Dress warmly for prayer together - that's recommended in many churches this late autumn and winter. In order to save energy, the heaters in some places are only set to frost protection. Some parishes are even considering warming the faithful with mulled wine.
Darmstadt/Fulda (dpa/lhe) - The churches in Hesse and Rhineland-Palatinate are not afraid of a drop in visitors this late autumn and winter, despite the reduced heating in many places. In view of the high energy prices and climate protection efforts, the believers were mostly understanding of the austerity measures, according to dioceses and the Protestant churches. In many places of worship, the heating systems have already been turned down or even set to frost protection, and in some places services are being moved to parish halls or held outside. Warm clothing is therefore particularly recommended for churchgoers in the coming weeks.
A spokesman for the Evangelical Church in Hesse and Nassau explained that the churches wanted to continue to be heated in order to meet the need of many people for comfort and community after the two years of the pandemic. The 15-degree rule, which has been in force for decades, but has not always been taken so precisely in the past, will be pointed out again. At the same time, the congregations were recommended to move to the "Winter Church" in the community hall. "But I heard that communities are also increasingly buying blankets or considering handing out mulled wine at the service," said the spokesman. Digital celebrations could also be held or church services moved completely outdoors.
An exception is the Frankfurt congregation, which decided to turn down the heating of their churches completely to frost protection level, according to the spokesman. The EKHN wants to save especially in administration buildings, where corridors should remain cold and the outside lighting should remain dark. In general, the Evangelical Church also agrees that their believers, unlike Catholics, do not need a consecrated room for a service - but can celebrate service anywhere, said the spokesman. "To put it bluntly: According to the Protestant understanding, a church is only there so that it doesn't rain on your head while you're praying."
There are some special regulations over the Christmas holidays. "Some parishes, for example, heat up to 12 degrees from December 24th to 26th." So far, there has been no sign of a drop in visitor numbers. "It is currently not possible to say whether that will change if the temperatures continue to drop in November and December. But we are confident about that, because the believers have so far had positive and understanding reactions," said the spokesman.
The Diocese of Trier had also published recommendations for action to save energy, according to which only two parish churches per merged parish or parish community are to be heated to 11 degrees for church services. Other churches could be heated to a temperature of 6 degrees to avoid mould. "We meet with understanding and support from our parishes, who all know about the importance of saving energy in times of the global climate crisis and the Ukraine war," said a diocese spokesman.
The Evangelical Church of Kurhessen-Waldeck advises its communities to further reduce the previous maximum temperature of 15 degrees in order to leverage savings potential. Feedback showed that most visitors could understand the reasons. "We therefore do not automatically assume a decline due to cold churches," said a spokeswoman. The church has also learned a lot from the corona pandemic and has broken new ground. "Thus, "fresh churches" in the truest sense of the word will lead to refreshing services in winter: in a nutshell." More and more municipalities are also setting up so-called heat rooms. "Ultimately, it is the content that decides whether people come or not. Where they find comfort and good encounters, they will certainly endure it, even if the external circumstances are uncomfortable."
The diocese of Fulda had already announced that it would lower the basic temperature in churches to 5 degrees Celsius where possible. There was some critical feedback on this - but in general the majority of churchgoers understand the measures, a spokesman said. Wherever possible, services are moved to parish homes, community centers or even smaller chapels. The big pontifical services on the Christmas holidays should be celebrated again this year in the Fulda Cathedral. One hopes for a mild winter, because especially during festive services with choir, organ and especially stringed instruments, appropriate room temperatures have to be reached - which would then be adapted to the respective requirements for a limited time.