Sunday, 8 November 2009

Happy birthday Axel Noack!

Axel Noack is 60 today, which means that 20 years ago, one month and a day after the GDR celebrated its 40th birthday and just a day before the Berlin wall came down he was celebrating his 40th birthday,
Axel and his wife Gisela were ministers in Wolfen until 1997 then he was elected bishop of Magedeburg. He very selflessly stood down from being bishop this summer so as to allow for just one bishop to be elected to the newly united Protestant Church in Central Germany - the bishop of Thuringen having already retired.
I arrived at the Noack's manse in Wolfen at the end of August 1989 after a conference in Erfurt and stayed there 10 days while waiting for my second GDR visa before beginning my studies in Wittenberg. The evening that I arrived the youth group came round for their home coming festivities following the recent cycling tour Axel had taken them on to Poland. Getting those visas had taken alot of negotiating in that difficult summer, as West German embassies throughout the Eastern Bloc were filling up with East Germans trying to leave for the West. It was not often that official foreign travel visas had the box for mode of transport filled with the word "bicycle". Years later when we visited Axel and Gisela in Magedeburg they came to fetch us at the railway station by bike.
They opened up their home to me during that extraordinary year that I was in the GDR. I often spent my free long weekends from Wittenberg with them and then I worked with them for six months and moved into the empty manse in Greppin, where Stephen later joined me. It would be difficult to say how much and what I learned from them. I saw the strains and stresses of daily life in the manse, saw how each of them integrated their spirituality into their ministry in very different ways, travelled with Axel to voter information evenings and sessions on East German Church history, cycled with Gisela to visit some of the Mozambicans living in the town and help with youth and children's work.
All the time during those 6 months where things were constantly changing Axel tried to make sure he took photos of some of the important images. He was also working tirelessly on building projects and church administration in the church district. A person of enormous integrity with a huge capacity for work. He is now teaching church history at the Halle-Wittenberg and working particularly on the history of the churches in the GDR, the university will be holding a special event for him on December 14th where he will give the guest lecture on "Obrigkeit". Stephen saw him at the Churches Candles Controversy event he was at I'm glad to hear he was looking and sounding well on the eve of his birthday.
Axel I am so glad that you became a theologian and not a mathematician, long may you raise your authentic East German voice in working on the history of the churches during the 40 years of the GDR. Alles Gute zum Geburtstag - Happy Birthday!

1 Comment:

Holy-Disorder said...

I first came across Axel Noack in autumn 1983 when he came from the industrial town of Merseburg where he was student chaplain to give a letcure at the protestant student group in (East) Berlin about the role the churches played in 1946 in the founding of the Free German Youth, the blue-shirted organization that later all young people were expected to belong to. It is shocking to thik that this is now 26 years ago - almost as long as the Berlin Wall stood. I think he will enjoy his time in Halle.