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Good Friday

When we hear the story of the Last Supper we know already what will happen and what comes next: the martyrdom, His death, and resurrection.  Of course it was not that way for His disciples when He had the meal with them.  He was speaking in riddles to them.  He kept them guessing about the future.  Every event that followed was another riddle: Gethsemane, the sleep that overcame them, the capture, the flight.  None of them was able to stand by Him to the end.  Of course not, none of us would be able to maintain our footing in such circumstances.  How could a person at that time ever foresee that the last evening meal would not only be followed by the first morning meal of the Resurrected One, and that He from now on would give Himself, day in day out, in bread and wine, to every human being who hungers and thirsts for His presence?

At the end of His life on earth, Christ indicates with an unusual word that this end is the beginning of a completely new life.  Of all the disciples only John was present as witness when this last word sounded on the cross: “It is fulfilled.”  He is the only evangelist who wrote this word from the cross down.  What is so special in these words?

Christ here used an expression that originated in the old mysteries: tetelestai.  It means something like: the goal has been reached. (telete was the ancient word for initiation.  The place where the initiation took place was called in Eleusis: telesterion.)  The expression tetelestai is no finality, but an indication of a completely new life.  From then on the initiate stood on the other side of the threshold and was at home with the Gods.  From the other side he could order life on earth according to the hermetic principle: As above, so below.  The holy order of heaven had to be reflected in life on earth.

Where was Christ after He had spoken His last words?  He too crossed a threshold, but not to go to the Gods, but to the demons and the dead.  In the three days after His death He was not in heaven, not on earth, but “in the heart of the earth.” (Mat. 12:40)  There He brought light into the hopeless existence of death and the underworld.  There the germ of a new heaven and a new earth was planted.

Since His death and resurrection every death experience can become the germ of a new life.  For whoever dies in Christ walks with Christ through death into deathless life.


Rev. Bastiaan Baan, Good Friday 2024

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Johannes Perthel – September 9th, 1888 – July 20th, 1944

Die Gruender der Christengemeinschaft: Ein Schicksalsnetz
By Rudolf F. Gaedeke
Translated by Gail Ritscher

September 9th, 1888 Leukersdorf/Erzgebirge – July 20th, 1944 Friedrichshafen/Lake Constance

According to all his friends, Johannes Perthel was taken far too early from his life and work for The Christian Community. In a strange twist of fate, he lost his life in a bombing raid on Friedrichshafen on Lake Constance, where he had traveled for a vacation.

Despite a kind of cloud hanging over his destiny, those in his circle, particularly his colleagues, treasured the radiant humanness that he had wrested from his life.

The way he himself described it, ever since childhood he had always experienced himself if not quite like an outsider, then still as different, and he therefore kept to himself.

Born on September 6, I888, in Leukersdorf/Erzgebirge, he grew up in a very strict and traditional parish house. He disliked school and had no friends there. Already in elementary school, he wrote in an essay about wanting to become a pastor, and after graduating high school he studied liberal theology. He literally had to wrangle permission from this traditional father to spend the semester in “liberal” Marburg.

During semester breaks at home, he and his father quarreled constantly. His mother said nothing. Johannes became increasingly withdrawn. New forces needed to be extracted from family tradition.

Although he became a member of the national, anti-Semitic “German Student Association,” at 22 he wrote a positive review of a lecture by the Jewish Social Democrat Bernstein for the association’s magazine. Once again, he had shocked his friends.

Johannes Perthel passed his theology exam before the First World War and he fulfilled his one- year mandatory military service. During that time, however, an inner struggle caused him to withdraw from an officer candidate’s course after the first 6 months. Once again, he was totally misunderstood.

After the war began, an inner sense of duty—he had just become a pastor—made him encourage his colleagues in Saxony to take up arms for the fatherland. His best friend answered this call and fell shortly thereafter. Johannes Perthel himself was not called up and was used as a field chaplain only for the last year and a half of the war. He found this task extremely difficult both inwardly and outwardly, but he gained a great deal of important insight into the destinies of soldiers.

In May 1915, Johannes Perthel married Mechthild Grohmann, the sister of the famous Goethean botanist Gerbert Grohmann. The couple had three children.

