Nourishment which Endures (John 6:27)

Do not put your efforts into acquiring the perishable nourishment, but the nourishment which endures and leads to imperishable life. The Son of Man will give it to you. (John 6:27)

If there is anything that binds us to the earth, it is eating and drinking.  We have hardly satisfied ourselves, and hunger and thirst are back again.  They accompany our earthly life from our first breath to the last, not only in the literal but also in the figurative sense of the word.  The thirst for existence is never quenched.  Even when we have died, this thirst sooner or later brings us back to the earth, where we still have something to do.

Hunger and thirst also accompanied the life of Jesus Christ on earth.  “I thirst”—it was one of the last words on the cross.  With this prayer and the bad aftertaste of a bitter beverage He died.  But also after His resurrection His hunger and thirst burn for what only we can give Him.  Someone once heard Him say: “I am thirsty.  I only have what I am given.  I take nothing.” [*]

That is also His question to us in the enigmatic, contradictory words from the Gospel of John: “Do not put your efforts into acquiring the perishable nourishment, but the nourishment which endures and leads to imperishable life. The Son of Man will give it to you.”  How can Christ ask us for something He Himself gives us?

In the language of the altar this gift, which He gives and asks at the same time, is called the communion.  It is much more than a gift.  It is also His entreaty: “What can you give me?  Can you give yourself to me, now that I have given myself to you?”

Only if I give myself to Him is the meal He wants to share with us perfect.  Only then is His thirst for our existence quenched.


–Rev. Bastiaan Baan, March 19, 2023

[*] Gabrielle Bossis, Jesus Speaking: Heart to Heart with the King, Pauline Books and Media.


Wilhelm Johannes Salewski

Wilhelm Johannes Salewski

September 20,1889, Chemnitz – 1.2.1950, Unterlengenhardt


Four days after his ordination on September 16, 1922, and still during the founding events in Dornach, Wilhelm Salewski reached the age of thirty-three. He thus belonged to the middle-aged founders between the few older ones and the many very young ones. His birthday on September 20 fell on the ninth anniversary of the laying of the foundation stone for the first Goetheanum building.

Wilhelm Salewski was born in Chemnitz in 1889, the first of twelve children – five brothers and six sisters. His father came from a Pomeranian family of farmers and millers and was working in the dairy business at the time of his first son’s birth. Five years later, the family moved to the Vistula lowlands. On various farms in Rospitz and Sedlinen, in the vicinity of the town of Marienwerder, his father tried to earn the bare necessities for the growing family.

The children grew up in this agricultural area. They had to help with all the work. Self-cut willow wood from the banks of the Liebe River and their own peat were the heating material for the harsh winters. The walk to school took an hour. Assaults by the village youth had to be endured.

Wilhelm Salewski was at the top of his class throughout his school years. He passed the Abitur at the grammar school in Marienwerder in 1908. His parents, therefore, wanted him to study despite the lack of money. He was to become a pastor. His father was a strict pietist in the “Community Movement” within the national church. Young Wilhelm became familiar with and enthusiastic about the great epoch of German idealism while still at grammar school. He used the Fichte saying, “To have character – is to be German” as a motto in his graduation speech after leaving school.

Instead of theology, however, Wilhelm Salewski studied philosophy and philology in Greifswald, Marburg, Tübingen, and Berlin. From 1910 onward, the family lived In Dresden, where the father now ran a dairy wholesale business. There, the younger sisters and brothers experienced their big brother playing the piano for them, singing to the lute on hikes in the Ore Mountains, or opening up the world of paintings to them in the Gemäldegalerie [Old Masters’ Gallery] with Raphael’s Sistine Madonna and taking them to the opera.

With the outbreak of the First World War, he volunteered. He went with the ‘Grimma Hussars’ to the battles in Flanders. Later he fought in a machine-gun troop in Hungary, where he was also wounded. At the end of the war, we find him as a lieutenant in the military hospital in Leipzig. His brother Paul was killed in action in 1917.

Unfortunately, it is no longer possible to determine when Wilhelm Salewski became acquainted with anthroposophy, only that it happened through his encounter with the theatre troupe around Gottfried Haaß-Berkow. In any case, the doctoral thesis he submitted in Leipzig in 1919 was not accepted because it contained anthroposophical ideas.

