75 years after its founding, the Evangelical Church in Hesse and Nassau (EKHN) celebrated its anniversary in Friedberg on Saturday.
There, on September 30, 1947, in the Burgkirche, delegates from the three churches of Hessen-Darmstadt, Nassau and Frankfurt, which had merged during the National Socialism under pressure from the regime to form the Evangelical State Church of Nassau-Hessen, spoke out in favor of remaining together as a church, but henceforth under the name Evangelical Church in Hesse and Nassau and with democratic structures.
Not everyone was in the mood to celebrate on Saturday, as Friedberg pastor Claudia Ginkel suspected when welcoming the guests in the fully occupied Friedberg town church.
The Ukraine war, climate change, the crisis in the church with many people leaving and impending financial and personnel cuts caused some believers to become frustrated.
Warning against selfishness of the church
In fact, the church leadership had previously thought about whether they could celebrate at all in these turbulent times, as church president Volker Jung reported at the rather weakly attended festival afternoon in the Friedberg town hall.
She decided to do it anyway.
The 75th birthday is a good time to look back and forward.
In any case, his party mood is quite high.
In his sermon during the festive anniversary service in the town church, however, Jung set a serious tone by warning against the church becoming self-centered.
Rather, she must always ask herself what her task is in the world and how she can be there for others and for this world.
The task of the church is to work to ensure that people can continue to live on this earth - peacefully and justly.
It is important to carry the good news of God into the world.
The Hessian-Nassau Church, which traditionally also speaks out on controversial political issues and, around the end of the 1950s, rejected nuclear weapons in the Federal Republic or recently spoke out in favor of sending a church ship to rescue refugees in the Mediterranean, stands for diversity and tolerance, according to Jung .
She must make a servile effort not to exclude people or even harm anyone.
Prevention and inclusion are therefore important tasks.
According to Birgit Pfeiffer, President of the Church Synod, the EKHN's decision to move away from authoritarian structures towards democratic synodal structures 75 years ago has paid off.
Likewise the practice that all holders of temporary leadership positions would be elected by the synod.
Greetings to the EKHN, which also includes parts of Rhineland-Palatinate such as Rheinhessen, were sent from afar by Hesse's Prime Minister Boris Rhein (CDU) and his Rhineland-Palatinate colleague Malu Dreyer (SPD).
The Hessian-Nassau Church is an indispensable partner for the Hessian state government, wrote Rhein.
Dreyer noted that those responsible for the EKHN had developed an open, democratic and forward-looking community amidst the ruins of the Second World War and after the Shoah had broken civilization.
A visit to the castle church made it possible to jump back 75 years.
There, the seats of the delegates from that time were marked with name tags.
The fact that Martin Niemöller, the first church president, played an important role in this synod was evident from the fact that he was sitting very close to the lectern.
At his place, on a piece of paper, was a piece of advice he had given to delegates: “So start modestly!
Afterwards we will see what is there.”
Projects of the provosts
There was a lot of energy and optimism: the flourishing of this newly founded church, but also the struggle within the church between German Christians close to the regime and steadfast pastors and believers of the "Confessing Church" could be read on display boards in the castle church.
A milestone was the equality of women and men in pastoral work, which was decided in 1971.
The fact that the EKHN, despite its problems, has not lost courage and faith was shown in the town hall, where the five provosts presented their projects.
In Rheinhessen and Nassauer Land, congregations celebrate church services in unusual places.
In the Oberhessen priory, the refugee work stands out, the Starkenburg priory has an environmental pastor.