Rector’s of EWST Christmas Reflection 2021

The time is slowing down. Soon we will be again in our imagined, mythical Bethlehem. But… maybe not.

Dear Friends, 

I hope you are all well. My thoughts and my prayers are with you!

We are just before Christmas. I do not know how it is in your country, but here in Poland, everything suddenly got so beautiful! The temperature is low and the snow has been falling for the last few days, so the streets, houses, and leafless trees are covered with the “white gown”, as we say in Polish. The country is ready for the magical Christmas’21. The colorful lights are everywhere, the music, Christmas carols are played everywhere and the Christmas trees invaded our cities and homes again. Downtown Wroclaw there is, just like in the past, a beautiful Christmas Market with thousands of people despite the pandemic, unhealthy but delicious street food, mulled wine, cheesy decorations, and naturally, cotton candy, which my kids love so much. 

The time is slowing down. Soon we will be again in our imagined, mythical Bethlehem. We will be eating good food in our cozy homes. We will be spending time with those, who we love and care for. Oh yeah, we will be also sharing gifts. So, Santa Claus will come again through the chimney. Churches will be again full of smiling, happy, and content with life people. Hollywood type of magic will rule again in our world for a few days. Just as in the good old time… but maybe not. 

Let me share with you just three, simple, subjective, and “untidy” thoughts. Please, be patient with my imperfect Polish-English. 


It is trivial, but the pandemic has changed a lot. We are not in the same place as we used to be a year or two ago. Some of our close ones are gone due to Covid. Some may be suffering. Some bear the outcomes of the disease. Well, many of us have been sick. 

These days, being close to another person is a threat. It may bring suffering. It may cause death. …we all have seen it and possibly experienced it. 

Perhaps this is the time of some kind of test. How much am I willing to serve others? How much am I ready to be with those, who are suffering, are outcasts, or are excluded? How much am I willing to risk with my own life… in this time of uncertainty? The church has served those in need many times in history, especially in times of plagues and diseases. The sick ones were abandoned by most of the people, but the church was willing to serve. Isn’t it how the Reformation succeeded in my city, Breslau in 1529? The believers built then hospitals, hospices and spent so many resources on medications for those, who were suffering. 

But now, the church in Poland is – generally speaking – suddenly silent. With just a few exceptions, it does not promote vaccination, healthcare, or responsible behavior towards another person. It does not develop ministries that are so needed now, in the time of the pandemic. It does not provide much help for those, who are destitute and needy. It pretends that the pandemic does not exist. Instead, the church (generalizing again) is mainly doing politics… cooperating with “our rulers”, who are willing to sacrifice people’s lives to retain power. Is this what the church should be doing now? “I was sick and you visited me”. 


Right now, there are a few thousand refugees camping on the border between Poland and Belarus. They would like to enter our country with the hope of better life. In their countries, there is death, poverty, or persecution. But on our side of the border, there are thousands of Polish soldiers, who are guarding it. They build a wall with the razor wire separating us from our neighbors and – as we are told – “the Arab invaders”. The soldiers guard the safety and well-being of our country. 

So, the refugees, many children, young women (some pregnant), seniors, and men from Syria, Afghanistan, and Kurdistan are freezing to death. Literally. The temperatures are below zero. Every night. And every night our soldiers find dead bodies in the woods of those, who did not make it. We see pictures and hear horror stories. 

And where is the church? The church – with a few exceptions – is again suddenly silent. The priests and pastors are not there. They are not helping the poor people. They are not providing much food, clothes, or medicine. They are not fighting for the refugees, even though, the church is definitely the greatest socio-political power in my country. With no problems it receives huge donations from the government for its activities; it implements legislative, controversial changes in our national law; it has no reservation to use the national vigilante squads to protect its properties. Yet, the church… is almost non-existent for the refugees. They are the threat, as we hear. 

What has happened with the “go-second-mile” Christianity? “I was a stranger and you welcomed me”. 

Paradoxically, it is the Muslim-Tatar tiny community, which helps most of the refugees on the Polish-Belarus border.


A couple of weeks ago I experienced something that somehow stuck to my mind. One morning I was standing in the line to buy bread in one of our good bakeries. Then I felt something. Somebody pushed me. I turned around, I wanted to say something. In the time of the pandemic, you cannot stand too close to each other. It’s dangerous. You do not touch another person. So, I turned around to react… and there was this tiny, elderly, poorly looking lady behind me. Like from one of the Dickens’ stories. She was counting a few coins on her little hand. Just pennies; it was obvious that she did not have enough money to buy anything there. She looked up at me and asked: “Can you give me some money, sir?” But I did not have any money, not in a traditional sense. I just had my phone. So, I told her that I had nothing with me. 

And then it dawned on me, I thought, I could buy her …whatever she needed. So, I turned again to her and told her that she could buy anything she wants. I would pay. And I felt really good, almost as if I was saving somebody’s life. I let her go in front of me (well, with some second thoughts: “What if she buys too much? Do I have enough money?”). She approached the salesperson, and simply said: “Half of the basic bread, please”. And she paid 30 cents for that. Then she turned again to me, looked up at me, and asked “Can I go now, sir?”. And she went.

And I was speechless. And I am still speechless. I am still standing there with no words to express my feelings. 30 cents! She did not even have that much. How is it possible? In my Christian Country? Built on Christian values? …for centuries! With Christ – I am serious – being the official king of Poland? Mary, the Queen of Poland? The Church which practically is running the nation? How is it possible? 

Dietrich Bonhoeffer, born in my city, tells us that we should always see Christ in another person. And also that we should act as Christ towards others, especially those, who are forgotten, outcast or excluded. It is a beautiful thought.

I am thinking of the situation in my country. I am thinking of the refugees on the border. The sick ones. Those who are in need. It is somehow easier for me to see Christ in their suffering faces or in the serving Muslim community, than in the triumphant, authoritarian churches not being where they should be or who they should be.

There are thousands of people in Poland leaving the Church and Christianity at present. We are experiencing a fast and sudden process of secularization. Many times, there is the question asked: why do they leave? It is a significant question. But perhaps there is another one, even more important: Why do some of the people stay in the church? How and where do they find the strength and motivation to stay in the silent, non-existent church?

We are approaching the Christmas time and reflecting on the birth of Christ. Karl Barth teaches us that it is some kind of migration. God is coming to this strange, far-away country to serve here human beings. It is a beautiful moment in the liturgical year. Yet, when I am thinking of the refugees suffering and dying on the border, it is somehow difficult to say “merry Christmas”, as I see God, who is – paradoxically – dying in the death of those, who are helpless and excluded. It is an important lesson to me. Christmas’21

Have a blessed Christmas!