In typical Perthel style, after his time as auxiliary pastor he chose a pastorate that required a pioneer spirit. The small Saxon mining town of Oberwürschnitz, between Zwickau and Chemnitz, had just become an independent parish. There was neither church, nor community room, nor parish house, nor congregation. Perthel reported humorously about how he managed to acquire a parish house and community room. The congregation, however, just would not coalesce. The locals were largely taciturn, hard-working miners.

Johannes Perthel now attempted to bridge the gulf between his work-world and the church. He became a member of the Social Democratic Party, again shocking his colleagues, friends, and family. Even harder to swallow, however, was the realization that the gap between workers and church was not bridgeable, even though the Saxon workers now often invited the Social Democratic pastor to give lectures.

The most valuable experience in all this was the complete inner freedom from all previous obligations, for in his social class, a Social Democratic pastor was treated like a leper.

It was under these circumstances that a friend introduced him to a young man from the youth movement, presenting him as the representative of a new world view (Weltanschauung). It was the spring of 1920, the same time that the very first request went to Rudolf Steiner for a new religious practice.

Johannes Perthel and his wife purchased Rudolf Steiner’s “Basic Issues of the Social Question” and “How to Know Higher Worlds.” Understanding what was written there came only gradually, but it was inspirational. Later, Johannes Perthel would suffer a severe shock to the system from this first introduction to anthroposophy, but for now the first step had been made. He met Rudolf Steiner in Chemnitz and learned about the preparations for religious renewal.

From this moment on, Johannes Perthel knew that he wanted to join in the work. It was soon very obvious to him that the renewals Rudolf Steiner had proposed to the founder circle would find no place in the existing church. He wished to set to work establishing independent congregations in the Ore Mountains. This became clear to him during an inner struggle in the fall of 1921, when he was attending the theological course in Dornach. According to his own account, it was thanks to his wife, who was with him in Dornach, and to the construction of the first Goetheanum that he was able to overcome “the intellect man” (Kopfmensch), as he called it. The sense impression of the large columns of the Goetheanum hall, each different and yet emerging from and connected with one another, was a decisive help.

Perthel gave up his parish in 1922 and was present in Breitbrunn. During the actual founding deeds in 1922, Rudolf Steiner had himself suggested a lenker position for Perthel. And so, on September 16, 1922, he was ordained as a priest by Friedrich Rittelmeyer during the first Act of Consecration of the Human Being.

He then established the congregation in Leipzig with Rudolf Frieling, and from there he supervised as lenker the founding of congregations in Saxony, Thüringen, and Silesia. He worked in Breslau from 1926 through the 30s, and up until the ban of The Christian Community in 1941. He was part of The Circle of Seven from the very beginning and, as such, he played a significant role in building up and initially forming The Christian Community until it was banned.

On June 9, 1941, as the ban was coming into effect, Perthel participated in the lenker meeting in Erlangen. His two daughters in Breslau came under intense pressure from the Gestapo. They were forbidden to inform their brother in the field. Perthel lived through the time of the ban as a bookkeeper for the company of a Breslau congregation member.

Although Perthel is not known for writing anything of great length, from year one of the magazine first called “Tatchristentum” his articles and reports appeared every year, as well as in the “messages” for the member, which he issued as of 1936.

Perthel worked as a lecturer, particularly during the large conferences that took place then throughout Germany, often several times a year. But it was primarily his humanity, won through much suffering, that earned him great respect and gratitude in the priest circle and among all members.

In the summer of 1944, Johannes Perthel was staying in Oberstaufen in the Allgäu visiting Elfriede Straub, the renowned community helper from first Breslau then Stuttgart. From there, he went to visit his sister-in-law, the wife of Gerbert Grohmann, as well as Marta Heimeran in Horn on Lake Constance. As the train pulled into the station at Friedrichshafen on July 20, 1944, there was an air raid alarm. All the passengers were forced to exit the train for a nearby above ground air raid shelter. It received a direct hit. There were no survivors. Days later, Elfriede Straub searched for her missing guest in Friedrichshafen. She found Perthel’s passport, riddled with holes, in a laundry basket at the police station. His memorial stone is located in a large communal burial site. He was ripped from his life not knowing that his son had preceded him, falling in the field in Russia on July 13.


