From the grave light to the electronic offertory

It could almost be mistaken for an elegant lectern, were it not for the fact that it also features a card reader as well as a keypad like that of an ATM machine: The electronic offertory is supposed to provide more security and save annoying jangling with small change. Even in the church, cashless payment with debit and credit cards is no longer a taboo subject, as shown by the Cologne church trade fair Ecclesia, which opened on Thursday.

To the 5. For the third time, the exhibition in Hall 3 of Koelnmesse presents everything about religious life and everyday life in places of worship. The offer ranges from fully automatic organ playing help in case of organist shortage, church seat heaters, safes for the church collection, colorful grave lights to special wax stain removers.

Nearly 200 exhibitors at Eccles The target group of Ecclesia includes pastors, sextons and organists, presbyters, church boards and all full-time and voluntary employees of church congregations, who make up around 70 percent of visitors. But the remaining 30 percent is made up of ordinary believers. "We expect that this year, too, we will have visitor numbers of up to 4.000," says the Managing Director of Koelnmesse Ausstellungen GmbH, Sandra Orth, confidently. Nearly 200 companies, institutions and craft businesses from seven countries will offer their services and products this year. The first Ecclesia five years ago, on the other hand, had started with only 50 exhibitors.

Modern technology in old church buildings This year's Ecclesia is all about craftsmanship. Restoration and preservation of historical monuments formed the main focus of the exhibition, says the chief executive of the Cologne Chamber of Crafts, Ortwin Weltrich. The craft provides a significant part of the construction services in the sacred and secular buildings of the churches, emphasizes Weltrich. This starts with the restoration of natural stone facades and extends from the repair of slate and copper roofs to the installation of energy-saving church heating systems. "The craft is thus the service leader of the church," says Weltrich. With mixed forecasts for the construction industry this year, the building trade is dependent on orders from churches, explains Weltrich. According to his figures, the Catholic Church alone spent around 418 million euros on the maintenance and renovation of church buildings, monasteries, schools and hospitals last year. Orders from Catholic housing associations account for another 300 million annually.This year, the Ecclesia is placing special emphasis on cutting-edge technological achievements in old church buildings: There are electronic bell ringing machines, computerized display boards for hymn numbers and tips for parish home page design. Fully automated lighting systems can be programmed before a church service to match the lighting to the occasion, whether it's a wedding, a funeral or a baptism.Even digital gravestones are on offer: instead of the usual engraving, the gravestone from a supplier company in Greven contains a mini-computer with a screen that can show color photos, poems, letters and even videos of the dead person. The manufacturers promise that this will make it possible to look back on a person's life in a more individual and much more expansive way at the cemetery.

New for "colorful priests The Gutenberg Museum in Mainz is also represented at the fair for the first time. Under the motto "Living Museum," a replica of the Gutenberg press will be presented in a medieval atmosphere, demonstrated by printers in period costumes, says Sandra Orth of Koelnmesse Exhibitions.And there's news for colorful priests, too: A manufacturer of church vestments is taking on the colors of the ecclesiastical year this year under the theme "Color Change" and showing how they can be incorporated into the design of vestments. A special show will also be on display: "A special highlight for visitors," promises Sandra Orth.

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