Follow-Up to Reader’s Theater on Bonhoeffer: The Beams are Creaking

By Jim Vondracek, April 12, 2021

More than sixty people attended the Prose, Music & Beer event last Friday night.  The play on Bonhoeffer, The Beams are Creaking, was something I was unfamiliar with and to hear it on the anniversary of his execution was powerful.  Thank you to all those who performed: Jim SchwabJeanette BordelonMarnie RourkeErik ErlingSteve BarrettTheresa Fuchs, Dan FriedrichBruce TammenRobin Mitchell, and Andrea Holliday.  

A special word of thanks to my spouse, Nancy Goede. Because she did not have an ‘on-Zoom’ presence or role Friday night, I think people may not realize that this was all due to her work. She conceived of the idea of a reader’s theater as a way to mark Bonhoeffer’s festival day this year, got the necessary permissions from the publishers, acquired the scripts, recruited the performers, conceptualized the presentation, ran the rehearsals, worked within the limitations of the technology, and directed the production.  

If you are interested, three of Bonhoeffer’s books are widely available: 

The Cost of Discipleship (1937) –  One of the most important theologians of the twentieth century illuminates the relationship between ourselves and the teachings of Jesus. What can the call to discipleship, the adherence to the word of Jesus, mean today to the businessman, the soldier, the laborer, or the aristocrat? What did Jesus mean to say to us? What is his will for us today? Drawing on the Sermon on the Mount, Dietrich Bonhoeffer answers these timeless questions by providing a seminal reading of the dichotomy between “cheap grace” and “costly grace.” “Cheap grace,” Bonhoeffer wrote, “is the grace we bestow on ourselves…grace without discipleship….Costly grace is the gospel which must be sought again and again, the girl which must be asked for, the door at which a man must know….It is costly because it costs a man his life, and it is grace because it gives a man the only true life.”  The Cost of Discipleship is a compelling statement of the demands of sacrifice and ethical consistency from a man whose life and thought were exemplary articulations of a new type of leadership inspired by the Gospel, and imbued with the spirit of Christian humanism and a creative sense of civic duty.

Life Together (1939) – Bonhoeffer, renowned Christian minister, professor, and author of The Cost of Discipleship recounts his unique fellowship in an underground seminary during the Nazi years in Germany. Giving practical advice on how life together in Christ can be sustained in families and groups, Life Together is bread for all who are hungry for the real life of Christian fellowship.

Letters and Papers from Prison – Dietrich Bonhoeffer was a young German pastor who was executed by the Nazis in 1945 for his part in the “officers’ plot” to assassinate Adolf Hitler.  This expanded version of Letters and Papers from Prison shifts the emphasis of earlier editions of Bonhoeffer’s theological reflections to the private sphere of his life. His letters appear in greater detail and show his daily concerns. Letters from Bonhoeffer’s parents, siblings, and other relatives have also been added, in addition to previously inaccessible letters and legal papers referring to his trial.  Acute and subtle, warm and perceptive, yet also profoundly moving, the documents collectively tell a very human story of loss, of courage, and of hope. Bonhoeffer’s story seems as vitally relevant, as politically prophetic, and as theologically significant today, as it did yesterday.

Dorothy Pytel shared this postcard from Peter’s grandfather, a soldier in the German army, on Friday night. From Dorothy: These are some of the letters from Peter’s maternal grandfather. His name was Ernst Lindsieppe and he served on both the western front in France and the eastern from in Russia. We have letters ranging from 1939 to 1941. Like countless lives who were impact by Hitler anf the Nazi regime, unfortunately Peter’s late mom never met her father because he died before she was born. By the way, Maya’s middle name is Luise and she was the recipient of all of these letters from her beloved Ernst. Finally, I was surprised that almost all the letters end with „Behüt dich Gott“ (God bless you). The last letter shows some intricate decorations that he must have taken hours to create.

Perhaps this will be the last virtual, online version of Prose, Music & Beer, as we seem to be moving closer to being able to safely meet in-person. It has been good to be able to gather together like this during this time, though, to support and build our community and let art, words, music and ideas bring us together.

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