Bad Homburg Nov 2019
Report from the EUU Fall Retreat in the small town of Bad Homburg, just outside Frankfurt, Germany.
by Peter Zoné, Sweden
Unless otherwise noted, photos by Ryan McGinn
The Retreat and lodgings were in the Deutsche Jugend Herberge (DJH), or German Youth Hostel, a nice, clean place with all the modern facilities in good working order that a retreat which attracted about 120 participants could need. Apparently there is a thermal bath somewhere in town, but I did not find out where. Nowadays, many rich bankers who work in Frankfurt live in the expensive houses in Bad Homburg. In historical times, German Emperors used the castle, which was built by Friedrich the 2nd in 1680s and then re-built/expanded later by Friedrich the 3rd in the 1780-90s, as a “summer cottage for the Royal family” because of the thermal bath in the town. Bad is bath in German.
Since 1945, the castle and beautiful park surrounding the castle is owned by the Federal State of Hessen and used as a museum/art gallery and recreation area, open for the general public. Bad Homburg is easily accessed by the excellent train services (S-bahn) from Frankfurt Hauptbahnhof and the airport.
The theme talk was conducted by the Rev. Dr. Thandeka. The theme was “Discover love beyond Belief,” best described, I suppose, as a powerful and innovative spiritual program that encourages deep personal connections, mindful presence, caring support and acts of loving kindness within the small groups, fellowships, churches and the communities they serve.
The schedule during the weekend contained something for everybody, RE for the children, fun and pleasure, but also serious matters, such as the EUU General Meeting, where the 2020 officers were elected. Whenever Unitarians meet, there is always a lot of talking being done. I guess anybody attending a retreat of GA meeting in the UK would feel at home in a EUU Retreat. There was also a fantastic labyrinth “walking mediation” created by John Keating in the quiet room. Most retreat participants were US ex-pats living in different parts of Europe. I met some of them at the fall retreat in Cologne last year but had the pleasure of meeting many new faces this year.Some of the participants I met and talked to had not been able to attend a EUU retreat for the past 3, 4 or 5 years.
Workshops during Saturday afternoon covered a wide variety of topics such as “Zoroastrianism”, “Life Café” (sharing life experiences/thoughts), “Tikkun Olam” (repair/completion/perfecting the World/creation), “Poetry for Healing”, “Storytelling for Change” “Eating as a Spiritual Practice,” the IARF (about their work during 100 years of promoting religious freedom), and Yoga.
Or retreat participants could go to my small workshop “Fake news,” where I tried to scrape the surface of the use/misuse of social media and get people to think and reflect about the good and bad consequences of using the internet, IT-safety and a few other associated topics.
Friday and Saturday evenings were set aside for fun events. Yes, a well-equipped bar was open during those hours; I chipped in by helping the hard working bar crew. We were even offered a fantastic theater show by the children, who performed the play “The Lion and the Rat.” I am amazed how many talented singers and musicians take part in these kinds of events. I really enjoyed the “variety show” on Saturday night which contained a great variety of songs and music from Scottish Robert Burns and traditional Irish folk songs to “modern day” country and rock.
One reflection I still have in my head, almost one week after leaving Bad Homburg, is how fast time flies during these types of events. I arrived early Friday afternoon, and, before I knew it, we had come to the end of page 2of the massive weekend schedule, and it was time for checking out of the rooms, the closing ceremony and good-byes. The next EUU Retreat will be in Prague 3-5 April, and this Retreat ended by listening to a fewCzech folk songs and trying to pronounce the tongue twisting phrase, “Strc prst skrz krk” (Stick your finger down your throat). The Czechs at this retreat sincerely claimed that the Czech alphabet does have vowels!!!
Much as I would love to visit and stay in Prague next spring, I do not know if I can. But I tried to use my spare time in Bad Homburg as best I could, doing long walks around the town on Friday afternoon and Saturday morning. I spent quite some time in the Old Town’s beautiful houses and streets, one street corner is called “Schweden platz”. Do not know why; I suppose Swedish soldiers passed through here in historical times, when Sweden was a European superpower, fighting all over the continent in the 16th-17th centuries. The old watch post/guards houses from the 1400s were carefully rebuilt in the early 1900s. Yes, I will remember the enjoyable 2019 Fall Retreat and the town of Bad Homburg (a place I had not visited, or even heard of, previously) for a long time.