Katie Shaw Thompson
Master of Divinity
I have to admit I had no idea how much my cross-cultural trip to Marburg, Germany, would broaden my perspective. By immersing myself in German culture, I learned more about hospitality, theology, global politics, my neighbor, and myself than I thought possible in two weeks.
I was overwhelmed by the hospitality shown to us by the parish church and our host families. I will forever be grateful for those conversations across the table, across cultural differences, and across language barriers about the things that matter deeply to us all.
One of the biggest cultural differences I found was that Germans, or at least the folks we met in Marburg, are much quicker than most U.S. citizens to discuss religion or politics. However, in Germany, it is considered rude to ask personal questions about someone else's autobiography. I was impressed by our hosts' affinity for speaking openly and critically about their country's and their church's historical and present downfalls. I was also grateful that these same folks indulged our North American interest in each other's life stories. In this instance, I found that both cultures had much to learn from each other. I would love if our nation could be more openly critical of itself, but I also value the way U.S. theologians are taught to explicitly consider how our own autobiographies interact with our theology and politics. It was good for me, often a dissenter of the American status quo, to consider both the shortcomings and gifts of my own culture.
I would love to return to Germany, especially after learning more German, but I know that these two short weeks have given me a broader understanding of the human experience, which will have a major impact on my ministry.