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Life Together: Reflection and renewal in the style of Bonhoeffer's Finkenwalde Seminary

 
Part of the “Finkenwalde Experiment” at Freeborn Lutheran Church in partnership with The Bonhoeffer Botanical Gardens and The International Bonhoeffer Society
 
Freeborn Lutheran Church and Bonhoeffer Botanical Gardens Exit 215, Stanwood, WA
Rev. Dr. Mark Brocker, Faculty
Rev. Erik Samuelson, Chaplain
 
A retreat for lay and ordained Christian leaders based on Dietrich Bonhoeffer’s community practice at the Finkenwalde seminary, as outlined in “Life Together” and other writings from that period. The purpose of this experience at Freeborn Lutheran Church and Bonhoeffer Botanical Gardens in Stanwood, WA is to engage a community in a week of “Life Together” for personal renewal, learning, spiritual and vocational discernment, and community formation, as a way to begin connecting Bonhoeffer’s insights and work to the challenges we face today.  
 
Registration is open and spaces are limited, scholarships are available
 

View Retreat Brochure

For more information visit: http://www.freebornchurch.org/life-together-retreat/

 

 
 

Thank you to the people at Plough Quarterly Magazine, who gave permission for us to reprint a portion of this article. 


Bonhoeffer in China

Yu Jie: On October 8, 2010, it was announced that Liu Xiaobo, the Chinese dissident writer, had been chosen to receive the Nobel Peace Prize. At the time, he was in prison serving an eleven-year sentence for inciting subversion (he remains a prisoner today). The authorities knew that Liu and I were good friends – we had known each other for twelve years and I was writing his biography. Immediately after the announcement, my wife Liu Min and I were placed under house arrest.

The ceremony to award the Nobel Peace Prize to Liu in absentia was on December 10. The day before this was the darkest of my life. Plainclothes agents of the secret police kidnapped me from my home, pulled a black hood over my head, and brought me to a detention room. For six hours they tortured me almost to death. They told me: “If our supervisor gives the order, we will dig a hole and bury you alive.” I was stripped of all my clothes and beaten badly as they took pictures. Then they forced my fingers backward one by one, saying that they would break the fingers I had used to write against the Communist Party. Eventually I lost consciousness.

The first hospital they brought me to refused to treat me. So they brought me to a more advanced hospital, where physicians told me that if the torture had continued another half hour I would not have survived.

Do you remember what you were thinking during the interrogation?

Before I lost consciousness I prayed to God in my heart. I clearly sensed his presence and felt the assurance: without the permission of God, not one hair of my head will fall. These words came to me as well: “Do not fear those who can kill the body, because they cannot kill the soul.” Those two promises of Jesus were my prayer.

After my kidnapping, my wife was still under house arrest. All phone lines and the internet were cut off, and for five days she had no way of finding out where I was. She was under such stress that she lost half her hair. Fortunately, by divine providence, we had sent our two-year-old son for a visit to his grandparents shortly before, so he was spared this experience.

After my arrest and torture, they tried to bribe me – they promised that if I would stop criticizing the regime they would provide a platform for me to write popular literature, and I would get rich.

Even after my release, the harassment and periods of house arrest continued. I could not go to church or attend Bible study; I was cut off from my Christian brothers and sisters. I looked in my son’s eyes and asked myself what kind of father I could be to him if we remained in China in this impossible situation. And so in January 2012 we came to the United States.

Awakening

You weren’t raised as a Christian. Were there influences in your childhood and youth that laid the groundwork for your conversion later?

I was born in the city of Chengdu in the province of Sichuan, a beautiful, mountainous region with a long history of resisting the imperial power in Beijing. So from the beginning of my life I drank in a dislike for centralized power.

My father is an engineer. His thinking and lifestyle were quite westernized, and even as a young boy he treated me as an equal. In a Confucian culture that emphasizes hierarchy, this was rare.

The moment of my political awakening came when I was sixteen and attending high school. I still remember hearing the news of the mass murder of students protesting on Beijing’s Tiananmen Square. That day, June 4, 1989, marked a turning point for me – I began to realize the true nature of the Communist regime. I would never believe their lies again.

Three years later, I arrived in Beijing myself, as a student at Peking University, China’s oldest and most selective institute of higher learning. I studied there for eight years, earning a master’s degree. But far more important to me than my formal coursework were my independent studies in the library. Thanks to a friendly librarian who bent the rules, I had access to restricted books published in Taiwan. I read accounts of the campaign of civil disobedience against Taiwan’s authoritarian government in the 1970s and 80s, and learned how a pro-democracy movement can be successful. What especially impressed me was the prominent role that Taiwan’s churches played in this movement.

