There and Back Again: A Pastor’s Sabbatical Adventure #5


“Listen,” says the Spirit, “for you, for you, for you it was done.”


Yesterday I visited, “Raum der Stille” – Room of Silence – in the Brandenburg Gate. Raum der Stille is exactly what it sounds like it would be. It’s a place of stillness. It was modeled on a similar room that Dag Hammarskyold (a Lutheran worth googling and knowing about it you don’t) had commissioned for himself and his colleagues in 1954 in the United Nations building in New York that is still in use.

Established by a private/public partnership, according to its sponsors it has two purposes. Firstly, it provides a place for everyone independent of race, creed, politics or physical condition to enter and remain in silence for awhile to relax, be renewed or to remember the dark but also hopeful events that led the creation of the room in the first place – the rise and fall of the Nazi atrocity and the aftermath that included first the building and then the thing I never thought would/could happen – the fall of the Berlin Wall.

As everyone is invited to remain in silence and peace for a while the room is also meant to be an invitation to tolerance, brother and sisterhood of humanity embracing all nationalities and ideologies, a continuous reminder against violence and xenophobia –  particularly poignant as we once again live through the aftermath of innocents murdered by the intolerant.

The room is set into a structure connected to one side of the Brandenburg gate. Directly, across the square on the other side of the Brandenburg Gate is the United States Embassy. In the midst of all the other meanings and history of this spot this also has a very special personal meaning for me since it was in that embassy  (not the same building since the original was destroyed in the war but on the same spot) that my (American)  grandfather and (German) grandmother met in the swirl of events of the mid 1930’s leading up to the Second World War. She was a secretary and he was a low level embassy staffer of some sort. If not for that I quite literally would not be here today.

This prayer from the United Stations is given to those who visit the Raum der Stille – several different languages.

“Oh Lord, our planet earth is only a small star in space. It is our duty, to transform it into a planet whose creatures are no longer tormented by war, hunger, and fear, no longer senselessly divided by race, color and ideology. Give us courage and strength to begin this task today so that our children and children’s children shall one day carry the name of humanity with pride.”

A prayer never more meaningful and crying out to be answered than today.