|German ‘container church’ has new center|
A new Oranienburg United Methodist Church center opened in Germany,
replacing the original “church in the container” structure. A UMNS
photo by Birgit Meinhardt.
A UMNS Report
By Elliott Wright*
May 21, 2009
The United Methodist "Church in the Container" of Oranienburg, Germany,
has a new building to serve a community with a dramatic past and
Bishop Rosemarie Wenner preaches at the May 10 dedication service. A UMNS photo by Gerhard Mittelstädt.
A new facility was dedicated on May 10 in a service attended by
civic and church leaders. Like its predecessor portable container, the
building is yellow, a standout in the surrounding White City, a complex
of apartment buildings constructed for house workers at military
factories during World War II.
In her sermon marking the dedication, Bishop Rosemarie Wenner of the
United Methodist Germany Central Conference expressed the hope that the
congregation would remain as flexible in ministry -- now that it has a
permanent structure -- as when it was in the transitional container.
The biblical mandate for ministry, she said, is to be "on the road."
Mayor Hans-Joachim Laesicke, commenting on the "friendly appearance"
of the new center, said that "God certainly will feel at home in this
place" as the United Methodists continue to open their doors to
everyone and respond to community needs.
Openness and response to the community are hallmarks of the
congregation that was started in 1996 by a group of United Methodists
who had moved to Oranienburg. The town, about 15 miles north of Berlin,
has a storied history. Block after block of white-painted apartments
were built to house workers in airplane factories during the Nazi era.
Consequently, it became a target of Allied bombs. Even today, the area
has many unexploded bombs that cause hazards for residents.
After World War II, the White City became barracks for Soviet troops
and a prison for dissidents. The area was left in ruins when communist
rule ended in the early 1990s. Adding to the picture is the museum at
Oranienburg that marks the site of Sachsenhausen, the first of Hitler's
concentration camps, where many Jews and others lost their lives.
The housing in White City was gradually restored, but there were few
shops and virtually no community infrastructure or organizations for
young people. Alcoholism and drug abuse rates are high.
The United Methodists first made their presence known in White City
with youth ministry. A playground was built in part by contributions
from United Methodist Women at First United Methodist Church in
With the Rev. Heinrich Meinhardt as pastor, the
"Evangelisch-methodistiche Kirche im Container" opened in September
1998. Meinhardt, now retired, was succeeded by a clergy couple, the
Revs. Birgit and Andreas Fahnert.
original “Church in the Container” opened in 1996 to serve the needs of
community youth. A UMNS file photo by Kathleen LaCamera.
The first public church space was a large portable container with one room for worship and other events and a tiny office.
A part of the Berlin District of the North Germany Annual
Conference, the Oranienburg church has received both local and
international support through the United Methodist connection.
Assistance has come from several general agencies, including the boards
of Church and Society, Discipleship, and Global Ministries.
Districts of the Methodist Church in Great Britain are part of the
church’s family, as well as congregations in the United States. General
interest started in 2005 with a two-part series on the "Container
Church" by Kathleen LaCamera that was distributed by United Methodist
The city of Oranienburg, represented by the mayor, was an early and
loyal supporter of the initial Youth Pilot Project. The mayor
encouraged the United Methodists in the 1990s even when they were
branded as a "sect" and their facilities became the target of
vandalism. At the dedication of the new church center, Laesicke praised
the cooperation between the church and the community over the last 10
*Wright is the public information officer for the United Methodist
Board of Global Ministries. The Rev. Heinrich Meinhardt contributed to
News media contact: Linda Bloom, New York, (646) 369-3759 or email@example.com.
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