My parents and grandmother were Methodists. They were proud of it and felt at home in this community. Unfortunately our church was located on the other side of town and therefore I could not participate in the children’s programs very often. Instead I went to the children’s Sunday School class of the Lutheran Church and became a boy scout in the YMCA – both just around the corner from where we lived. But in spite of that, there was no doubt: I am a Methodist!
This feeling became stronger when I entered the confirmation class in our Methodist Church. I found friends. I was invited to the trombone choir and had the opportunity to learn the trumpet. I was trained to lead a children’s group. I was allowed to play music with some friends on Sunday mornings - even rock music with my guitar! Our pastor and our youth leaders provided good biblical teaching. They laid a good foundation. I felt at home at church.
Some of my good YMCA friends were involved in the charismatic movement. They shared their experiences of the Spirit with me. For almost two years I tried to combine both: being a “sober” Methodist and being a sympathizer with the charismatic spirituality. Although I made some important experiences, it became very clear: This expression of faith does not fit me. Intentionally and with full conviction I became a confessing member of the UMC. There were people of all ages at church - I needed all of them. The UMC appeared to be a pious community - but at the same time very open-minded and sensitive for the needs of our world. There was a structure - but very much freedom at the same time. There were rules - but the needs of people were always more important. There were well educated pastors with a mature theology - but lay people contributed equally to the mission. There was a local church, small and far from being perfect – but it was part of a big worldwide family. Even at the age of 19 I had a good feeling for all of this.
Then I left my home town for university (I studied food chemistry before I was called to become a pastor). There was no Methodist Church at the new place. For that time I joined a small Mennonite congregation.
All of these ecumenical experiences, influences and contacts were enriching my spirituality. They did not threaten my Methodist identity. In fact they helped me to gain a clearer understanding of what it means to be a Methodist. I became proud of the gift to live within this church. Still I am passionate about our church, even though there was a lot of disillusion during my time as a district superintendent. But still I am curious how God will serve our world through the UMC in the future and I want to be part of this adventure.
Rev. Harald Rückert is pastor of a local church in Reutlingen, Germany South Annual Conference. Since 1992 he is member of the Central Conference of Germany. He was elected delegate to the 2008 and 2012 General Conferences. He held appointments in local churches and a church planting project. For 10 years he served as district superintendent. He is engaged in the leadership training programs for candidates and ordained ministers in his Central Conference. Complimentary he is chair of an addiction therapy institution of the Church.