Siblings still remember this time: how they heard their elder brother enthusiastically talking about Rudolf Steiner and anthroposophy. Some sisters later found their way to The Christian Community, and his younger brother Hugo also became one of their priests in 1927. The most profound experience in Wilhelm Salewski’s biography was his participation in the opening weeks of the first Goetheanum building in Dornach, which Rudolf Steiner introduced with the motif in his address that in the future, science, religion, and art must be renewed from the spirit so that they can work together in a renewed way for a future culture. This is what the Goetheanum wants to serve.

The Anthroposophical Society engaged the “Thuringian philosopher” from Leipzig, who was involved there as a speaker in the threefold social order initiative in Elise Wolfram’s branch. Especially in the Ruhr area, he gave lectures to entrepreneurs and proletarians and had conversations with them. When the initiative soon had to be abandoned, Wilhelm Salewski worked as a home teacher in Bremen and also at a rural educational home. But he continued to be active in the anthroposophical movement, especially as a speaker on Goethe. In 1921, an essay by him appeared in the journal Die Tat, which Rudolf Steiner mentioned with praise in one of his lectures (on February 8, 1921, in GA 203, 1978, p. 213). Thus we see him already tried and tested in spiritual work when he came across the circle of founders of The Christian Community and immediately recognized the liturgical work he wanted to take on as the most important means in the struggle to overcome materialism and intellectualism.

From the autumn course in 1921 onwards, he was involved in every step of the founding of The Christian Community. He prepared the founding of the congregation in Düsseldorf but was then active in Karlsruhe for years until he moved to Stettin, where he remained until the Second World War. At a meeting of The Christian Community in Mannheim (October 1927), which Wilhelm Salewski had helped to prepare, he invited Marie Steiner and her Dornach speech choir to participate. These choral performances were the first outside Dornach and marked the beginning of a rich touring activity through many European countries.

He spent the first days of the prohibition period in 1941 in prison. After the Second World War, he worked as a priest in Bayreuth. For many months in 1949, he suffered from a serious illness which brought him to Unterlengenhardt (in the Black Forest) to the Burghalde clinic, where he died on February 1, 1950.

Not particularly tall, he was nevertheless a striking figure, stern-looking, with an eagle’s nose and a slightly melancholy expression around his mouth. His strong soul often seemed inhibited. His unhappy marriage remained without children. Those around him experienced him as somewhat reserved, almost withdrawn, and sometimes even brusque. He pondered a lot about the problem of evil.

Through countless lectures, he had worked for the first foundation of The Christian Community. There is hardly an issue of The Christian Community magazine in which he did not publish an essay, a story, a poem, or a book review. In 1931, Wilhelm Salewski’s only book publication appeared: Die Psychoanalyse Sigmund Freuds, Grundfragen und Konsequenzen – Als Protest gegen den Verleihung des Goethepreises an Sigmund Freud [The Psychoanalysis of Sigmund Freud, Basic Questions and Consequences – As a Protest against the Awarding of the Goethe Prize to Sigmund Freud]. He self-published “Briefe” (essays) with the overall title Goethes Wesen und Werk [Goethe’s Essence and Work].

Throughout his life, he had felt the mandate to continue to stand up for anthroposophy. In 1948 he wrote to the aged Marie Steiner, whose reply on the relationship between anthroposophy and The Christian Community is an important document: “… That is why your letter touched me. I cannot think that it is still a question of which of our movements will triumph over the other and how we should delimit our fields of work from each other. I think we must seek ways of fusion …. With best regards Marie Steiner. “ [Cf. the book: Marie Steiner und die Christengemeinschaft [Marie Steiner and The Christian Community] by Wolfgang Gädeke (Stuttgart).]


On the painting by Rembrandt

“Christ and the Disciples in Emmaus”

How familiar Emmaus is to me. –

I have to paint it again and again.

I saw Him walking with His own

through the evening field and hear His words:

… “suffering in Jerusalem … ”

… “enter into His glory … ”

and my heart burns within me.


You earth, shining with dew

golden grain, you silent animals,

how you are one in His peace.

You poor hut, more gloriously adorned

than Solomon’s consecrated temple.