But you were still just a secular observer.

That’s right. In 1998, while still a graduate student, I published my first book, Fire and Ice, a collection of satirical essays criticizing Chinese society. Looking back, it amazes me that the book ever made it past the censors. But that was the year Bill Clinton visited China – the first US president to do so since the Tiananmen Square massacre. The Chinese leadership wanted Western media to portray China as a free society. What better way than to allow publication of a book critical of the regime?

[ READ THE FULL ARTICLE ]

 

Christoph Von Dohnanyi, is director emeritus of the Cleveland Orchestra and son of Hans Von Dohnanyi, one of Bonhoeffer's fellow conspirators killed by the Nazis.  

Four men in my family were executed by the Nazis. Hans von Dohnanyi, my father, honored in Yad Vashem, was killed in the Nazi concentration camp Sachsenhausen short before the Second World War ended. At the same time the world-renowned theologian Dietrich Bonhoeffer, brother of my mother, my godfather, was executed in the concentration camp Flossenbürg. In 1930 Bonhoeffer began his studies in New York City at the Union Theological Seminary and learned to love and admire the United States of America.

I know today he would be extremely unhappy observing a tendency of religious intolerance in the country he once admired so much for its freedom and acceptance. He never could have imagined that this strong, great nation would find itself in the political and ethical crisis it now faces. A nation’s heart may race when it feels threatened, fearful, or even terrified. But this heart, no matter how “devout”, should never tolerate walls nor turn away those seeking help. People died at the Berlin Wall. Many people died in Hitler’s concentration camps for their unwavering beliefs in the value of their ethics and in their fellow man. These beliefs are now endangered in many Western nations including, sadly enough, the USA. This is unimaginable.

[Click here to read the remainder of this article]

 

Filmed on location in Europe and the United States, Come Before Winter is a docudrama that lifts the curtain on cruel ironies of the final weeks of World War II in Europe and tracks two longtime foes of Adolf Hitler: iconic German pastor and theologian, Dietrich Bonhoeffer, and virtuoso propagandist, Sefton Delmer.


Buy or Rent this film: http://comebeforewintermovie.com/order-dvd/

Access Facebook Page: http://facebook.com/bonhoeffermovie


FILM DETAILS

Title: Come Before Winter, Dietrich Bonhoeffer And His Companions In The Dying Gasps Of The Third Reich

Director: Kevin Ekvall

Producer: Gary Blount

Production Company: Stories That Glow Collectors

Year of Completion: 2016

Length: 75 minutes

Language: English

Genre: Docudrama

Website:  www.comebeforewintermovie.com

LOGLINE

Filmed on location in Europe and the United States, Come Before Winter is a docudrama that lifts the curtain on cruel ironies of the final weeks of World War II in Europe and tracks two longtime foes of Adolf Hitler: iconic German pastor and theologian, Dietrich Bonhoeffer, and virtuoso propagandist, Sefton Delmer.

 

SYNOPSIS

Filmed on location in Europe and the United States, Come Before Winter is a docudrama that lifts the curtain on cruel ironies of the final weeks of World War II in Europe and tracks two longtime foes of Adolf Hitler: iconic German pastor and theologian, Dietrich Bonhoeffer, and virtuoso propagandist, Sefton Delmer.

For years Bonhoeffer has been speaking out against Hitler and the Nazis.  Such boldness has landed him in prison where he is left to consider the moral dilemma of the resistance in the company of his fellow prisoners.  Crushed by the failure of operation Valkyrie, Bonhoeffer discovers that “it is only by living completely in this world that one learns to have faith.”

Meanwhile, in a secret location outside London, a team of propagandists gather daily to transmit a fake news radio program into German-occupied Europe, spreading confusion and fooling the enemy into thinking that they are listening to a real German radio station. Leading this team is Sefton Delmer and by his side is Bonhoeffer’s friend Otto John, eventual head of West Germany’s domestic intelligence service and Ian Fleming, British naval intelligence officer and creator of the iconic James Bond spy novels. 

Did fearless German resistance plotters and shrewd Allied propagandists make a difference? And how does Dietrich Bonhoeffer bring into focus ethical challenges during his final days in the dying gasps of the Third Reich?

