“Never alone”

Actually, "You'll never walk alone" is the cult anthem of the fans in the soccer stadiums of this world. But for the bishop of Hanover, Margot Kabmann, the piece is obviously also identity-forming. In the church, there is "the awareness of being on the road together, never alone," the 51-year-old quoted the text on Saturday at a "thank you" celebration of Germany's largest state church, with nearly three million members.

In Hanover's city center, the church celebrated Kabmann's tenth anniversary in office – and with her, everyone who was also celebrating her "tenth anniversary".On 4. September ten years ago Kabmann was introduced. "I knew three people when I began my ministry," she candidly confesses at a celebratory service. Now 800 guests of honor sit opposite her: Women and men who visit the sick, care for children, accompany the dying, help the homeless and organize food banks for Hartz IV recipients. In the Hanoverian state church alone, there are 30.000main and 100.000 volunteers. No one knows for sure how many there are nationwide in the 22 member churches of the Evangelical Church in Germany (EKD).They are "the true treasure of the church, because they make the faith come alive," says the president of the Hanover regional church office, Burkhard Guntau. The celebration around Hanover's Marktkirche began with his thanks. Ten active members from each of Hanover's 57 church districts between the North Sea coast and the Weserbergland region came to represent the church. Ten – that's a special number, says Kabmann, who some already see as the next chairwoman of the EKD Council. "As a child, it was important to me to become ten. Finally in double digits."Kabmann has initiated prominent aid projects such as "Zukunftsgestalten" for poor children and the "Mirjam" network for pregnant mothers in emergency situations. But not everything always has to be great, beacon-like, she looks back. "Even small steps carry the gospel into the world."Ilse Cordes (59) and Holger Weidemann (55), church people at grassroots level, who are honored together with Kabmann on the festival stage, also think so."We break through loneliness and connect people," says Cordes, who has been involved in a visiting ministry for ten years. And Weidemann belongs to an outpatient hospice service that accompanies dying people. Yes, a difficult ministry, he admits. "But I get more from the dying than I give. They are intense encounters. And the community of the group sustains us."The fact that the ten years were not always a bed of roses can also be heard in Kabmann's words. She had to battle a cancer and cope with divorce from husband Eckhard. The theologian says she felt carried and relies on the church's community of service. "The bishop is worth no more than the green lady and the sexton no less than the senior church councilor."Despite the church's dwindling financial resources, Kabmann affirms that she hopes the church will continue to show by example what solidarity with the weak means over the next ten years. She is looking forward to the next ten years: "With team spirit, mutual appreciation and simply joy in our common path."

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