Bielefeld: a New Apostolic stronghold
This year’s first divine service for the departed will be celebrated by Chief Apostle Jean-Luc Schneider in Bielefeld in Germany. There, at the north-eastern tip of the state of North Rhine-Westphalia, the first New Apostolic services are recorded to have taken place in 1868 already. nac.today takes a look at this New Apostolic stronghold.
Life was very different back then. It was a hard life, a lot less sophisticated than today, and people were far less mobile. The reformed pastor Friedrich Wilhelm Menkhoff had returned to Germany from the Netherlands and settled in Bielefeld. At the time, the city was known for its textile mills and the production of sewing machines and bicycles. People had work. They built houses and went to worship in one of the town’s numerous churches. Menkhoff had joined the Apostolische Zending in the mid 1860s. Back in Bielefeld he told the people in Westphalia about the return of Christ and that Apostles would once more be sent out before this event. In Holland he had come into contact with Apostle Friedrich Wilhelm Schwartz who had commissioned him to go to Westphalia. He must have made a big impression on Menkhoff. People started to follow Menkhoff’s teaching and became apostolic. A congregation was founded in Quelle, a village just outside of Bielefeld. And not long after that a congregation was established in Bielefeld itself.
The hometown of Hermann Niehaus
Still today this area is a New Apostolic stronghold. The church district of Bielefeld is the largest within the District Church of North Rhine-Westphalia. The number of congregations has decreased over the years. The population of Bielefeld is 360,000. Of this number, 4,000 profess the New Apostolic faith and are spread over nine congregations in the inner part of the city. The village of Quelle still exists. This is the place where Chief Apostle Hermann Niehaus lived. The house still exists and stands next to the Quelle church. He was buried in the local cemetery.
Menkhoff is buried in Bielefeld. One of his descendants was rector of Bielefeld-Central for many years. Many members in the congregation still today carry the surnames Niehaus and Menkhoff.
Wafer bakery and a national monument
The communion wafer bakery in Bielefeld has been producing communion wafers for New Apostolic congregations for decades—for years it supplied congregations around the world. Today there are two additional wafer bakeries in Africa. Alone in the year 2001, some 240 million wafers were produced in Bielefeld and shipped around the world. This meant shift work for the small bakery. Two new bakeries started operations over the years. One in Cape Town in 2003 and one in Lusaka in 2012. The production in Bielefeld dropped to about 115 million wafers a year.
The New Apostolic Church in Bielefeld calls another gem in the city its own. The New Apostolic congregation Bielefeld-Schildesche worships in a church that is over 300 years old. The building is listed as a historic monument. The building was first used for a church service in the year 1688 by a Catholic congregation. Eventually it fell into disuse before the New Apostolic Church rented the premises for its services in 1950. Since 1987 the building has been owned by the New Apostolic Church.
Prayer service in Quelle
On Saturday before the service for the departed, the Chief Apostle will attend a prayer service in our Quelle church. The idea for this came from a youth group, who will also moderate the evening. The Chief Apostle will learn a little bit more about the history of the place even though the present church is modern and functional. The divine service on Sunday will take place in City Hall. District Apostle Urs Hebeisen from the Philippines has been invited by the Chief Apostle as a special guest.
Photo Zentralarchiv NAK Nordrhein-Westfalen: Apostles ’ conference in Bielefeld in the year 1926