 

MOTIVATION FOR THE FILM

Come Before Winteris a passion project of Minnesota psychiatrist Gary Blount.  Inspired by Bonhoeffer’s exemplary faith and courage, Blount began researching Bonhoeffer during his college years and has been fascinated with the story ever since.

Over the last few decades Blount researched this beloved theologian, making several trips to Europe to visit Bonhoeffer’s family, interview scholars and experience the places where Bonhoeffer’s life unfolded.

 

FROM GARY BLOUNT – PRODUCER

“Our story is about the final chapter in Dietrich Bonhoeffer’s life and what must have been the aching for deliverance by the Allies who were rapidly closing in.  We felt our time frame would extract something of the essence of his life and the perspective which he seemed to seek—’the view from below’.  This view now includes more uncertainty, wartime cruelty, and vengeance.  Bonhoeffer had traded collegiality with thought leaders like Barth and Niebuhr for companionship with an amazing collection of characters, not all ‘pure in heart.’ Sefton Delmer, our story teller, was proud of his frolicking and perverse propaganda.  Delmer’s admiration of Bonhoeffer was overshadowed by his cynicism toward the ‘opportunistic’ German Resistance. His broadcast had not only been heard extensively but had, he believed, contributed to the war effort.”

 

FROM KEVIN EKVALL – DIRECTOR

“I was asked by Gary Blount to direct this film back in 2013.  We didn’t begin serious work on the film until January of 2014 but during that time I read as much as I could by and about Bonhoeffer.  In addition to doing a tremendous amount of research, Gary had written a treatment of the film and come up with the film’s title.  He wanted to include interviews with Bonhoeffer experts but also start the story from the perspective of a British Intelligence Propaganda team, a daring but intriguing idea.  We decided the movie would be a sort of docudrama.”

“It’s a humbling experience to witness both the passion and effort of those who have been caretakers of Dietrich Bonhoeffer’s story.  When Gary Blount first approached me with this project, I knew Bonhoeffer was a gifted writer but had assumed his story rather bland.  I was wrong.  His life spun a fascinating tale that adds veracity to his words.”

 

REVIEWS

“A new documentary rediscovers a World War II campaign that was stranger than nonfiction.”

– Smithsonian Magazine,  April 2017

“Many portrayals of Dietrich Bonhoeffer present him as a heroic Christian martyr who single handedly resisted the Nazis during the 1930s.  Come Before Winter manages to avoid this kind of hagiography and shows us the final days of Bonhoeffer’s life within the context of his family and friends in the resistance—essentially his Sanctorum Communio.  The film remains faithful to the Bonhoeffer of history and current research on the final days of the German resistance.  A must see film!”

– Dr. Jeffrey Gang, Loma Linda University,  School of Religion

“…a touching blend of documentation and life stories…a remarkable monument to the German Resistance!”

– Dr. Christian Weber, Study Secretary, Mission 21, Basel, Switzerland

“Masterfully explores the tragic last chapter of the young theologian’s life.”

– Martin Doblmeier, documentary filmmaker

“Great story! Not preachy.”

– Kelley Carlson, teenaged movie critic

“Living in an age where our own comfort and security seem paramount in the values of so many in our society, Come Before Winter is a powerful affirmation of the eternal values of putting our lives at risk rather than seeking our own.  Rather than choosing the comfort of living in the United States, Bonhoeffer chose to return to Germany.  The example of his life speaks to us today through this evocative documentary.”

– Richard Osborn,  Vice President,  WASC Senior College and University Commission

 

CAST

Gus Lynch (DIETRICH BONHOEFFER)

Gus Lynch was born in Buenos Aires, Argentina and was raised in New York City. His first language was Spanish. He currently resides in Los Angeles while pursuing his acting career.

 

Aubrey Wakeling (SEFTON DELMER)

Aubrey Wakeling was born in St Albans, England. Classically trained, he has numerous film and TV credits to his name, including the lead in the Emmy winning Power of Art (BBC). He has lived in Los Angeles, California since 2010.

 

Rebecca Summers (VICKI/AGNES BERNELLE)

Rebecca Summers was born in Hampshire, England. She studied theater at Queen Mary's College and screen acting at the International School of Screen Acting in London, UK. She has appeared in many feature films, award winning shorts and international commercials. She made her theatrical debut playing the lead role in the psychological thriller The Spell; followed by The Gridiron, Silent Retreat, The Lovaganza Convoy, Black Hearts and Advantageous. She is currently living in LA.