Oberwürschnitz, February 21, 1922

It seems clear to me from recent experiences that bringing about religious renewal in the church in the sense we mean will be impossible. To remain viable in the present, and faced with inner emptiness, the church is forced to shift more and more into outer forms. In the process, it must enclose itself in a protective shell that will render it impenetrable to all new impulses coming from outside. Furthermore, the people we need to reach today are not to be found in church. On the contrary, one gets the impression that we are not benefitting the people who come to church today if we let the new spiritual impulse flow into the sermon. As people who still somehow draw strength from the past, they also want to be uplifted by the past. So, in the long run, we ultimately do ourselves and them no favors by chaining ourselves together.

Once we have recognized this, the moment must come sooner or later when the inner impossibility becomes an outer impossibility, and if the kind of religious activity we intend is still to have any value, it must take place outside the church in the formation of independent congregations.

Because of the enormous responsibility involved, it will no doubt be tempting to postpone this decision and to wait for stronger outer relationships and greater inner readiness, but the decision must nevertheless be made at some point. Therefore, because there will have to be a decision and because the times require something, it would be good for this decision to be made today.

I thus declare myself ready to give up my parish when the time is right and help form independent congregations. My only request is that I be allowed to bring everything to some kind of conclusion by Easter.

When I think about where to work, I think I should be able to work my way into the local mining community from neighboring Oelnitz, the center of the local suburbs. These people are finished with the past and do not yet have anything new. It would just be a matter of shaking them out of their apathy. They might be able to trust someone whom they just recently knew as a pastor.

I would be most grateful if Dr. Steiner could make the effort to unite us once again for an immediate introductory course.

Johannes Perthel




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Herman Groh – 11 June 1894, Berlin – 14 December 1957

Herman Groh was a man of the world who broadened his education throughout his life. He spoke many languages and understood several more. Outwardly, Groh’s life took him first to Russia, Siberia, and Vladivostok during the First World War, and then (1928) to California for 6 months. In other words, he traveled from East to West before settling in the center, where he focused his energies. This also seems to correspond to the major inward gesture of his life.

Born into a Berlin merchant family in Berlin-Charlottenburg on 11 June 1894, Groh attended a grammar school in Cologne from Easter 1901 until his graduation at Easter 1912, receiving a comprehensive education with an emphasis on classical languages. Already at this age, he read philosophical books and Shakespeare during class. He exercised his lanky body with iron discipline and became the top athlete in his class. He went on long hikes with his comrades, becoming well-acquainted with the environs of Berlin and the Brandenburg region. Given the number of kilometers covered, they were really more like marches than hikes. His gym teacher, Döhring, not only took his boys out into nature, but in the evenings after the hikes also enthusiastically introduced them to the world of idealistic philosophy and classical literature.

Groh reportedly nearly drowned around this time while swimming in the Müggelsee (a lake outside Berlin). He saw his entire life up to that moment pass before him in full detail. During the same timeframe, while playing ice hockey on a frozen lake, he once saved the life of someone who had broken through the ice.

He passed his high school graduation exams at 18 and a half, later explaining that this was thanks to his A in gymnastics. Before the First World War broke out, he completed a voluntary one-year tour with the cavalry in Schleswig and began his studies in Freiburg/Breisgau, studying philosophy and political economics. He became particularly engrossed with Hegel.

Drafted at the outset of the war, he was a 21-year-old junior cavalry officer in Russia when he was captured in 1915 during a patrol in Courland. It was not until January 1921 that he returned home (via China) after a long Russian captivity.

His time as a prisoner-of-war in Siberia, and then ultimately as an able-bodied citizen under the “Reds” brought him many “opportunities”—for example as a lumberjack or as a librarian in Minussinsk—a calmer phase in a compound in Krasnoyarsk. He was able to continue his Hegel studies there, and this brought him into contact with the epistemological writings of Carl Unger and books by Rudolf Steiner. (The books had been sent to a comrade by a friend from Vienna). The book How to Know Higher Worlds impressed him the most, and it was after reading it that Groh decided to return to Germany to meet Rudolf Steiner, although he had actually intended to remain in Russia.

Even before this calmer chapter during the turmoil of revolutionary Russia, Groh had faced death a second time: Having escaped from a camp with a friend and walked 2,000 kms through Manchuria, he was captured in the last town before the Chinese border and imprisoned. The “Reds” released him shortly before he was shot: just before his execution the news of the tsar’s assassination arrived. Following his release from captivity in Vladivostok and his return to Europe by steamship, Groh met a group of students from Tübingen travelling for the anthroposophical First Class course in Stuttgart in 1921. Among them was Gerhard Klein, who later became his brother-in-law. His first question to them was reportedly about whether there was a real community here. He became one of the participants in the so-called Autumn Course, the second major round of teaching for the founding circle, to which Rudolf Steiner had invited people to Dornach.

