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2500 events within five days. 100,000 full-time visitors. 30,000 active contributors. This is the German Protestant Kirchentag. But Kirchentag means more than a set of statistics.
It is a platform for intensive discussion, a forum for critical debate about current questions. It facilitates many opportunities for productive networking and friendship building. Kirchentag is a huge event, which takes place every two years in early summer and is a joyful festival for everyone.
The Kirchentag gathers more than 100,000 participants from everywhere: From all over Germany and indeed from all over the world. Many visitors are younger than 30 years. Groups of students or youth groups attend and several of them volunteer at the Kirchentag: as guides, or by looking after a group accommodation or by supporting the organisation at the Kirchentag venues. About half of the participants are visiting the event for the first time. For the remaining half it is their second, third or fourth visit.
Kirchentag provides opportunities for thousands of people to dip into the life of a new host city for the festival. Unknown songwriters and amateur cabaret artists contribute to it alongside high-profile personalities from the worlds of politics, science, art, business and Church.
Within the same day, Kirchentag visitors can first go to a Techno-mass, attend a meditation session afterwards; listen to a classical concert, followed by a rock-concert, and sit through a panel discussion between leading politicians. In between, there is time to let mind and soul unwind in the sunshine of the green open air locations.
The Kirchentag is a Lay movement. It grows from the grass roots and is not prescribed from above. It welcomes proposals for a variety of programme components including a stall in the market of opportunities; instrumental, vocal, and theatre performances, visual art or special services. There-fore, thousands of visitors are also active contributors. In this way, each Kirchentag becomes a festi-val for all. Nationality and religious allegiance are irrelevant, even though the huge event bears the official name "Protestant".
The German Protestant Kirchentag is the same age as the German Federal Republic. Reinold von Thadden-Trieglaff founded the Kirchentag in 1949 together with some of his friends in Hannover. He founded it as a movement of Protestant lay people.
For them, independence from the official state Church was just as important as their Christian faith, which combines spirituality with a responsibility towards society and the world. They established a faith-based open forum for democracy, human rights, ecumenism and raising awareness against every kind of discrimination.
Even in a divided Germany, the Kirchentag remained united until 1961. Only a few weeks before the Berlin Wall was built, a Kirchentag was organised in the already divided city of Berlin. In the following years, it was not allowed to organise Kirchentags as they were known, in the former GDR. Therefore, courageous Christians in East Germany established smaller more local Kirchentags to celebrate their faith in public. Strong ties remained between the two organisations. Just two years after the Berlin Wall fell in 1989, the Kirchentag movements in East and West united once again.
Many initiatives and proposals have come out of the German Protestant Kirchentag. In 1961, it started the dialogue between Jews and Christians in Germany. In the 1970s, new forms of worship e.g. Liturgical Nights, Celebratory Communion Services and Evening Prayers, together with modern church hymns and songs, led visitors to discover new expressions of faith. And the discussions about peace and environmentalism which shaped Germany in the 1980s had their beginnings largely at the Kirchentag.