 

Scotty Ray (IAN FLEMING)

Scotty Ray is an adjunct Professor in Drama at La Sierra University. Scotty holds an MFA in Acting from the American Repertory Theater/Moscow Art Theater School at Harvard University and a BA in Mass Communication with minors in drama and religion from Walla Walla University. Improv Training from The Groundlings Theater in Hollywood.

 

Kelly Reed (OTTO JOHN)

L. Kelly Reed is a professor of English at La Sierra University in Riverside, CA. He has been teaching there since 2002 and has been acting on stages for even longer. Come Before Winter is his first feature film. Kelly also edits fiction for Red Adept Publishing.

Statement Issued by the Board of Directors of the International Bonhoeffer Society – English Language Section, February 1, 2017

Comprising scholars and religious leaders from the United States, South Africa, New Zealand, Australia, Canada, and the United Kingdom, the purpose of the English Language Section of the International Bonhoeffer Society is to encourage critical scholarship in conversation with the theology, life, and legacy of the German pastor-theologian and Nazi resistor, Dietrich Bonhoeffer. While initiated in the United States, this statement expresses the concern, input, and support of our members in many countries that are demonstrating and protesting around the world.We speak noting that Dietrich Bonhoeffer himself taught the profound relatedness of all human persons and, indeed, of peoples and nations. We therefore feel called to raise our voices in support of justice and peace, and in resistance to every form of unjust discrimination and aggressive nationalism.

The United States has undergone an unusually contentious, bitter, and ugly election that has brought us to an equally contentious, bitter, and ugly beginning of the presidency of Donald J. Trump. While it is impossible to predict what lies ahead, we are gravely concerned by the rise in hateful rhetoric and violence, the deep divisions and distrust in our country, and the weakening in respectful public discourse. Some of the institutions that have traditionally protected our freedoms are under threat. In particular, this election has made the most vulnerable members of our society, including people of color, members of the LGBTQ communities, Muslims, immigrants, refugees, the poor, and the marginally employed and the unemployed, feel even more vulnerable and disempowered.

The German theologian and martyr Dietrich Bonhoeffer is quoted often in such times, for he spoke eloquently to such issues. His entire theological and political journey was shaped by his conviction that the church is only truly church when it lives for all God’s children in the world, and that Christians fulfill their faith as Christians only when we live for others. Members of the Bonhoeffer Society hope to make a faithful contribution to our society in this ominous time.

The best way to understand Bonhoeffer’s possible message for our times is not to draw direct political analogies between his time and ours, but to understand the meaning of how he understood his faith and his responsibilities as a citizen in his own times and discern where these words might resonate for us today:

In the coming time, we will seek to live such a life of witness, not only for the sake of our country, but because our Christian faith calls us to do so.

  • He warned that leaders become “misleaders” when they are interested only in their own power and neglect their responsibilities to serve those whom they govern. (1933)
  • He warned that when a government persecutes its minorities, it has ceased to govern legitimately. (1933)
  • He admonished Christians to “speak out for those who cannot speak” (1934) and reminded that the church has an “unconditional obligation toward the victims of any societal order, even if they do not belong to the Christian community.” (1933)
  • In his book Discipleship, he wrote: “From the human point of view there are countless possibilities of understanding and interpreting the Sermon on the Mount. Jesus knows only one possibility: simply go and obey. Do not interpret or apply, but do it and obey. That is the only way Jesus’ word is really heard. But again, doing something is not to be understood as an ideal possibility; instead, we are simply to begin acting.”(1936)
  • He wrote: “I believe that in every moment of distress God will give us as much strength to resist as we need…I believe that even our mistakes and shortcomings are not in vain and that is not more difficult for God to deal with them than with our supposedly good deeds. I believe that God is no timeless fate but waits for and responds to sincere prayer and responsible actions.” (1942)
  • He wrote: “Is there a political responsibility of the individual Christian? Individual Christians can certainly not be held responsible for the government’s actions, nor dare they make themselves responsible for them. But on the basis of their faith and love of neighbor, they are responsible for their own vocation and personal sphere of living, however large or small it is. Wherever this responsibility is faithfully exercised, it has efficacy for the polis as a whole.”(1941)
  • He wrote: “… one only learns to have faith by living in the full this-worldliness of life….then one takes seriously no longer one’s own sufferings but rather the suffering of God in the world. Then one stays awake with Christ in Gethsemane…. How should one become arrogant over successes or shaken by one’s failures when one shares in God’s suffering in the life of this world?” (1944)

In the coming time, we will seek to live such a life of witness, not only for the sake of our country, but because our Christian faith calls us to do so. 

Download a PDF of this document.

 

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