I enter with Him, –

He breaks the bread, –

and flaming, glowing I saw in the hut a sun….

–Wilhelm Salewski


The Dornach theological course gave me the opportunity to recognize the essence of a contemporary liturgy and its absolute necessity for our present. Since the day I understood that intellectualism and materialism could be overcome through a liturgy, I have remained unwavering in my determination to work on the religious renewal of our people in the way that has been shown to us. The deepest essence of all that has been given to us by Dr. Steiner proves itself to me through the daily effect of strength that emanates from it. I hope and long that we will soon have the opportunity to work outwards.

Charlottenburg, March 4, 1922

  1. Salewski




Claus von der Decken

October 5, 1888, Preeten Castle – August 24, 1977, Kassel

The midwife had to navigate the flooded Elbe meadows to get to Claus von der Decken’s birth on October 5, 1888, at Preeten Castle near Neuhaus. Claus was the second of four children who were joined by a foster sister. His father, Ernst, from the old Hanoverian landed gentry, was the administrator of various estates. His mother, Anna, was born von Arnswald, whose three sisters were abbesses of the noble convents of Bassum, Medingen, and Ebstorf. Anyone who was brought into a noble convent had to have sixteen full noble great-great-grandparents.

Claus von der Decken was what was then called a country gentleman. But his father, who was actually an artistic man, had an unfortunate hand in his property management. The property, which he had invested in large tenement houses in the early years, brought him losses instead of the profits he had hoped for. Nevertheless, his relatives let him continue to work and helped him.

The last small property his father still had was in Adendorf, not far from Lüneburg. From there, Claus and his two brothers went to school in Lüneburg for a while. At times they also had tutors; the young governesses of the three boys had a lot to put up with.

Claus completed his schooling (around 1904) and then took up voluntary military service with the Saxon Guard Riders in Dresden, which he finished as a lieutenant in 1908. He could then devote himself entirely to his artistic inclinations. He studied painting – especially portraiture – at the art academies in Düsseldorf, Dresden, Munich, and Paris. He also undertook an art trip to Rome during this time.

Claus wrote poetry throughout his life – sometimes up to fifty poems a year, but he also wrote dramas and more. When he studied in Düsseldorf, he was friends with the family of Lory Smits, who later became the first eurythmist. The elder Smits taught Rudolf Steiner a poem by Claus, which he praised. Tradition has it that Claus was sitting in the next room of the Smits house in 1909 when Rudolf Steiner gave the well-known lecture cycle on the angelic hierarchies in the salon. It is certain that Claus had not yet found access to anthroposophy at that time, although his very first encounter with Rudolf Steiner had probably taken place a year earlier.

While still a student, he was secretly engaged to Cécile von Bodenberg. The family of the nobles and freemen of Bodenberg belonged to the so-called dynastic nobility. They had their own vassals, owned land the size of a principality between the rivers Aller and Weser, and naturally belonged to the Guelph party and wanted to see the king reinstated in Hanover.

His father ordered the bride and groom to wait seven years before getting married. Naturally, Claus volunteered for military service in the First World War after finishing his studies. But when his two brothers soon died in the field, Claus was transferred to the rear echelon to spare him as the last scion of his family; then, his father allowed him to marry. The wedding took place on October 3, 1916, in Hudemühlen, ‘Estate Three.’ Back in the military, Claus was constantly commissioned to make portraits of comrades and superiors. He was stricken with typhoid. After the war, he painted some portraits of fallen members of parliament for the Reichstag building in Berlin, but they later fell victim to fire.

During the war, he encountered anthroposophy anew with great intensity. After the end of the war, it was Rudolf Meyer who pushed him hard: “You came through the war alive. You must make yourself available to Rudolf Steiner and the Threefold Movement!” Claus von der Decken did not listen to him.

From January 1918 onwards, the family grew by one child a year until there were seven to feed. They lived in an outlying estate of Hudemühlen, Hademstorf, a rural inn. Claus earned money by painting portraits, some of them quite “lucrative.” Being nobility and recommended in aristocratic circles, he painted on estates as far away as Silesia.

