At-Large, In-Person Gatherings in Northern Germany — Summers Past and Solstice to Come

By Martha Hicks, EUU member-at-large

Sparrenburg Fest © NW

As early as late in 2019, some EUU members in north Germany had been in contact with me regarding having a summer gathering in July. I had already inquired into possible venues in Bielefeld and thought it might be of interest to some to also visit one of my favorite events in Bielefeld — the medieval Sparrenburg Festival — which always takes place on the last weekend of July.

As was the case for many who were planning events for 2020, Covid foiled us all, and we went into hibernation for nearly two years. Many At-Large members and fellowships were able to acclimate themselves to contacts over the many internet platforms. I commend all those who spent so much time and energy setting up those meetings, for this allowed EUU members to keep up those ties that bind us together.

But for some of us, the internet interactions left us feeling frustrated, trying to deal with all of the technical knowledge necessary, as well as disappointed that the experience was missing something vital. Perhaps it was the full use of all of our senses, taking in the energy and spirit of the group, perhaps it was the ability to hear the others when we sing together, perhaps it was spontaneity of getting to know new people or feeling the real embrace of a long time friend.

September 2022  In any case, several members were enthusiastic about trying to get together with others from our region, so that travel would not be so expensive and the gathering not so far away. So in September 2022, I organized an At-Large gathering on the weekend of 24-25. In total we had 10 participants. The first meeting took place in the afternoon on Saturday from 14:30 to 16:00. Peter Davies and Rita Woditsch led a workshop on Breathing. Afterwards we all took a hike to our local pond and enjoyed being in nature and having a chance for informal conversation. Following this we enjoyed a wonderful meal at our favorite Italian restaurant. On Sunday morning, we all had breakfast together at our place. At 10:30, I presented a workshop/discussion on Reciprocity. For lunch I made a mangold/leek quiche with a salad, and then John drove all to the train station for their connections home.

July 2023 We were all so pleased with having this opportunity to come together again, Roland suggested that we try to organize another meeting in 2023. I mentioned at the Spring Retreat that a gathering might be taking place and those interested should contact me. With the Covid danger being considerably less, and with everyone vaccinated, we all felt comfortable without masks. I set up a date that would coincide with the Sparrenburg festival, the last weekend in July.

The northern German EUU meeting started on Friday this time. Already Roland, Laura, Bruce, Peter, Marilyn, Marcie, Elke were making arrangements to come. But fate was not on our side. Between Covid and deaths in the family and a sudden operation and illness of a mother, four were suddenly not able to come. So, though our group was smaller, we carried on anyway, and, fortunately, our son Jesse, his wife Caro and their best friend Jessica were able to join us, and we had some good discussions. Bruce gave us a report on how it was to host a Ukrainian family for a year. I did a presentation on The Importance of Words that Peter had been going to do in the morning on Saturday and in the afternoon, we had a discussion on Religion as an Identity, not a Faith. We all shared our experiences with developing our sense of identity, and I found it very interesting to get the younger generation’s input on both of these themes. We were invited by Roland in the evening to a meal at the “Burger Park Café”, which has a spectacular view over the gardens of the park next to Bielefeld’s concert hall. My friend Marilyn had just been released from the hospital that morning and was able to join us for dinner. Many took their leave after the meal. All say that they look forward to meeting again soon.

If enough people show interest in these northern German meetings, I would be willing to organize a Winter Solstice perhaps on the weekend (16-17) in December this year. Those who may be interested should contact me at