Reflections on Oberammagau

The five days in Italy were rich and eventful.  The weather was excellent and I have lots of photos of mountains, Lake Garda, olive trees and the hotel swimming pool!  There were days trips to the Dolomite mountains, Verona, Venice and around the lake.  I enjoyed each of these thoroughly except for the Verona day when I equally enjoyed opting out and spending a lazy day in and around the swimming pool and walking by the lake in the town of Garda – where the hotel was.

On the Saturday we travelled north and spent time in Innsbruck in Austria (the snow capped mountains here against a deep blue sky were amazing – see photo below.  Then onto Bavaria and the Oberammergau area.  Our circuit party was then split up and I was one of a group of 7 staying in a family run guesthouse in a nearby village.  Sunday morning we were able to explore Oberammergau itself – I went to an Introduction to the Passionplay led by one of the young men who plays Peter (each main character has two actors who take it in turns).  I also visited the stunning Roman Catholic church which is beautifully decorated inside.  Of course, there are all the outside decorations of the houses and other buildings in the village to look at. 

Lunch and dinner were at pre-allocated restaurants.  The first half of the play was from 2.30pm – 5 and the second half from 8 – 10.45pm.  The theatre, play and players are all amazing!  Over 2000 people take part (all from Oberammergau – you have to have lived there 20 years to take part) and they all have ordinary jobs.  The play is in German but we were given an English translation to follow.  If you want to know more, take a look at the Passionplay website! 

Obviously, the story of the last week of the life of Jesus is very moving on any occasion but this had its own capacity to touch the heart and soul.  There is music and a choir and also living tableaux from the Old Testament interspersed.  The performance we saw was made more dramatic by real thunder and lightning (and rain beating down!) during the long trial scene.

I will be digesting what it all meant to me over the next weeks and months but the main thing that was brought home to me as I watched was the complete misunderstanding and closed minds of some of the Jewish leaders.  Others were played sympathetically and we watched as Nicodemus and Joseph of Arimathea led a group against Annas and Caiaphas.  The challenge for me is how do I remain open to all the things God is already doing, and will do, that are surprising, unexpected and even – sometimes – shocking?!

It was good to get to know other people in our party (17 from the circuit including 3 relatives of church members) and also others in the whole tour group.  I had several interesting conversations!  And an enjoyable evening meal (and some laughs!) in the company of Iris and Eileen for 5 evenings! We had an epilogue each night in Italy (which attracted others from the tour group as well as ourselves) and separate ones in our Bavarian accommodations.  On the Sunday morning, Heather and Doreen joined me as we prayed in the church grounds for the day on behalf of the group.  It was impossible in all the hubbub to get everyone together as we had hoped.  But then the play was the thing and must have touched each of the 4,700 people there in some spiritual way.  And that was only one performance in the whole run between May and October!  Praise God for the people of Oberammagau and their faithfulness!