Once again, Rudolf Meyer approached him. It was in summer of 1921; the first steps towards religious renewal in the sense of anthroposophy had been taken. The June Course had taken place. Rudolf Meyer was looking for co-workers and met Claus von der Decken in a confectioner’s shop in Hanover to invite him to join the Autumn Course in Dornach and to help with the future work. Only then had the decision matured to commit himself – thirteen or fourteen years after his first acquaintance with anthroposophy and his first encounter with Rudolf Steiner. Although the family already had three children – a fourth died in the same year – and the economic prospects were very poor, Claus von der Decken decided to take up the priesthood.

On September 16, 1922, he was ordained as a priest by Emil Bock in Dornach. Together with Otto Becher, he founded the community in Hanover. The family could continue to live outside in Hudemühlen (today Hodenhagen/Aller). When money became too tight, the father moved out again, far across the country, to paint portraits.

Martin Schmidt, a rye breeder who later became widely known, had the means at that time, both through the superheated steam machine production in Kassel and through funds from America, to acquire his own farm in 1924, shortly before the Koberwitz course, which established biodynamic agriculture and in which he participated. He bought the Eschenhof in Grammersdorf on Hemmelsdorfer Sea, northeast of Lübeck. This soon became the home of the von der Decken family. From there, Claus von der Decken took over the community work in Lübeck that Joachim Sydow had started from Rostock.

On the Eschenhof, the family had to endure difficult destinies, both humanly and in terms of health. Cécile von der Decken died in 1928, two years after the birth of her seventh child. Four years of family separation followed. The three older children moved with the Schmidt family to Kassel-Wilhelmshöhe to attend the Waldorf School. The three younger children stayed in Lübeck with their father and were looked after by his mother and sister.

On October 5, 1931, Claus von der Decken took up church work in Kassel. In 1932 he entered into his second marriage. Melly von der Decken, née Hegewald, had taken on the difficult task of raising six children as a stepmother under oppressive hardships. Until one month before his death, she faithfully stood by her husband for over forty-five years.

Claus von der Decken worked as a priest in Kassel for over four decades. The ban on the Christian Community (from June 9, 1941) brought better economic times for the family. At last, there were sufficient funds for subsistence because Claus was painting portraits again. On the other hand, a second heavy blow of fate struck the the family when two sons fell in the war.

The priest’s unusual humanitarian commitment had already amazed those around him in Lübeck, where he spoke and prayed with alcoholics about the Blue Cross’s work against alcohol addiction. One of them later had himself married by him. In Kassel, he helped Jewish people to escape during the Nazi era. During the heavy bombing raids, he visited the rubble sites, once rescuing a woman from the flames and giving her shelter with his own family.

He was distinguished by a particularly rich, strong emotional capacity. Unforgettable was his humor that expressed itself so quaintly when he told stories in the Low German dialect. He was an artist and a priest. His poems were published in the magazine The Christengemeinschaft. Of his dramas, Pontius Pilatus was published in 1963. Claus von der Decken experienced a special, humanitarian and amicable fulfillment of his work on the occasion of a series of community camps, which he organized with Wolf-Dietrich von Kurnatowski, Friedrich Gädeke, and other colleagues in the 1950s and 1960s on the Sonnenberg in the Upper Harz, north of St. Andreasberg.

As a poet and painter, he was tirelessly active. His most important works for the priests’ circle are probably the two fine death portraits of Friedrich Rittelmeyer and Emil Bock. But he had been committed to working for a new priesthood ever since he asked Rudolf Steiner: “Can the priesthood be conducive with my artistry?” and the latter had replied: “Yes, your artistry can be conducive to your priesthood.” Many destinies in the priest circle would have been better mastered if this sentence had been taken to heart.

On August 24, 1977,  Claus von der Decken died in Kassel a few weeks before his 89th birthday.


Announcement: Reverend Jonah Evan’s – Living with Christ

Rev. Jonah Evans is making available through a YouTube channel, his Living with Christ sessions. These videos originate from sessions of the Living with Christ group which takes place weekly in Toronto. From the start, the purpose of this group has always been to help people enter into and cultivate a personal relationship with the being of Christ Jesus. In addition to the bible and related scholarship, Jonah draws on his own experience and research, as well as Rudolf Steiner’s anthroposophy, in helping us first come to know Christ, and then start to walk with him through the course of our lives.

