Her schedule is packed. The clock is ticking and she knows it. The demands don’t stop for the person who oversees the operation and restoration of one of the crown jewels of this historical city: Wittenberg on the verge of its biggest birthday, 500 years since Luther's 95 Theses were "nailed" to the doors in the photo above. All aspects of the renovation project of the Castle Church, are under the watchful eye of Dr. Hanna Kasparick, the director of the Preaching Seminary in Wittenberg, Germany.
The day before I interviewed Hanna, she was walking the streets with Margrethe II, Queen of Denmark. It’s not the first time she has met the queen, who has reigned for 44 years. Margrethe II has frequented Wittenberg, checking the colors and dimensions for a special altar tapestry she is personally crafting for the historical event next year. (Left and middle photos below from the local newspaper, with queen in middle, Dr. Hanna Kasparick, on the right. The photo of Margarethe II from Wikipedia. I think she's wearing the same jacket!)
Dr. Kasparick sat down to talk with me on the way to choir practice one chilly January evening. She shared how music has always been important to her—a way to cope with life’s stresses and difficulties. She spoke about how “singing the text” strengthened her own call to ministry. “I wanted to understand it. I had a fascination with the prophets, and Jesus and Paul. I love to sing with the congregation, my family, or by myself…. Bach, Mendelssohn.” Ah, Germans and their rich tradition of music.
Hanna’s father was a pastor in the former German Democratic Republic (GDR), a teacher in a special seminary and a superintendent in a church district in Berlin. Living under communism in East Germany, he valued freedom and education.
When her father died, it was a crisis for her family, consisting of Hanna, her mother and brother. “Christians in the GDR are necessary,” her dad taught them. Her mother wanted to relocate the family to western Germany, but they convinced her to stay in the former GDR. Hanna went on to become a pastor five years later.
Being a Christian in East Germany was stressful. The government wanted all allegiance to it - not to Jesus Christ and the church. Ironically, women had no trouble securing occupations in the GDR, including becoming pastors. Ordained in 1987, Hanna has served the church for 26 years, taking a break in the middle to spend with her two boys.
Dr. Hanna Kasparick is no stranger to hard work and she has a strong team assembled. I look forward to returning to Wittenberg to see the finished work and reopening of the Castle Church.
The Reformation Heritage tour I took in January 2016 was 20 days in length and featured a course on "Luther as Pastor." If you are interested in a Reformation Heritage Tour, Luther Seminary is offering a 10-day tour in May 2016, also led by Dr. Mary Jane Haemig, Professor of Church History and Director of the Reformation Research Program. More info here.
FYI: The German Democratic Republic (GDR), or simply East Germany as it was commonly known, was a communist state that existed from 1949 to 1990 in the eastern regions of Germany. It was formed following World War II in the Soviet occupation zone (urbandictionary.com).