Without finishing his studies or professional training, Groh committed himself to this common goal. In 1922, he reportedly made most of the journey from Berlin to Breitbrunn on foot, as simply driving to such an important event was out of the question. Unfortunately, he is missing from the Breitbrunn group picture. He then drove with the others to Dornach and was ordained by Emil Bock in the first Goetheanum on 16 September 1922 as the 21st member of the circle.

Herman Groh founded his first congregation in Essen-Mülheim. He chose this city because there were hardly any anthroposophists, thus also no branch of the Anthroposophical Society. He then worked in Vienna starting in 1929, setting up a small chapel in his home in Grinzing. During this time, he heard Dr. Roman Boos make serious attacks on The Christian Community, which shocked him deeply. Finally, as of 1935, he worked in the Dresden congregation for his third sending.

After participating in Rudolf Steiner’s last major lecture in Dornach in September 1924, he was married there on 26 September to his colleague Gerhard Klein’s sister Lilli. Alfred Heidenreich celebrated the marriage sacrament in the White Hall of the first Goetheanum. Gottfried Husemann and Marta Heimeran were witnesses and five other colleagues were present. The couple had six children.

In 1939 in Dresden, before The Christian Community was banned, Groh was drafted into the Wehrmacht at the beginning of the Second World War, even though he was already 45. Due to his excellent language skills, he was transferred on the recommendation of his brother-in-law Gerhard Klein from a veterinary hospital for horses to the large prison camp Mühlberg/Elbe as an interpreter for Russian, English, and French. He cultivated extensive connections with the captured Russians and Frenchmen. Instead of carrying a revolver for his personal security, he carried his sandwich with him when he had to accompany the prisoners. A prison chaplain later called him a “true Christian”; that is what he proved to be there. Johannes Lenz wrote about this time in more detail in the journal Die Christengemeinschaft, 2004, p. 579ff. When a typhus epidemic broke out in the camp and all the Germans decamped, he remained steadfastly at his post until he caught the disease himself.

As the person responsible for all church services in the camp, he worked closely with clergy of all denominations from a multitude of countries. With the help of a Russian clergyman who had been captured by the Germans while serving as a French soldier, Groh translated the Consecration of the Human Being into Russian.

After his recovery from typhus, he was released from service in 1944—again based on a recommendation—when his father fell seriously ill. Then he was obliged to manage his father’s chain of stores “Groh Brothers Milk and Cheese,” with all its products and dairies. While thus occupied, he experienced the collapse of the Third Reich in Berlin. The war had barely ended when Groh began to celebrate the Consecration of the Human Being again in the center of Berlin, where he lived on Brüderstraße in the Nikolai-Lessing House along with Anna Samweber. He brought his will to bear with particular intensity when celebrating. On long walks through the destroyed city, he regathered the members of his congregation. But as early as 1947, the leadership of The Christian Community suspended him from his parish duties because of his rigid attitude toward social and cultic matters, so from then on he no longer celebrated the sacraments. In 1952, Groh moved to his family in Gur Husum near Jever in East Frisia.

Herman Groh’s unconditional devotion to the absolute, to the spirit in thought and will, which he had learned from Hegel, had something exclusive, even one-sided about it. He was radical in this and used to demanding everything from himself and others. It testifies to his spiritual energy that he would read the entire Gospel of Mark standing up every day during Holy Week. He had divided it into 96 sections and he recited the Lord’s Prayer after each section. He remarked laconically that it only takes about four hours if done without stopping.

In addition to serious, faithful pastoral care, training his spiritual capabilities was important to him. He studied anthroposophy just as seriously. He vigorously and repeatedly worked through Rudolf Steiner’s four basic books according to the seasons of the year. He read the Old Testament in the original Hebrew. It is certainly a missed opportunity that he was not tasked with retranslating at least certain parts of it.

Although he burned whole stacks of manuscripts with translations, some things were saved. Groh’s life’s work can be seen in his work on the rhythms of the Old and New Testaments. He explored these rhythms in his daily polyglot studies. He always studied the Greek, Latin, English, French, and German texts in parallel, and in the case of the Old Testament he added the Hebrew text. He indicated his findings on the composition and rhythm of the texts with markings in his edition of the Bible; many people today use them as a study guide.

