark the interconnectedness, interaction and reconciliation between Christian churches.

Groundbreaking for the garden, located  near the Lutheran World Federation Center in Wittenberg, took place Oct 31, 2008. The goal is to attract the planting of 500 trees there from Christian Churches on five continents by the time the 500th anniversary of the Reformation is celebrated Oct. 31, 2017. The May 28 tree planting was the first to be placed in the garden by a seminary. Wittenberg is the City of Reformer Martin Luther.

Planned by renowned landscape architect Dr. Andreas Kipar, the garden features a public square shaped around a Luther Rose created from a variety of cobblestones. The trees surrounding the square are in the design of an oval. The garden is part of a greenbelt triangle in Wittenberg, connecting the garden to Wittenberg’s Castle Church and City Church. The garden connects the town center to the Elbe River, with the garden pointing toward the river, symbolically opening itself toward the world. Kipar says the trees overall will represent the events in Wittenberg 500 years ago that fundamentally changed the world, and the trees will provide the opportunity for people of today to reflect on those developments.

Representing LTSP at the tree planting here were the Rev. George E. Keck, retired director of admissions for the seminary and a member of the LTSP President’s Advisory Council, and the Rev. Stephen Godsall-Myers, pastor of Advent Lutheran Church, Harleysville, PA, one of the many congregations planted in North America with connections to Lutheran Patriarch Henry Melchior Muhlenberg. Godsall-Myers is a 1983 graduate of LTSP.

“The garden is not only a living monument to the Reformation, but also an ecumenical monument,” Godsall-Myers says. “It recognizes that what happened in Wittenberg did not stay in Wittenberg.” The first trees planted in the garden (in the petals of the Luther Rose) were “ecumenical trees” representing the Roman Catholic, Orthodox, Anglican, Reformed and Methodist communions. “A lesson we took from our Wittenberg visit is that whatever happens in the church, no matter where it is, should not stay in the church but be spread out in all directions.”

After the planting, the seminary was awarded a certificate commemorating the event and signed by the Rev. Hans W. Kasch, director of the LWF Center in Wittenberg.

The agreement with the seminary to plant the tree, signed by LTSP President Philip D. W. Krey, also calls for each Wittenberg Garden sponsoring church organization to plant a tree in its own setting connecting the local planting to the “Luther Garden” in Germany. The dual planting approach aims to emphasize the worldwide significance and influence of the Reformation started by Martin Luther in Wittenberg. The seminary campus’s “partner” tree is located near the main entrance of the Wiedemann Center, LTSP’s main residence hall. LTSP is the first of the seminaries in the United States to have a partner tree at Wittenberg.

Pr. Steve Godsall-Meyers planting the tree
(photo courtesy George Keck).

Watering the tree in Wittenberg with the U.S. contingent watching
(photo courtesy Steve Godsall-Meyers).

Story by seminary writer Mark Staples.

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