Life Together: A weekend of reflection and renewal in the style of Bonhoeffer's Finkenwalde Seminary
part of the Freeborn Finkenwalde Experiment
in partnership with
September 29th – October 1st 2017
Freeborn Church and Bonhoeffer Botanical Gardens 
Exit 215, Stanwood, WA
Rev. Dr. Mark Brocker, Faculty
Rev. Erik Samuelson, Chaplain
A weekend retreat in fall 2017 for lay and ordained Christian leaders based on Dietrich Bonhoeffer’s community practice at the Finkenwalde seminary, as outlined in “Life Together” and other writings from that period. The purpose of his weekend experience at Freeborn Lutheran Church and Bonhoeffer Botanical Gardens in Stanwood, WA is to engage a community in a weekend of “Life Together” for personal renewal, learning, spiritual and vocational discernment, and community formation, as a way to begin connecting Bonhoeffer’s insights and work to the challenges we face today.  We will use Bonhoeffer's "Life Together and Prayer Book of the Bible" as the common text. Dr. Brocker encourages purchasing the Fortress Press "Dietrich Bonhoeffer's Works Vol 5" edition.  Evening lecture on Saturday September 30th by Rev. Dr. Mark Brocker connecting Dietrich Bonhoeffer's work to the challenges of today with the theme "Resisting Injustice and Evil in Challenging Times: What We Can Learn from the Church Struggle in Nazi Germany" will be open to the public. 
Cost: $50 per person, including meals
Evening lecture is free ($15 for dinner)
Scholarships available for students and others needing financial assistance
Lodging: Nearby hotels
contact  Erik Samuelson for more information
Draft Retreat Schedule (based on Finkenwalde Seminary Daily Schedule)
September 29 – October 1

FRIDAY (September 29)

            3:00p                Arrival and Registration

            4:00p                Bonhoeffer Documentary

            6:00p                Dinner

            7:00p                Chapter 1: Community

            8:30p                Evening Worship

SATURDAY (September 30)

            7:00a                Morning Worship

            7:30a                Breakfast

            8:30a                Meditation

            9:00a                Chapter 2: The Day Together

          10:30a                 Chapter 3: The Day Alone

          12:00noon         Community Singing

          12:30p                 Lunch

            1:30p                Chapter 4: Service

            3:00p                Bonhoeffer Garden/Free Time

            6:00p                Dinner

            7:00p                Public Lecture: “What We Can Learn from the Church Struggle in Nazi Germany”

            8:30p                Evening Prayer

SUNDAY (October 1)

            7:30a                Breakfast

            8:30a                Chapter 5: Confession and the Lord’s Supper

          10:00a                 Worship

            11:30                Lunch with Freeborn Church-Community


Dietrich Bonhoeffer and the Finkenwalde Underground Seminary

Even before the rise of Hitler and his takeover of the German Lutheran Church, Dietrich Bonhoeffer was critical of the way German ministers were being prepared.  He believed too much attention was paid to academic theology and technical skills divorced from the context of life in authentic Christian community that leads to spiritual formation and deep faith in Jesus Christ. When the Nazi Reich took over governance of the German Lutheran Church, the Confessing Church movement emerged in resistance, and Bonhoeffer was among the leaders of this movement.  The seminaries of the Nazi controlled Lutheran church introduced Nazi propaganda in the required curriculum and required oaths of loyalty to the Nazi party from all ministers. In 1935 the Confessing Church asked Bonhoeffer to found an underground seminary near the town of Finkenwalde, with major support coming from a local noblewoman, Ruth von Kleist-Retzow.  At Finkenwalde, Bonhoeffer was able to experiment with innovative ways to prepare ministers for the work of the Church while engaging in authentic Christian community rooted in Word, sacrament, confession, and prayer. Ministers learned theology and practical skills in context, engaging in community with one another and practicing their learning to the benefit of congregations in the area—and eventually to the congregations to which they were sent as part of their training.  While not trained in the traditional way, these ministers were better prepared both for the work of ministry and to respond to the crises of the day—and played significant roles in efforts to call the German Lutheran Church back to centering on Jesus Christ and resisting the anti-Christian efforts of the Nazis. Bonhoeffer wrote of these experiences of the Finkenwalde Seminary in his book “Life Together” which has become a classic text about Christian community and practice.

About the Freeborn Finkenwalde Experiment

The emerging crises of the early 21st Century are less visible and clear (at least for the time being) and yet have the potential for catastrophic global consequences.  Environmental destruction, religious fundamentalism and terrorism, economic collapse, and the steep decline of the Christian Church all point toward a common concern: sustainability.  Without intervention, the sustainability of Christianity, our economic and political systems, and indeed the very planet are threatened.  Christian communities, who possess the deep theological and relational resources to address many of these issues, are overwhelmed with their own small-scale sustainability issues and spend much of their energy not on addressing the challenges of the world, but simply in keeping the doors open and the lights on. Our systems for preparing ministers are increasingly unsustainable as well; requiring too much time and too much money all the while neglecting the very things Bonhoeffer sought to engage—authentic Christian community and spiritual formation that leads to deep faith in Jesus Christ.  High-level denominational leaders (including in the ELCA), important ecumenical innovators such as the Lilly Foundation and the Forum for Theological Exploration, and even seminaries and their accrediting agency the Association of Theological Schools have begun to recognize that a crisis is looming in theological education and are wondering what will emerge to replace our current structures.  In the context of the sustainability crisis of the 21st century, the time has come for a “New Finkenwalde” (or, indeed, many New Finkenwaldes) where Christian leaders can be formed in faith and practice in Christ-centered community, equipping them to respond to the environmental, economic, political, and spiritual problems of our day, and be sent out to lead Christian communities to do the same.