The Deutsche Evangelische Kirchentag (DEK) has its origins in 1949 at the end of an Evangelical Week in Hannover (remember that evangelisch in German means Protestant). It was begun by Reinhold von Thadden-Trieglaf as a lay movement and an "organisation in perpetuity", following the isolation of the church from the state during the Nazi era. The purpose was to "draw together Protestant Christians in Germany in order to strengthen them in their faith, to prepare them for responsibility in their churches; to encourage them in witnessing in the world; and to have solidarity with those in the world-wide community of Christendom."
Since 1954 it has been a biennial event; previously it took place every year. It has always had a bias towards the integration of theological, social and political themes, and has never shied away from sensitive issues. Nowadays the Kirchentag - literally "Church Congress" - commands the respect of international leaders in church and politics, and world-class speakers on every subject are found in the programme of events.
The format hardly changes, although recent Kirchentags have included an Ecumenical Village, reflecting the growing sense of unity and co-operation amongst the churches. The Kirchentag begins on a Wednesday evening in late May or early June in the "odd" years, and continues until the Sunday morning open air communion service. Within that time-frame there are around 3000 events to choose from - some serious, some cultural, some just fun - on a variety of topics under three or four main themes.
History was made in Berlin in 2003 with the first-ever Ecumenical Kirchentag, jointly planned and organised by the Protestant and Roman Catholic Churches in Germany.
Thanks to the generosity of German people, visitors from outside Germany can be accommodated with families in whichever city is the venue for that year. The actual fee for participants is around €90, but you must add on at least the cost of travel to and from the German city and the cost of meals other than breakfast. The fee includes free public transport in the city and beyond.
If you have not yet attended a Kirchentag, consider it now! Join in with about 160,000 other people! Someone once described it as "one Keswick Convention, two Edinburgh Festivals (complete with fringe!), three Open University Summer Schools, a Lourdes pilgrimage, a visit to Taizé, an Ideal Homes Exhibition and a Cup Final". After my thirteenth Kirchentag, I reckon that's about right!
Interested? Here is all kinds of information about the Kirchentag. If you'd like to ask questions, then email Robin Blount or phone him on 01233 629611.
|Year||City||Tickets sold (approx.)|
|1956||Frankfurt am Main||55,000|
|1957||Berlin - GDR rejected plans for Thüringen, |
so an autumn event was held
|1963||Dortmund - first Kirchentag in divided Germany||14,000|
|1971||Augsburg - Pentecost||8,000|
|1975||Frankfurt am Main||14,000|
|1987||Frankfurt am Main||125,000|
|1991||Ruhrgebiet - Dortmund, Bochum and Essen||100,000|
|2001||Frankfurt am Main||92,000|
|2003||Berlin - the first Ecumenical Kirchentag||191,000|
|2010||München - second Ecumenical Kirchentag||160,000|