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Marienkirche, Röbel, Germany
Sankt Marienkirche, Röbel, Germany.
Lutheran Church of Mecklenburg.
Go into any city or town in the northeast part of Germany and
ask directions to St Mary’s Church; you will undoubtedly receive
directions to a brick-Gothic church that was started in the
13th century, completed in the 15th and became Lutheran in the
16th. I have visited at least 50 churches during my vacation
in this part of Germany and have yet to find a city which does
not have a St Mary’s Church (although some small villages do
actually find other names for their churches). And if the city
has two churches, the second will probably be a St Nikolai Church.
The town of Röbel fits into this pattern. It goes without saying
that St Marien is a beautiful example of the 13th century brick-Gothic
style. The church is somewhat unique in that it contains a lookout
deck (Aussichtsplattform). Some valuable and attractive
art works grace the interior. The theme of the service was visible:
four large masks had been hung from the front chandelier in
the altar area, and small masks decorated the pews.
The church is very popular with tourists. That the staff manage
to keep the church open throughout the week is impressive, because
it requires a large number of volunteers (usually around 20
people are required).
Röbel is a town in the state of Mecklenburg-Vorpommern that
sits on Lake Mueritz, Germany's largest lake and a popular recreation
spot. The church overlooks the lake.
The service was prepared and led by six members of the congregation
who wanted to offer a contemporary worship experience for younger
people who might not be attracted to traditional worship. They
do this type of service about twice a year, and this was their
fourth altogether. Unfortunately, I cannot provide their names;
they did not introduce themselves and their names were not listed
The date & time:
21 June 2009, 3.00pm.
What was the name of the
"The other worship service." The theme of the service was
masks or role playing which hide the true identity of a person.
How full was the building?
The main part of the church was about two-thirds full but the
side naves were empty. Unusual, according to my experience,
is that the congregation actually sat in the front part of the
church; the more elderly sat toward the back (which is not uncommon).
It was a good balance of generations.
Did anyone welcome you personally?
We arrived 10 minutes before the start of the service. There
were two persons (part of the team responsible for this service)
standing at the door, but they neither greeted us nor offered
us the song sheets they were holding. They must have assumed
we were tourists, not necessarily interested in the service.
After going into the church, I went back and asked for a song
sheet. A person who sat next to us said hello to us when she
Was your pew comfortable?
The cushioned pew was comfortable.
How would you describe the pre-service
The pre-service atmosphere was calm. Although most of the worshipers
knew one another, there were hardly any personal greetings or
short conversations before the service. Also, I did not feel
the sense of anticipation that usually precedes worship. The
atmosphere was almost subdued.
What were the exact opening words of the
"I welcome you heartily to our afternoon worship service
here in St Mary’s Church."
What books did the congregation use during the
No hymn books were used. The hymns on the song sheet were contemporary.
What musical instruments were played?
The songs were accompanied by a keyboard and two electric guitars.
The singing was led by one of the guitar players and she was
backed up by a group of vocalists.
Did anything distract you?
Two people whom I could not see, but who occasionally could
be heard conversing with one another. The art works in the church
were a pleasant distraction.
Was the worship stiff-upper-lip, happy clappy, or
The service was not liturgical, not stiff, but also not spontaneous;
it was efficiently prepared and had a relaxed, friendly atmosphere.
Part of the service was a small scene of role playing, in which
one woman put on masks according to the situation (addressing
her boss, her daughter, or her friend) and talked about the
role playing involved (being always friendly, or always strict,
or always ready to please others). This scene posed the question:
Who am I?
Exactly how long was the sermon?
I have to confess that I cannot give the exact length, because
the sermon had begun before I realised it. It took me completely
by surprise. But I estimate it lasted about 12 minutes.
On a scale of 1-10, how good was the preacher?
6 Two people shared in the delivery. They spoke clearly,
directly and to the point. This is the highest mark I give non-charismatic
In a nutshell, what was the sermon
The first speaker singled out three people at random and accused
them of unethical or dishonest behavior. He then talked about
how unnerving it is to be exposed and how it leads to defensiveness.
The second speaker then read from scripture, John 4:1-26, the
encounter between Jesus and the Samaritan woman at Jacob's Well.
Jesus exposed this woman as having morally questionable relationships.
Jesus stripped away her mask but did not look down upon her;
rather, he showed that he cared for her. Jesus accepts us personally
as we are, and in this way the kingdom of God can unfold inside
Which part of the service was like being in
The woman who led the singing had a clear, natural and sweet
voice. Listening to her sing was like being in heaven. The accompaniment
was also effective: it pulsated without being too loud. It was
easy to sing along.
And which part was like being in... er... the other place?
One the one hand, I was impressed by the relaxed atmosphere
of this service; there was no sign of nervousness or hustle-bustle.
But perhaps it was too relaxed, too subdued. There seemed to
be an overall lack of energy, a lack of enthusiasm. The singing
of the congregation was too quiet. And worship without energy
and charisma is like "being in the other place." Germany
is perhaps the only country in this world in which the congregation
remains sitting during the singing of hymns, which strikes me
as an inappropriate body language for songs of praise. In the
"other place" no one stands up to honour God with
What happened when you hung around after the service looking lost?
As the congregation left, the tourists poured in. There would
have been no point in hanging around after the service looking
lost. We followed everyone over to the parsonage garden for
coffee. There, I stood around looking lost for at least five
minutes but no one approached me. Finally, as I happened to
be standing under a cherry tree, someone mentioned how crisp
the cherries would be when they are ripe.
How would you describe the after-service
In Germany there is no such thing as bad church coffee. A unique
feature was powdered cream for the coffee, which I had never
encountered in Germany until now. As an American I felt right
at home. The home-made cake was delicious. Also offered was
Schmalzbrot (bread spread with goose fat) and pickles.
How would you feel about making this church your regular (where 10 = ecstatic, 0 = terminal)?
7 The church, as mentioned, is rich with beauty and art.
Surrounded by high trees on a hill overlooking a lake, it has
an attractive setting. The congregation are obviously decent
and friendly people.
Did the service make you feel glad to be a
Yes, especially because of the spiritual competence of the lay
members who prepared this service. It is extremely encouraging
to encounter laymen who are capable of proclaiming the gospel
with clarity, authority and humour in the context of contemporary
What one thing will you remember about all this in seven days' time?
The competent efficiency with which the worship group led this
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