Congregations are coming to life again

For four young men from Bavaria in Germany the past weekend was not exactly relaxing. And the coming weekend will not be any different either. But they are not the only ones who are making a huge effort to create some semblance of a congregational life after the coronavirus crisis upended it.

There is still time to catch some sleep later. Right now Maximilian and Raphael Mayer and Simon Zebrowski and Julian Zeschko are under tremendous pressure. Within 36 hours they tackled a problem, found a solution, and shot a promotional video. The response was so tremendous that they had to bring a fifth man on board, Florian Winkler-Rösler.

The Federal German government ran a digital competition last week, a hackathon under the hashtag #WirVSVirus in the hope of “yielding lots of suggestions in solving problems to do with the corona crisis”. The four New Apostolic men from the area around Nuremberg—all in their twenties—applied for grants in the field of “social distancing”. The gist of their idea, however, is not about keeping social distance, but about coming closer together—in digital form that is.

Hoping for funding

With their web and app project (“my digital congregation”) they want to bring congregations and religious communities, who are all suffering from lockdowns and bans on public gatherings, back on track again. And this is not only a problem for Christian denominations. This is shown by the fact that the idea for this challenge is based on the problems described by a Muslim community in maintaining its congregational life.

The youth group wants to counter isolation with an online platform, on which every congregation can have an individual meeting point set up on a modular basis. The categories range from divine service, Bible study, prayer, and pastoral care to media of all kinds: text, audio and video clips, as well as chat functions. The platform is to be user-friendly and simple to administer.

On Sunday the five young Bavarians will find out whether or not they will receive start-up funding for their project. There are 65 applications in this category alone. The total number of participants is 43,000.

Online and offline activities

Creative ideas are germinating elsewhere too.

  • In the Frankfurt district in Germany so-called quarantine angels are doing shopping for seniors, and children are being sent colouring pages, stories, and puzzles from the Sunday School teaching material.
  • In the district of Braunschweig in north-eastern Germany, a team around District Elder Harald Schwab is putting together a 45-minute programme every week which is broadcast on Wednesday evenings.
  • The congregations of Leipzig and Hamburg (Germany) have set up collection points for greetings and messages, which they will deliver to the members of the congregation once a wee—both by email and regular mail.
  • And then there is Mirco Stachowiak, a conductor in the district of Essen, who is organising a virtual choir.

These are just some of the examples of the many possibilities there are in helping to inject new life into our congregations.

A youth meeting by webcam

Digital communication is experiencing rising popularity these days: brothers and sisters are founding new WhatsApp groups. The pastoral care letter now also has a digital offshoot. And ministers are not the only ones who are meeting by means of videoconferencing.

A youth meeting via webcam: young people from the district of Hamburg West in Germany and the congregation of Apeldoorn in the Netherlands have already tried this. “Sunday is created in your head” was the topic in Germany. And the topic in the Netherlands was also about divine services during the Corona crisis.

Julian Storm, the youth leader from Hamburg, and Roel Pieterse from Apeldoorn agree that it went really well. “It was awesome,” was the reaction of the Dutch young people. That means: “We will do it again, but this time we are going to invite more young people from the district.”

Good ideas are a source of inspiration and encouragement. That is why is looking for more ideas on how we can help our neighbour and bring our congregations to life again in the Corona crisis. We would love to have your ideas. Send photos, information, and video links to

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Andreas Rother
Media, Music, Congregational life