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2725: St Christophorus, Frankfurt am Main, Germany
St Christophorus, Frankfurt (Exterior)
Mystery Worshipper: Portola.
The church: St Christophorus, Frankfurt am Main, Germany.
Denomination: Roman Catholic, Pastoral Area of Frankfurt Northeast.
The building: The church has the shape of the front of a ship, with a cross as the bowsprit. It was dedicated in 1962. Behind the altar was a crucifix surrounded by a huge version of the so-called Pearls of Life or Pearls of Faith. This simplified rosary was created by a Swedish Lutheran bishop in 1995 and has become popular as a bracelet among Protestant Christians in Germany.
The church: The groups and activities of the congregation include a clothing exchange (clothes are gathered and distributed), an ecumenical choir, a choir called "Salt and Light" who sing contemporary Christian music, a senior gymnastic group, a German-Polish parent initiative, and a rosary prayer group.
The neighbourhood: The church is in a residential area in a northeast section of Frankfurt called Preungesheim. The most interesting neighbour, only a street block away, is a large prison, which has a long history: The original was built in the 1880s. During the Nazi terror years it was used as an execution place for opponents of the regime. Today it has a reputation for administering humane treatment of prisoners.
The cast: The guest celebrant and preacher from Croatia was unnamed; laywomen, also unnamed, participated in readings and prayers.
The date & time: 20 July 2014, 9.30am.

What was the name of the service?
Eucharist.

How full was the building?
About one-quarter full, an estimated 120 people in a nave that holds maybe 350 to 400. It intrigues me that Catholic churches get such loyal worship attendance. The four local Protestant churches combined do not get 120 people together on a given Sunday – probably only half that number.

Did anyone welcome you personally?
No personal welcome.

Was your pew comfortable?
As comfortable as a wooden pew can be.

How would you describe the pre-service atmosphere?
People came in quietly; many kneeled down to pray. There was some conversation.

What were the exact opening words of the service?
"Welcome to this worship service. Let us begin in the name of the Father, and the Son, and the Holy Spirit."

What books did the congregation use during the service?
The new version (2013) of the Catholic service book (Gotteslob).

What musical instruments were played?
None. Some time after the service had begun, it was announced that the organist had failed to show up.

Did anything distract you?
A couple who sat directly in front of me engaged in conversation during the service. An incredibly loud baby could be heard occasionally. The biggest distraction was the lack of information about the order of service. Twice the priest announced a page, in order to enable the congregation to participate in a liturgical text, but otherwise it was assumed that everyone knew the prayers and responses by memory. Another distraction was that the eucharist liturgy began during the collection.

St Christophorus, Frankfurt (Interior)

Was the worship stiff-upper-lip, happy clappy, or what?
Liturgical formality: the celebrant led the service in a quiet, unobtrusive manner.

Exactly how long was the sermon?
6 minutes.

On a scale of 1-10, how good was the preacher?
6 – Although the priest more or less read the sermon, I appreciated his biblical orientation and his emphasis on Godís mercy and patience.

In a nutshell, what was the sermon about?
The gospel for this Sunday, Matthew 13:24-30, is the parable about weeds sown in a wheat field by an enemy. The weeds were not pulled up, lest they damage that which is fruitful, but were allowed to grow completely until the harvest. This parable illustrates the gentle patience of God, who realizes that we are fragile, giving us time to grow and renounce the darkness that develops inside and among us. The Kingdom of God is at hand, calling for us to live each day as though it might be the final day.

Which part of the service was like being in heaven?
When I finally found the order of service that the celebrant was (more or less) using, I noticed that he changed one word in the words of consecration. As he held the chalice he proclaimed the blood of the New Covenant, "shed for you and for all for the forgiveness of sins." The written words are: "shed for you and for many..." Usually I donít like it when celebrants change the words of the liturgy to suit their own taste, but in this case I found the change to be appropriate and uplifting.

And which part was like being in... er... the other place?
Germany is experiencing a summer with Gehenna-like heat, which produces occasional flood-producing downpours. I was wondering during the service what I would encounter upon leaving the church: hell-fire temperatures or a Noahís Ark-like deluge. In this context, the total lack of organ music and hymn singing during the service seemed a bit ominous.

What happened when you hung around after the service looking lost?
No one took notice, partially because of the after-service activities (see next question).

How would you describe the after-service coffee?
No after-service coffee, but there was an after-service blessing of automobiles with holy water. St Christopher (whose day is July 25th) is, among other things, the patron saint of automobiles and traffic. The celebrant initiated this blessing with prayers that addressed many aspects of mobility, safety, ecological issues and traffic flow.

How would you feel about making this church your regular (where 10 = ecstatic, 0 = terminal)?
6 – Since I am not a Roman Catholic, I could never feel completely at home.

Did the service make you feel glad to be a Christian?
Iím really not sure. There is a lot missing when there is no music or hymn singing. It didnít help that insiders were able to sing parts of the liturgy by memory. Seldom have I felt so cut off from a worshipping congregation.

St Christophorus, Frankfurt (Altar)

What one thing will you remember about all this in seven days' time?
It was striking to see the Pearls of Life, a Lutheran invention, at the focal point of a Roman Catholic church.
 
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