Just had a Fiatful trip. The weather was mainly beautiful and Monti 2 (our trusty Fiat Tribute camper van) did a fantastic job, clocking up many miles and four sea crossings in under three weeks. Spending time with our grandsons was a big highlight of our holiday, especially the weekend camping trip we took together in Monti 2 (sleeping space was supplemented by a tiny tent). We stayed on a campsite close to their home in Bicester (Oxfordshire) and the boys (along with Grandpa Dave) took turns to sleep in the tent. Dot selflessly turned down that opportunity and stayed in Monti 2 both nights! We did some other things too: David went to a conference of practical theologians in Limerick (they’re the ones who discuss the doctrine of predestination as they hang out the washing); he preached at a Sunday service at our home church (Windsor Baptist) in Belfast; we talked ourselves hoarse after the service with friends and new acquaintances; we went to two birthday parties – a 50th for a friend in Belfast and Dot’s Mum’s 97th in Saintfield; Dot spent a day or two shopping for baby things with Catherine (Daughter No 2) in Bicester; we shared lots of meals with kind friends and family in Dublin, Belfast, Co Down and Bicester. It was wonderful to spend so much time with people (even our dentist!) and to catch up with old friends and ex-work colleagues. Now we are home in Nieuw Vennep (so much unpacking and no little boys to help) and Monti 2 can have a rest until he’s called up for the next Fiatful Adventure.
We’re just home from Berlin. We were attending a 3-day conference for staff of European Baptist Theological Colleges. Thrilling stuff, I hear you say! Actually, it was very interesting – especially for me, a non-theologian (Dorothy speaking, in case you are wondering). The conference theme was ‘The Reformation’. This is a big topic at present (especially in Germany), as next year will see the 500th anniversary of Martin Luther nailing his 95 theses to the door of the Castle Church in Wittenberg. So we had some papers presented about aspects of Reformation theology and discussions about how these relate to Baptists in Europe today. All very good, but the best part for me was the day trip to Wittenberg, where we visited the Luther House – originally an Augustinian monastery where the young Luther lived as a monk and taught in Wittenberg University. Years later, the building was given to Luther, his wife and children to live in. Today it houses the world’s most important Reformation museum, with books and manuscripts, artefacts and preserved family rooms. The Luther House (being a former monastery) is a huge place: apparently it was normal for the family to share their dinner most evenings with up to 30 students, scholars, refugees, travellers and others who wanted to hear Luther’s famous ‘table talks’ and to discuss his new ideas about the church and faith. But this was also the family home, so who cleaned it and made all the meals and looked after the six children and grew the vegetables and fed the pigs and brewed the beer and cleaned up after all those students who joined the family for dinner most evenings? You guessed it – Mrs Luther, of course. An exhibition in the cellar of the museum shows the amazing range of skills she had. In fact, Katharina was such a strong character and got through so much physical work that Martin Luther often called her ‘Mr Luther’ or ‘The Morning Star of Wittenberg’ as she got up before daylight to start her chores. What a woman! We also visited the Luther Oak (not an English pub) and saw the door of the Castle Church where Luther nailed the 95 theses: it is smaller and less impressive than in all those picture books! Our final visit of the day was to a small café near the Castle Church called ‘These 62’ http://www.these62.com/ based on Luther’s 62nd thesis: “The true treasure of the church is the most holy gospel of the glory and grace of God.” The words of Thesis 62 are painted in various languages on the café walls, and tourists and pilgrims who come in are engaged by the staff volunteers in conversations about the meaning of the words. Local speakers are also invited to give public lectures and lead discussions in the centre – a modern version of Luther’s ‘table talks’. It’s been a great week – back to Nieuw Vennep now and, thankfully, I only have to make dinner for two!