The evangelical service threatens to dry up. A congress, probably held as a crisis meeting, served to create new ideas for the reorganization of the services. There needs to be a festive and party atmosphere.
Inhalt / Content
The service seems too worn out
When the management of Europa-Park in Rust or Disneyland in Paris get together to work out a new, attractive program for interested visitors, then that is quite understandable. However, if it is a meeting of church representatives for a similar package of offers for worship in a church, this raises profound questions.
Congress for a new “heartbeat”
Last Thursday, around 130 representatives of churches and science from Germany, Austria and Switzerland met at the conference “Quo vadis, divine service?”. This congress took place in Hildesheim, Germany, in the “Michaeliskloster” from May 2nd to 4th, 2023. The Michaeliskloster (“Michaelis monastery”) is considered the “Evangelical Center for Worship and Church Music”. Questions to be answered at the congress included: “Is worship the heart of the church? What rhythm does it beat? Like a jungle drum? In 4/4 time?”. The focus was on the “heartbeat” of the service, which was to be recognized and adapted through “workshops” dealing with the topic “Belonging before believing”, among other things.
The party takes place in the church
According to theology professor and director of the Michaeliskloster, Jochen Arnold, the church service must be rediscovered as a festival. The party should not just be left to the Shooting festival, but must be something that can be experienced. “The party is actually taking place here,” said Arnold to the Evangelical Press Service (epd), like evangelisch.de reported.
Events such as Christmas Eve, Easter and Thanksgiving showed that the services held for them, as well as different forms and shapes, had an “event character”. This results in a higher influx of churchgoers, while the church service is losing importance, especially on Sunday mornings. Formats such as digital worship during the “Corona period”, outdoors or in the living room, also show that “the worship heart of the church” continues to beat.
A welcoming culture is needed
Because of the low number of visitors, the church should not stare fearfully at the snake like a rabbit, according to Arnold, rather a new departure and an opening must be dared in order to meet people and their questions and needs. According to the theologian, the “idea of an inclusive church” is important for this. One must receive people of different cultures and piety, inclinations and languages ”with an open culture of welcome” in such a way that they feel at home in the spiritual offerings.
There must be a large number of formats for the welcoming church in the 21st century. There is no patent recipe for this. Nevertheless, it must be conveyed that the service on Sunday morning remains important as an option among other formats at 10 a.m. In order for a “celebration joy” to arise, instead of a “communion celebration-to-go” or a “church coffee” a real meal can follow.
The music has to fit
The musical diversity also plays a major role in the success of the service offerings. These included choral, Taizé songs and also gospel. However, this should not result in too many “musical ingredients in a church service soup”, but should be mixed “with taste”, according to Arnold. The right coordination of the “service buffet” is important.
The solution would be so simple!
The Evangelical Trinity Church in Würzburg, Germany, already considers it a good mixture of “service to God” when churchgoers can vent their anger on squeaky pencils and crackers.
The whole hustle and bustle around the “entertainment offers” of the evangelical churches to attract visitors is a clear declaration of bankruptcy in the sense of the gospel.
There is a very simple recipe for attracting visitors to the church without having to set up an amusement park:
Preach the gospel, the living word of God, just as it is written! That’s all!
With these ambitions of the former Protestant church, the same applies as so often:
Bible verses from King James Version