Jonah started this group back in 2014, not long after he arrived as the new priest of the Christian Community in Toronto. The group continued for many years meeting weekly in the church library. Then with the advent of Covid in 2020 it moved to Zoom, and has since continued as a hybrid of in-person and Zoom. Using Zoom also made it easy to record the sessions with the thought that eventually they could be shared more widely in a format such as this. Since 2021 Jonah has also been Director of the Seminary of the Christian Community in North America.



Wilhelm Alexander Ruhtenberg

Die Gruender der Christengemeinschaft: Ein Schicksalsnetz
By Rudolf F. Gaedeke
Translated by Cindy Hindes

Wilhelm Ruhtenberg – January 17, 1888, Riga – August 31, 1954, Bensberg


Wilhelm Ruhtenberg was born in Riga on January 17, 1888, the fourth of six children. His father ran a large cigarette factory in the former Hanseatic city with worldwide trade relations through the Russian Empire to Vladivostok. The upper-middle-class life of a Baltic family based on traditions formed the framework of the boy’s childhood. In the tenth year of his life, a serious illness forced him to a two-year sickbed. In order to spare him the ancient languages, his father sent him to a secondary school after his recovery. Throughout his life, Ruhtenberg admired his teacher there with gratitude.

Reading a biography of a minister (O. Funke, Die Fußspuren des lebendigen Gottes auf meinem Lebenswege [Footprints of the Living God on My Life Path]) ignited in him the will to become a pastor. The tradition of the merchant family and the unsuitable school education without ancient languages initially stood in the way. But his father allowed him to take private lessons in Latin and Greek so that a special examination would allow him to graduate from secondary school and study theology.

Ruhtenberg studied at the University of Dorpat from the autumn of 1907 until his academic exams with Adolf von Harnack in the autumn of 1914. He spent one semester each in Berlin and Leipzig. His disappointment with the study of theology and its then-common textual criticism of the Bible was so deep that acting as a preacher of the Gospel and pastor was out of the question.

His time in Dorpat, however, brought him a meeting with Nora Umblia, who was born and raised there. Their marriage, celebrated in 1913, brought two children. Without later remembering personally, he also met the student Herbert Hahn in Dorpat.

The First World War isolated the young family in Riga. They had to refrain from traveling abroad or studying. Ruhtenberg became a teacher at a private high school in Riga in 1914, and at the end of 1915, pastor-adjunct at St. Gertrude’s Church until 1917. While he was devoting his time primarily with private philosophical studies, the end of the war came and then that most terrible, inhuman time.

After the serious illness that he had survived in childhood, he now came even closer to death from hunger and months of mortal danger during the occupation. His wife managed to escape with the children. He himself was initially hired under the Bolsheviks as an elementary school lecturer. He had become acquainted with Rudolf Steiner’s writings at a bookseller’s in Riga and had an enduring enthusiasm for Steiner’s Riddles of Philosophy. This presentation rekindled in him a confidence in thinking and thus in the spirit. His audience grew when he treated the ancient Greek thinkers (pre-Socratics) with this background.

But because he was a pastor,  he was suddenly taken to Dünaburg with a penal battalion condemned to death. He survived this time probably only because he had previously trained his body, weakened by hunger, to good performance through much sport. Now, with the help of Jews, and disguised as a Jew, he was able to escape by ship across the Baltic Sea to Lübeck (1919). Behind him, in the east, a world was lost.

He then had the inner certainty that he would have to move to Stuttgart. There the future would show itself; above all, he would meet Rudolf Steiner. So he went to Stuttgart, met his wife and children again and heard a public lecture by Rudolf Steiner for the first time. Soon he became a member of the Anthroposophical Society. Then followed the great years of intensive double activity. First, Rudolf Steiner soon accepted him as a class teacher in the Waldorf School (January 1921). He was exactly 33 years old when this request, which he had made, was granted.

The family lived – always with a few boarding students – in a small wooden house on the school grounds on Uhlandshöhe. A small fortune had been lost to him in the collapse of Futurum A.G. in Switzerland. ( Futurum A.G. was an “Economic Society for the International Promotion of Economic and Spiritual Values”, i.e. a bank-like institute, with headquarters in Dornach existing from 1920 to 1924.)

