Tuesday, March 25, 2008
"That is my family, my daughter and her kids" the woman in her fur coat and hat leaned in and spoke to me in German but I heard her so clearly in English. As she leaned on her cane for support, I learned they were from berlin. I said her grandchildren were cute (or sweet as it literally translates from German), they were. A tear fell over the edge of her eye and one could only wonder if it was caused by happiness or temperature as we stood outside in the freezing air around a smaller than ideal Easter fire. That was the begining of what would be the longest Easter mass, I've ever attended in the most boring church I have ever seen. The building was made of cement, smooth and clean, everything inside seemed to be a shade of greyish blue. The pews were made of wood, stained this greyish blue with sushions on the seats but not on the kneelers (you really regret this when you kneel 3 times in 2 hours). The walls were bare, about 1 meter before the roof, they were replaced by panels of stained glass which I can only imagine looked better in daylight. The cealing looked like it was held together by an oversized set of Connex and the lights were literaly bulbs on wires hanging to about 10 feet off the floor. There was one small crucifix on the alter. I would guess about 220 people could sit comfortably in the pews, but I would not know for sure as the churh was only about 50% full. This was a far cry from the old church I had expected. This was a far cry from any church I'd ever been in anywhere in the world. I realize I come from RI, where there are two Catholic churches across the street from each other and no one questions this and northern Germany is Prodestant country. However, Germans pay a church tax to support their churches so I guess I expected a bit more. I don't even remember any flowers or palms for that matter and it was Easter mass. The Stations of the cross were not displaed on the wall and I didn't see a confessional anywhere. For me, the people make up 50% of the church experience. Yes, you are there to pray and listen to the Gospel but a church is also a community. A place to meet up with friends of your grandmother or the kids you went to CCD with years ago. The only people younger than me in this church were the 3 grand children of my new friend and there were no more than a handful of people in the whole uilding under 30. Church goers of the Catholic faith in Germany typically have silver in their hair, gold in their teeth and memories of a different era. It's discouraging and always underwhelming to go to church here. Somehow, I expected a difference on Easter, there was none that I could see. Maybe we'll have to try a church in Mannheim, I hear the south is more religious and I no longer have expectaions so maybe they'll be met.