Everything You Never Knew You Wanted to Know About Berlin

IS IT ART? NO, IT´S A POP-UP CHURCH! German Protestant Days 2017

Pop-up Church being built on the site of the long-gone Anhalter Bahnhof in Stresemannstraße, Kreuzberg (image by Dagmar Bednarek)

Something is up right behind the remains of Berlin´s Anhalter Bahnhof in Kreuzberg. But what many people have been eyeing up suspiciously, half-expecting “something wicked this way to come” (and, honestly, can you blame them, considering the spreading number of pockmarks commonly known as “luxury property units”?), turns out to be just the opposite. It´s a… pop-up church for the oncoming German Protestant Days from May 24 until May 28.

The “church-to-go” is growing around a scaffolding which will eventually be crowned with an 18-metre spire. The space was designed for 200 people attending the service or participating in various events and workshops planned for the four-day-long Kirchentag. The top “floor” of the structure will be covered with artificial grass and serve as a terrace and a café location. Honestly, churches rarely get better than that.

If you are in Berlin, expect crowds and commotion but none of the usual kind (read: beer-bikes crashing into the lamp-posts or skinny hipsters pretending to be cool by getting, pardon my French, rat-arsed in Kreuzkölln or Wrangelkiez and terrorising the locals at 3AM). Some 100,000 participants will be hopping from one event to another (both in Berlin and in Lutherstadt Wittenberg), praying together but also – perhaps even first and foremost – discussing issues pertaining to what it means to be a believer these days, regardless of one´s religion.

The programme of the Deutscher Evangelischer Kirchentag 2017 is far too rich to introduce here (you will find it in this PDF in English) but here are some highlights you might want to know about: the official opening takes place on May 24, followed by Barack Obama´s visit and speech a day later.

On May 26 expect to see something pretty much extraordinary: an open-air supper (Feierabendmahl) in the midst of the death strip in Bernauer Straße in Mitte, organised by the Parish of Reconciliation. Ironically, their original church, the Versöhnungskirche, the “Reconciliation Church”, was blown up to make space for that very same death strip and the dividing Berlin Wall… Now, the former Todesstreifen will be re-appropriated as a Lebensort, a Place of Life. Dozens of tables, covered with hundreds of donated table-cloths, will be placed on the grass, and bread, cheese and olives served to all those who wish to join in. It almost makes yours truly, an apostate, survivor of her strict Roman-Catholic upbringing and one for ever cursed with a strong dislike of all things church, want to join in (which she well might).

For those who miss or are not interested in any other events, there is always the Unisono Music Concert at Gendarmentmarkt on May 27. Whatever your church, religion, beliefs or lack of such, music famously unites. And music in Berlin even more so.


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