An extensive programme was developed that granted international participants a chance to learn and experience more about the history and initiatives in the region as well as provide an opportunity for people in Karlsruhe and the wider area to learn about the WCC and the issues being addressed by the ecumenical fellowship.
Over 70 weekend excursions across Germany and into France and Switzerland were organised on the weekend. Over 200 cultural and information events took place in Karlsruhe itself. And on Sunday morning, local churches opened their doors to international guests.
Bishop emeritus Rosemarie Wenner, Evangelical Methodist Church, organized the Encounter Programme of Women, Men, Family, Gender Diversity held in Canisiushaus. Offerings ranged from Intergenerational creative work with the bible in “Messy Churches” to conversations on the Pilgrim Way with people of all gender identities and networking women ministers from around the world. Reflected Wenner, “We overcame language barriers and theological differences and met siblings in Christ. What a blessing.”
Church services – ecumenical as well as in different Christian traditions, in churches and in the open air - were held across the city on Sunday.
A tour of the Garden of Religions in Karlsruhe’s Citypark was part of the encounter programme organized locally. The garden was opened in 2015, as one of fifteen projects the city approved for its 300th anniversary. Mirja Kon-Thederan, a local Karlsruhe resident and interfaith champion, is passionate about how the park demonstrates in a concrete fashion that “dialogue is possible, peace between religions is possible.”
The garden is a series of circular areas with rust-coloured metal half walls carved with texts and symbols from a variety of faiths and philosophies in them.
For Kon-Thederan, the garden must be understood as a whole rather than as discrete sections. “I love my own faith section—the Buddhist one—but I love it as a part of the whole garden, not on its own,” she said.
The garden is used to host interreligious prayers, dialogues, education events, festivals, picnics, tours, and more. Other cities have been contacting Kon-Thederan to learn about Karlsruhe’s experience with the garden.
The local encounter programme had something for everyone, at every age.
Following a reception hosted by Karlsruhe Mayor Frank Mentrup, assembly participants were invited to a special light show at the Karlsruhe palace.
For the local host evening, a powerful and dramatic journey down the river Rhine tracing the regions history, contributions, and current challenges.
As participants journey home from the Assembly, their head and their hearts are full from the rich and deep hospitality of the host churches.