On October 21st, during the jubilee tenth edition of the Protestant Culture Festival in Wrocław, and as part of the celebrations marking 500 years of the Reformation in the city, the Evangelical Church of the Augsburg Confession in Poland presented the Princess Anna Wazówna Church Award 2023.
The event began with an anniversary service held at the Church of St. Mary Magdalene (now a Polish Catholic parish), where 500 years ago, the first Lutheran sermon in Wrocław was delivered. The service was welcomed by the bishop of the Wrocław diocese, Bishop Waldemar Pytel. The service was conducted by pastors from the Wrocław diocese, led by Bishop Jerzy Samiec, the presiding Bishop.
Rev. Dr. Martin Junge, former General Secretary of the Lutheran World Federation, expressed immense gratitude for the invitation to speak at this historic location. He appreciated the hospitality and openness of the the Evangelical Church of the Augsburg Confession in Poland, highlighting the successful organization of the LWF General Assembly in Krakow, attended by Lutherans from around the world. He emphasized that the value of the Church is not measured by the number of followers but by its testimony and the proclamation of God’s grace: “it is not the numbers that make a church big. It is her witness: what she says and how she says it; what she does and how she does it. The purpose of the church is not to count heads but constantly re-count in words and deeds the story of God who in Christ has come into this world to redeem all creation”.
He warned against legalism, which leads to a false sense of security and pushes Christ into the background. He emphasized that true Christian freedom is not selfishness but service and love for neighbors. He encouraged churches to change their narrative in the public sphere: “Churches are becoming increasingly angry. Their speeches are often filled with anger. We can ask: how can an angry church effectively preach the message of forgiveness and grace? Grace and anger simply do not fit together. The future belongs to the smiling, loving Church, ready to serve. Paul beautifully expressed it in his Letter to the Galatians, writing that faith should be expressed through love and active in love (Gal 5:6). It’s profound wisdom. The Church should confirm and convey the truth of the Gospel through serving others in love.”
In his conclusion, Rev. Dr. Martin Junge encouraged churches to strive for unity and reconciliation, even in the face of historical conflicts. He mentioned that the 500th anniversary of the Reformation is a time of gratitude to God and honoring the steadfastness and courage of those who came before us. He stressed that history is not the only aspect of the Church that has a future and that God continues to work in the Church. His sermon ended with an optimistic statement that the Reformation may be 500 years old, but its spirit still lives on, encouraging the Church to boldly follow the path of faith, freedom, and unity.
The service gathered parishioners from Wrocław, Lutherans from the entire diocese, Lutheran ministers, and ecumenical guests, including Archbishop Józef Kupny, the Metropolitan of Wrocław. In his greeting, he referred to the document “From Conflict to Communion,” stating that in the perspective of 2017, the aim was not to tell a different story but to tell the same story in a different way. He encouraged further ecumenical efforts and said, “Let’s not reopen wounds but live by the Gospel.”
In the afternoon, at the Old Town Hall, the Church Award ceremony took place. The laureates were Rev. Dr. Martin Junge and Dr. Hab. Piotr Oszczanowski. The event was welcomed by Bishop Waldemar Pytel and Wrocław Mayor Jacek Sytryk, who highlighted the contribution of Lutherans to the city’s history and present. Bishop Jerzy Samiec recalled Rev. Martin Junge’s first visit to Poland as the General Secretary of the LWF and emphasized his commitment and openness to Polish Lutherans. The laudation was delivered by Vice President of the Synod, Dr. Hab. Jerzy Sojka. Rev. Dr. Martin Junge was honored for his support and inspiration for organizing the Thirteenth General Assembly of the Lutheran World Federation in Krakow. His service to the global Lutheran community, including his determination, dedication, and vision, which contributed to the development of the LWF, was also acknowledged.
Rev. Dr. Martin Junge expressed deep gratitude for being awarded the prize. In his speech, the former General Secretary of the LWF addressed the current situation in the world, especially in the context of violence and cruelty in the Middle East and Ukraine. He emphasized that hatred and contempt for others are the sources of such tragedies. He appealed to counter hate speech and toxic relationships that lead to conflicts. Rev. Junge said that with Christian faith, one can find hope in the Word of God, which sheds light on darkness. He concluded his speech by encouraging everyone to become messengers of peace and hope, believing that people can act better for the common future.
The award was also given to Dr. Hab. Piotr Oszczanowski, an outstanding art historian and professor at the University of Wrocław. Prof. Oszczanowski was honored for his work and commitment to disseminating knowledge about the Lutheran cultural heritage and efforts to preserve the Lutheran heritage, particularly in Lower Silesia. Bishop Waldemar Pytel, in reading the laudation, reminded that Dr. Hab. Piotr Oszczanowski had been the director of the National Museum in Wrocław for the last ten years, where he initiated various events promoting the art and history of the Lutheran Church. His scholarly work and organized events, such as museum lessons and exhibitions, contributed to spreading knowledge about the Reformation and Lutheran heritage.
Both awardees received a porcelain statuette titled “Together,” created by sculptor and painter Lubomir Tomaszewski.
Dr. Hab. Piotr Oszczanowski delivered a lecture titled “Identity – 500 Years of the Reformation in Wrocław,” in which he pointed out artworks documenting Wrocław’s Lutheran identity, including paintings of Luther and Melanchthon by the Cranach family displayed at the Church of St. Elizabeth (the city’s second Evangelical church). He also recalled the important Wrocław reformer, Jan Hess. The closing greetings were delivered by Bishop Tobias Bilz from Evangelical-Lutheran Church of Saxony and General Superintendent of the Görlitz district, Rev. Theresa Rinecker.
The festivities concluded with an evening concert at the National Forum of Music, celebrating the Reformation Day. The program featured works by J.S. Bach and J.G. Goldberg performed by the Wrocław Baroque Orchestra under the direction of Jarosław Thiel.