Sexton Kaster © Kern (DR)
Welcome to Heaven © Kern (DR)
St. Pauli is an exceptional world: between the amusement district, the Schanzenviertel and the fish market, the small parish with its 200-year-old st. Pauli Church in the middle of Hamburg. The place of worship is a contact point for people of all religions.
The church is like an island for the people in the community, is how Pastor Siegard Wilm describes the 200-year-old red-brick house of worship in St. Pauli. In the recent past, this became particularly clear when the "Welcome to Hell Demo" escalated between demonstrators and police near the church during the G-20 summit in early July. The church opened its doors and both police officers and demonstrators found refuge on the premises. "Here lay severely injured. There was tear gas everywhere in the churchyard and the main job was to calm everyone down," says the sexton Philippe Koster.
Welcome to Heaven
The church's motto was more peaceful during the G-20 summit. A large banner still stretches between the old trees on the church grounds: "Welcome to Heaven". "We couldn't have just closed down while the whole world was taking to the streets outside the door," says Pastor Siegard Wilm. "To have this peace under these beautiful ancient trees on the church grounds, that was great. But also permanently disturbed by clashes right on our doorstep and billowing clouds of CS gas. The violence was terrible and very frightening."
The political reappraisal of the G-20 riots is still underway, while calm has long since returned to the streets. St. Pauli, however, remains a neighborhood visited by up to 20 million tourists a year, but where only 21.000 people live there. "We are like islanders," Pastor Siegard Wilm describes the situation. The St. Pauli Kirche is a very important place not only for parishioners, but also for non-religious people or people of other religions. "You trust the church and just feel at home there. We are within this exceptional world St. Pauli himself an exceptional world."
Belonging together in diversity
Especially in the church choir, it becomes clear that very different social classes are represented in the congregation, observes church organist Tina Schneeweib. "Everything collides, but it still works out really well. That's what I like about St. Pauli also so great. Everyone can come, no matter whether he is a doctor, a lawyer, an artist or a Hartz IV recipient." The concept is to value each other and to belong together in diversity, says Pastor Wilm. Catholics also come to the services and are welcomed, which Wilm sees as an important sign within ecumenism that Christians belong together.
"More people live here today than 10 years ago," says the pastor. This is also reflected in the congregation with its 4700 members. Nevertheless, she says, even in St. Pauli many church outreach. Nevertheless, the Protestant pastor does not see the future in black: "The church is still needed. After all, it all breaks down into micro-groups and sentiments that few people can bind together. And the church can actually still bind a lot of people and also from very different milieus: We bring people together who would not normally meet in everyday life."