Too Much Space – Too Few Believers: What Happens to Churches?

St. Martins Catholic Church is being scaled down in the town of Lagerlichfeld in Swabia. The large church accommodated 800 worshipers. In the mid-1960s, this “God’s tent”, as it was called, was built for the German army base at Lagerlichfeld, and St. Martin served as a garrison chapel: the services were well attended. Today this is a very large area. The number of worshipers was drastically reduced, and seats remained virtually empty during services. In addition, the condensation damaged the roof.

Saint Martin’s desecration

Finally, in December 2021, Saint Martin was officially desecrated. Desecrating the church means desecrating it. As a result, the former church is left to profane use.

In the farewell service, the Holy of Holies is carried out from the church, along with all the relics. The eternal light will be extinguished in the Church. Reverend Thomas DeMille still contemplates the desecration of his church: “It’s touching when you carry Jesus in the Eucharist and the tabernacle is empty. It’s a bit like Good Friday.”

“fuel station for the soul”

The church has changed. A whole new space is being created here, says Erwin Merz of St Martin’s Church Department. A suspended ceiling was installed in what was once a large church. A much smaller venue for church services and festivities will be created with a capacity of 150 seats under its roof.

Then the actual church is located on the new first floor: its room is bright and flooded with light. The new, smaller church looks luminous, almost floating. “I think the room would have a spiritual effect of its own,” says Erwin Marsh. “I can imagine when people come here: the room alone can become a filling station for the soul.”

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New repository of church art

The most important point in this diversion was the financing of the construction project. Various conversion models have been discussed for a long time. Finally, a stroke of luck for the community was the idea of ​​creating a space for art objects for the Diocese of Augsburg.

The church art repository is now located on the ground floor. Next to it was the parish hall space. This solution relieves the community financially: the Diocese of Augsburg contributes to maintenance costs, as well as to construction costs of 4.1 million euros. In the future, the photovoltaic system will generate electricity on the roof, which will also help in savings.

The priest becomes a day care center

First of all, the municipality must also invest heavily. Should bear 30% of the costs of 4.1 million. In order to withstand the financial effort of construction, she had to give up other property. The pastor’s seat next door, for example, was sold to the local community. A daycare center will be built here later.

Dawn of a new era for churches

St. Martin is a typical project for the Diocese of Augsburg. For locals, the conversion of the church means a new beginning and new beginnings. Erwin Merz is pleased with the new use options: “What’s new is that we now have this room here, for example, and the parish hall in the basement. This means, for example, that we can celebrate weddings here and then we can organize the ceremony together downstairs.”

Reverend Thomas DeMille is also satisfied with the solution – even if, of course, there is some gloom: “Of course you want faith to grow and reach people again. But I say that filling many small rooms can also lead to a large room.” When the new church is completed, it will be rededicated. Then the profane space becomes sacred again.

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Find out more about the conversion of Saint Martin at STATIONEN on Wednesday, July 22nd at 7pm on BR TV and in the BR Media Library.

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