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2440: Michaelsgemeinde (Schloßkirche), Pforzheim, Germany
Schlosskirche, Pforzheim Photo: © Hild and used under license
Mystery Worshipper: Cross Eyed Bear.
The church: Michaelsgemeinde (Schloßkirche), Pforzheim, Germany.
Denomination: Evangelical Church in Germany.
The building: One of the landmarks of Pforzheim, this small yet beautiful red brick building with frescoes on the external walls originates in parts from the 13th century. In May 1945, Pforzheim was the victim of the worst air bombing raid in Germany, suffering the worst damage per capita. The Schloßkirche was partially destroyed in this attack, but was one of the few churches to be restored to something approaching its former glory. Inside, the building has a gorgeous arched roof and a large number of colourful stained glass windows, which has the unfortunate effect of making the exterior extremely dark.
The church: Members of the House of Baden were buried here until the mid 19th century. An organisation called Friends of the Castle Church oversees the maintenance and upkeep of this historic church.
The neighbourhood: Pforzheim, in southwest Germany at the gate to the Black Forest, is famous for its jewelry and watchmaking industries. Bombing during World War II destroyed more than three-quarters of the town and killed over a quarter of its population. Rubble from the destruction was heaped into a volcano-like mound on the outskirts of the town. Pforzheim was gradually rebuilt, and the town today has a quite modern look. The church is in the city centre, a stone's throw from the pedestrianised shopping area.
The cast: The vicar's name was announced twice, but unfortunately I didn't understand it either time. The organ was played by Frau Zimmer.
The date & time: Thirteenth Sunday after Trinity, 2 September 2012, 10.00am.

What was the name of the service?
Gottesdienst (Church Service).

How full was the building?
It was difficult to count, as Papa Cross Eyed Bear chose a seat near the front. Furthermore, the building was dark and everyone left the minute the service had finished. But I would estimate that there weren't more than 50 present in a building that could hold around 400.

Did anyone welcome you personally?
We were greeted by a man at the front door who handed us a hymn book and said hello.

Was your pew comfortable?
Despite being a simple wood affair, yes, it was. The back rest was slightly arched and the foot rest was in just the right place. Plenty of leg room too!

How would you describe the pre-service atmosphere?
Absolute silence amongst the congregation, with the bells pealing in the background.

What were the exact opening words of the service?
At 10.00 on the dot, the organ broke put into a medley of the hymns that were to be sung during the service.

What books did the congregation use during the service?
Evangelisches Gesangbuch für die Evangelische Landeskirche in Baden, für das Elsass und Lothringen (Protestant Hymnbook for the Protestant Church in Baden, the Alsace Region and Lothringen). We also had a one page A5 notice sheet with information on the church services for the next two weeks. Interestingly, there was nothing on this week's service!

What musical instruments were played?
An organ played by Frau Zimmer. The organ had a lovely melodious tone, beautifully carried by the acoustics of the building.

Did anything distract you?
Not being able to understand the vicar's name was a distraction. Compounding that was the fact that the service book contained eight versions of the liturgy and I couldn't work out which one was being used!

Was the worship stiff-upper-lip, happy clappy, or what?
The worship was strictly liturgical. I followed along as best I could, based on past visits to churches of a similar denomination. Not all congregation members joined in with the responses.

Exactly how long was the sermon?
18 minutes.

On a scale of 1-10, how good was the preacher?
8 – The vicar spoke clearly, well and sincerely with a good speaking voice.

In a nutshell, what was the sermon about?
The vicar spoke first of all about gardening. Gardens are very important to a number of people. A garden is a place of happiness, as was the Garden of Eden. Unfortunately mankind was banished from the happiness of the Garden of Eden, with resulting natural catastrophes, death, fear, the possibility of a murderer living in our neighbourhood. Nevertheless, God, the giver of paradise, has remained the same. Jesus promised the "good thief" eternal happiness in paradise. This promise was made in the darkest moment for both men, as they were about to die. This shows that even in the shadow of death there is the promise and hope.

Which part of the service was like being in heaven?
There was a lovely atmosphere of peace in the church.

And which part was like being in... er... the other place?
We were not noticed, spoken to, or given opportunities to make ourselves known to others.

What happened when you hung around after the service looking lost?
Absolutely nothing. Once the service had finished, a small group gathered at the front. They visited among themselves for a few minutes and then began to tidy the altar, take down the hymn numbers from the board, etc. The vicar was shaking hands with people as they left; he smiled at us and said good-bye. We looked around for a while, but when we noticed that the group of workers who were tidying up had turned to emptying the collection basket, we beat a hasty retreat before they could discover our Mystery Worship calling card.

How would you describe the after-service coffee?
As far as we could tell, there wasn't any. The congregation just upped and left.

How would you feel about making this church your regular (where 10 = ecstatic, 0 = terminal)?
2 – I enjoyed the style of service, and can imagine coming back again. However, I don't see how one can get involved. There was no announcement as to which liturgy was being used. There was no attempt to make conversation or draw our attention to any other church activities. There is no current information on any activities during the week or even wider social work available on the web. Where would one start?

Did the service make you feel glad to be a Christian?
The service itself, yes. However, I do feel the lack of welcome and attention paid to visitors is not enabling people to learn more about the love of God.

What one thing will you remember about all this in seven days' time?
The beautiful feeling of peace in the church.
 
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