It used to be even a consecration profession: since 12. In the twenty-first century there is the job of the sexton. Their field of work goes further than just the sacristy. A Cologne sexton reports on her everyday life, which has not been made any easier by Corona.
Interviewer: How does a working day work for you??
Marion Bode (member of the board of the association Kolner Kuster von 1880): It starts depending on when the first mass is. At the moment we have corona-conditioned one mass a day. But there are sometimes more, depending on which church you are in. It starts with unlocking the church door, of course, turn on the lights, then first look at which liturgical day is pending, and it is also important for the sexton to know which Mass form is pending. According to this, the interpretation of the vestments or the preparation of the altar. If more candlesticks get there, fewer get there.
In principle, one must already know what is the important thing on this day, from the liturgical background. And according to this everything is directed: the arrangement of the mass, the preparation, now at the time, today, again not, as far as singing is concerned, the divine vows, thus everything, where church visitors and above all the priest at the altar feel well and also surely that there no uncertainties come in.
Interviewer: Until where does that reach? They are working full time. Where it is said that this is still a sexton's task, and then a lector or the parish priest, for example, takes over this task. Are there limits?
Bode: Yes, I think that the boundaries are clear, for example the Minorite Church. Adolph Kolping is buried there, it is a pilgrimage church for Kolping. Normally many pilgrimage groups come there without Corona, and they also bring a lector with them. Which is of course very nice, because this lector then comes from the parish itself and then also makes a very clear reference.
Interviewer: Has the job as sexton changed over the years, or are your tasks still exactly the same as they were 140 years ago??
Bode: The profession of sexton, there is now a little longer. In 12. It was already mentioned in the nineteenth century, and especially the Cologne sextons always had a very high reputation. It developed from the church father, as was sometimes said, who unlocked the church doors and rang the bell. And in the 14. In the nineteenth century, he was then quite clearly named as a sexton and then also had the lower ordinations.
Interviewer: What does it mean?
Bode: The lower ordinations, which are four ordinations, as they say, which have not been performed since 1973, but which were tapped in the Council of Trent. That is the first unlocking of the church door, then as lector, then as acolyte, carrying the light and the cross, and as exorcist. However, that does not mean what one imagines now, but he was responsible for the holy water. Of course, that is still the case today. As a sexton, one should take special care that it does not become empty and that it is consecrated in time. Because many come and also take holy water with them. And then just as help in the administration of communion.
Interviewer: School service is also part of it, I read.
Bode: Exactly. The sexton in Cologne, as I said, always had a lot of tasks. It was also very important that he existed. He was appointed by the congregation and was then also appointed to the school service to teach questions of faith.
Interviewer: So that has actually reached up to the religion teacher?
Bode: Yes, there was a sexton's strike before 1880, because the sextons also had to ring the fire bell. They refused to ring those because the city didn't pay for it. Then these Cologne sextons got together and went on strike against it.
Interviewer: 140 years, that is a long time. We have already spoken about the development of this profession. They are rather in the background in the employment, carry out work, which is considered for many parishioners and church service visitors as natural, but now not always so obviously visible. Where do you get your motivation in everyday life?
Bode: Personally, I get the motivation from the Holy Mass, in which I can of course always participate. And for me it is something special, because I have prepared it myself. And it's something different every day, although it's repeated every year. But still it is very changeable. And that gives me the motivation or, let's say, the joy of the job.
Interviewer: Let's take another look at the current Corona situation that concerns us all. The Corona pandemic is probably also keeping them a little busier than usual.
Bode: Oh yes. It starts with disinfecting, which of course is completely new in the church. Then there must not be so much interpretation. It must be paid attention to the fact that also straight from the disinfection, from the sterility, not so much God's loaves do not lie there, are not laid out. Then you also have to make sure that there are not so many people at the altar, that everyone wears a mouth guard, that they sign the list.
Interviewer: Is that going well so far?
Bode: It is of course much. Sometimes I'm at the front of the altar, then again at the back, it's more running than anything else. As long as the parishioners understand, that's great, of course.
Interviewer: Do you have an appeal that you would like to make to the worshippers??
Bode: Yes. Perhaps still have a little patience, that we just have to wear the mask now also in the service and just a little perseverance.
Notice: The interview is a shortened catch. You can listen to the complete interview here.