A University Lecture and a Church Service

Yesterday I was torn between doing the Potsdam day trip with IES and attending a lecture at Humboldt Universität, the university where I’m taking my German intensive course and am technically enrolled at. The Humboldt lecture won, because I would have had to get up early on a Saturday morning for Potsdam.

Socialism and the US Election, 2012. The poster advertised it as being about the growing social divide and shrinking middle class in America. Turns out that the speaker, Jerry White, is actually a presidential candidate for the Socialist Equality Party in America. He was introduced by a German from the University, but he was from Queens, NY and spoke no German, so literally every few sentences this really ancient German guy would repeat what he said in German. It was actually quite funny. At one point White said something like, “So in regards to such and such, our motto has basically been, ‘walk like an Egyptian.'” The translator just stared at him for a moment, double-checked the notes, and said nothing. It was quite hilarious, me and the guy next to me snickered but no one else seemed to think so.

Overall, the lecture was not really what I was expecting. It was just a U.S. politician trying to gain support in other countries, especially because Germany has had a history of socialism (I thought this was a weird thing of him to say–I don’t think socialism is particularly popular in Germany today, but I don’t know.) Anyway, like many politicians, his speech was full of strong words like “attack on American liberties” and “labor market reform” and “counterrevolution.” He had a LOT of criticisms to make on the current situation in America, many of which I found really valid – mainly about the uneven distribution of wealth and how it’s only getting worse – but some of it was also really extreme. He really polarized “good” and “bad” former presidents, and didn’t seem to have a firm opinion on Obama – sometimes he praised him or seemed to sympathize with him, other times he criticized him. Overall though, it was almost funny to hear an American yelling at Germans about all the problems in America – particularly as he didn’t have a single suggestion as to what he planned to do to fix them.

Gottesdienst (Church Service)

I attended church this morning with my Vermieterin at the Gethsemane Kirche,  just a few blocks away from her apartment. It was a large brick church and pretty well known in the community. I’ve heard there’s an interesting history behind it – something about refugees or squatters or something living there during some historical event – I’ll have to look it up. Anyways, after visiting so many beautiful, ornate churches last January for the organ tour, I was quite jaded and unimpressed with the interior decorations. The walls were quite bare, just white or brick, the altar was minimalistic, and the stained glass windows were too high up and too small to really be appreciated. I’ll try to take some photos some time, in retrospect I’m sorry I didn’t, but I had other things on my mind.

I really enjoyed the service, although going to a new church for the first time is always an adjustment. You’re never quite sure when you’re supposed to stand up, or sit down, or speak or say the liturgy, and so on. There wasn’t really a program or a screen to follow along, so I just sort of did what everyone else did. I think it stressed my host out, too–she doesn’t normally go to church and seemed just as lost as I did. A couple of times, the hymn was almost over by the time I found the correct page and verse we were on. But hey, it will get easier with time.

The Gethsemane church is Evangelical or Protestant, as opposed to Catholic. I’m not sure if they divide them further here into Lutheran, Episcopal, Baptist, etc. but it seemed pretty familiar. The presiding minister was female, which is not uncommon in the Lutheran churches I’ve been to and probably in Protestant churches in general. They talked about the Ten Commandments, specifically the do not steal one, which I followed along pretty well for the first ten minutes until my mind started to wander. It was also cool to hear the Lord’s Prayer and one of the creeds spoken in German – I’m familiar with them in English and could understand what they were saying, but my translating-on-the-spot abilities were not so high as to be able to speak it along with them. Still, it was a nice experience. I might start going regularly.

My main purpose was to talk to the organist afterwards and see if it would be possible for me to practice on their organ during the week. Unfortunately, it sounded like there were almost always events going on in the church and it was only free mornings, when I have class. But the man was really nice and recommended a couple of other churches in the area I plan on checking out.


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