Giessen, Germany

Apr 30, 2018

“We are Your Church…”

As in any family, there are changes and phases in the history of a church that need embracing. Our church in its very beginning served the American soldiers stationed in the region so that they might have an English-language service and a piece of “home away from home.” Gradually, international students formed part of the congregation for much the same reason, and the location change to the Freie Theologische Hochschule brought with it a number of students from both the school and nearby university.

Recently, a more balanced congregation has emerged: a mix of current students, former students, and other internationals and locals who work and live in the area. We have also experienced an increase in the number of babies, toddlers, and children. With all these developments, though, it is nice when something remains by-and-large the same. Regardless of the make-up or the size of our congregation, there is one constant characteristic that has remained throughout the history of our church – we love to sing!

Sometimes it can seem that the number of songs that we sing in a typical Sunday service simply is not enough, and that everyone could quite happily continue worshipping. With this in mind two members of the Sunday service music team came together to create a Worship Night series which, one year on and despite initial low turn-out, has become quite the event. Nowadays, a regular Night can attract 50 worshippers, with the highest attendance to date being 80 people. It is true that the majority of these are students who may have brought their friends along, but it has never been advertised as a student event, so there really is a wide spectrum of people in the crowd.

Chairs are removed, to allow for freedom of movement and comfort; fairy lights are hung up, while the main part of the room remains darkened; and there are no orders of service or collection plates. Each Worship Night has a theme and the evening is structured around it, with times of silence and personal prayer, Bible readings, and a short input. Last Worship Night, for example, was based on “For who You are” and focused on the different names and identities of God and our response to them. In the input, the speaker used the anecdote of watching his friend react passionately to a goal scored by his favorite football team – do we respond to God in the same way, even if something doesn’t happen in our favor? He created us and loves us – that deserves our unending praise! Afterward, the singing continued with “Praise is Rising (Hosanna)” by Paul Beloche and Brenton Brown.

Drawing mainly from the song-base that we have at our church, the Worship Night team have always sought to include a variety of songs – old and new, German and English, slow and up-beat, but their final selection has always been based on their musical interest and the message and meaning of the lyrics. Split into sets of four, there is always a chance that a song could be repeated, as it had a particular resonance in a previous Worship Night and it fits that Night’s theme. One new song has become a firm favorite, Rend Collective’s “Build Your Kingdom Here.” While it may not fit every time with the evening’s underlying theme, it has been played as a last song for nearly all the Worship Nights so far, and there is a particular reason why. At the end of the Worship Night, it is easy to feel that you have met with God and received from Him, as one person mentioned, and as a result have had your spiritual batteries recharged and gained a new energy and enthusiasm. The question that hangs in the air, according to one of its founders, is “What now?” The way forward is what this closing song reminds us of: the call to make disciples, to act and live out our faiths beyond the Worship Nights and church services we go to. It is a commandment as true for the early church as it is for everyone and every church today – no matter the size or constellation of the congregation.

We pray revive this Earth.

Karen Spenler

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