Before being hired as a teacher, Wilhelm Ruhtenberg had asked Rudolf Steiner if he should take over an offered pastorate. Rudolf Steiner wanted only to answer the question in the affirmative if it would be possible to preach from the pulpit about repeated earth lives—only then would it make sense.

In addition to his work as a classroom teacher, he was soon appointed as a teacher of independent Christian religious education with the task of holding Sunday services as well. His religious groups had over sixty children! During the same period, people repeatedly turned to him – or were sent to him by Rudolf Steiner –requesting baptisms or marriages.

So it happened that he asked Rudolf Steiner for a baptismal ritual and a wedding ritual and received them – with the details for the vestments and other elements of the ceremony. In this way, shortly before the actual founding of The Christian Community, when the nascent circle of priests was just forming, there were six baptisms and one wedding with the same wording as was then handed over to The Christian Community. The rituals were given to Ruhtenberg as an ordained pastor, because he had official authorization to perfom baptisms and weddings.

Then the time came for the immediate founding of The Christian Community. Ruhtenberg took part in all the preparatory courses from the beginning and was ordained a priest in Dornach on September 16, 1922, as the fourteenth member of Emil Bock’s circle. Although he was now also a priest, he continued to work as a teacher at the Waldorf School in Stuttgart until 1930. Then he worked – after a second marriage – from 1933 in the congregations  of Rostock, Leipzig and especially Chemnitz until the ban of The Christian Community in 1941. After the ban and the end of the war, which Wilhelm Ruhtenberg survived in the ‘army post billing center’ in Chemnitz, there was strangely no more permanent parish work. After his escape, we find Wilhelm Ruhtenberg with friends in Überlingen working as a curative teacher in Holstein and finally in Bensberg near Cologne, where he died on August 31, 1954.

His path had led him from east to west. Then came the line added from south to north. His special mission was to be a special link between the school movement and The Christian Community, which he entirely fulfilled in the middle of his life. He embodied a very unique combination of an aristocratic, cosmopolitan attitude of body and mind with a tender ‘eastern’ soul. As a result, he was extraordinarily sensitive and vulnerable. This is how his friend and colleague Herbert Hahn described him from the founding years of the Waldorf School. This tender soul was also evident in his fine translations of the poetry of the Russian Alexander Remisow. (Further details of his biography can be read in Der Lehrerkreis um Rudolf Steiner in der ersten Waldorfschule 1919-1925, 2nd ed. Stuttgart 1978, p. 205ff.)



The Transfiguration on the Mountain (Mat. 17:1-18)

The Transfiguration on the Mountain (Mat. 17:1-18)

Never in the life of Christ on earth was the contrast between height and depth, between light and darkness, greater than at the Transfiguration on the mountain and the drama that followed it.  He had only just appeared in His true form on the mountain when at the foot of the mountain He was confronted with diseased humanity that brought Him to despair.  “How weak are the hearts of men, and how distorted the image of man has become in them.  How long must I still be with you?  How long must I still bear you?”

This shrill contrast is the distinctive hallmark of Christ and of those who want to follow Him.  Church Father St. Augustine once expressed it most succinctly with the words: “The history of Christianity takes its course between the persecutions of the adversary powers and the consolations of God.”  This is true not only for Christians, but also for Christ Himself—to be lurched this way and that between persecution and consolation, between transfiguration and temptation.  Not only is this His destiny, but it is also His self-chosen destiny, no matter now hard that sounds.  For after His resurrection He gives Himself the answer to His desperate question: “How long must I still bear you?”  “I am in your midst all the days until the completion of earthly time.”

In the Consecration of the Human Being we ascend the mountain.  The mountain—that is the altar.  The Latin words alta area mean: raised area for offering.  Even though we do not see it with our eyes, it is the place where Christ appears in His true form,  Every time the bread and wine are raised in His name, Christ is transfigured again.  Every time we receive the holy meal we can say with Peter: “Lord, it is good that we are here.”  And every time the holy act has been fulfilled He descends from the mountain with us, from the consolations of God back to the persecutions of the adversary powers on earth.


–Rev. Bastiaan Baan, March 5, 2023