Kiersten Payne ’17

Project Title500 Years Later: Christianity in Post-Christian Wittenberg
Mentor – David L. Eastman

In May and June of 2016 I travelled to Wittenberg, Germany to learn about the experiences of Christians living in the city, which is historically and religiously significant (it is considered to be the birthplace of the Reformation) but is now highly secular and, in many ways, “post-Christian.” In addition to participating in educational experiences focused primarily around Martin Luther, I conducted interviews with a variety of people living in Wittenberg and the surrounding area. I interviewed fifteen people, averaging 45 minutes an interview, and through these conversations I was able to learn about various elements of the intersection of religion and society in former East Germany. I asked interviewees how they felt the religious history of their city influenced their faith, why they thought the Christian population was so small in the area, if they considered Germany and/or Europe to be “post-Christian,” and many other questions relating to their religious experience. In this project I synthesize the conversations I had with these Wittenbergers and provide a snapshot of Wittenberg’s unique intersection of secularization and religion. This is particularly relevant now, as 2017 will be the 500th anniversary of the publication of Luther’s 95 Theses, which launched the Reformation. As this milestone is approached, it is important to recognize and explore not only the historical implication of the 95 Theses, but also the complexities of the people living within the intersection of past and present on a day-to-day basis.