Groh studied the quality of time in general. He was convinced that one should be able to distinguish a Wednesday from a Thursday “atmospherically” at any time, even in a dark dungeon. Another leitmotif was the study of the Holy Scriptures over the course of the year. Additionally, he researched English and American literature for the occurrence of occult events. And finally, he always read as many international newspapers as possible.

He had thus been going along tirelessly engaged in learning until, after 63 active years, 12 of which he was forced to spend as a soldier and prisoner, a short, serious illness ended his life. This man of the world, who had come to know, understand, and love this earth and its peoples so fully, the priest, who had worked on himself so assiduously and was always available for people to talk to: now he was entering the world to which, after all his studying, praying, and meditating, he felt he belonged.


At this moment in time, I believe that those of us who experienced the new Christianity imparted to us last autumn through the rituals and the breviary by our teacher Dr. Rudolf Steiner should, considering the present situation, feel obligated to help establish this Christianity right now as an active and influential force. Furthermore, those of us who are willing and able to devote all our energy to this task alone and are ready to act immediately, should start making intensive preparations together. Forming such a community strikes me as the necessary step now, as only this kind of community would be able to grasp the impulses imparted by the spiritual leader of a movement for the renewal of religious life.

This prospective community must hold in its consciousness that the focal point of future congregational life must be communal prayer in accordance with Christian rituals. The community must be an open one, trusting that the performance of these rituals will be made possible through a new connection to the spiritual stream that began with the deed of Christ and continues with the living Christ, a new beginning that will be given to people in due time.

This community can become strong through a life in Christ.

This community will work out of the power of Christ to reorganize of all areas of life and to create new forms of living in community with a view toward the work in future congregations.

Many questions have arisen among us since the Dornach course. Many practical details are still missing, and much of what we do have needs further elaboration. We must ask Dr. Steiner to help us continue our preparations.

I am resolved and prepared to join forces with those who see their life’s task as spreading the new Christianity. I will leave all past commitments behind and am ready to start work immediately. I request to shoulder the karma of the community, and I hope my own is not too heavy for the community to bear.

Berlin, March 4, 1922 Hermann Groh

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The Christian Community in Los Angeles now has a Patreon Site!

The Christian Community in Los Angeles now has a Patreon Site!

Rev. Rafal Nowak, the resident priest in Los Angeles, warmly invites you to explore and support a new Patreon endeavor:

On the Way to Emmaus. Talks, Ideas, Insights, Questions…
Check it out HERE



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Fire of the Heart Conference, July 6-9, Viroqua, WI

For more information: fireoftheheart2023@gmail.com

Fire of the heart

For more information: fireoftheheart2023@gmail.com

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Ukraine Update 6

Here is the SIXTH UPDATE from Ukraine.

Here are ways to donate:

The Christian Community in Hillsdale, NY has offered to receive checks and PayPal donations which they will wire to The Christian Community in Germany.  These donations will go to support refugee and humanitarian aid in connection with the war.  If sending a check via mail:

The Christian Community
c/o Treasurer
10 Green River Ln.
Hillsdale, NY 12529
Memo: Ukraine

You may also use their PayPal donation button, but be sure to add Ukraine as a note/instruction.

Those wishing to help Waldorf schools and their families in Ukraine can make donations directly to the Friends of Waldorf Education (Freunde der Erziehungskunst), which has already mobilized a worldwide network of financial and logistic support via its secure website by clicking here.

Non-profit Relief Fund: https://www.globalgiving.org/projects/ukraine-crisis-relief-fund/

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Pencils, Paint, and Emergency Pedagogy for Ukraine Refugees

Supplied with pencils, paper, paints, and brushes, Karine Munk Finser, Director of CfA’s newly founded Kairos Institute, flew to Scandinavia in mid-March to welcome Ukrainian refugees into her parents’ empty cottage on the Danish island of Bornholm and to begin administering a program of acute healing art therapy to mothers and their young children.

Those wishing to help Waldorf schools and their families in Ukraine can make donations directly to the Friends of Waldorf Education (Freunde der Erziehungskunst), which has already mobilized a worldwide network of financial and logistic support via its secure website by clicking here.