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German "Container Church" Dedicates New Center

General Board of Global Ministries
The United Methodist Church

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Top: Church in the Container. Bottom: The new United Methodist Church Center in Oranienburg, Germany.

Top: In 1998 the Church in the Container started as the Oranienburg Mission. Photo by Kathleen LaCamera. Bottom: The new United Methodist Church Center in Oranienburg, Germany, will host a larger range of programs and worship events. Photo by Birgit Meinhardt.
Bishop Rosemarie Wenner.

Bishop Rosemarie Wenner gave the dedication sermon at the new Oranienburg United Methodist Church Center.
Image by: Gerhard Mittelstädt

Oranienburg, Germany, May 19, 2009--The United Methodist "Church in the Container" of Oranienburg, Germany, has a new center from which to serve a community with a dramatic past and acute contemporary needs.        

A new facility was dedicated on Sunday, 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 to 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 the 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 made their presence first 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 Marietta, Georgia.

With the Rev. Heinrich Meinhardt as pastor, the "Evangelisch-methodistiche Kirche im Container" opened in September 1998. Pastor Meinhardt, now retired, was succeeded by a clergy couple, the Rev. Birgit and Andreas Fahnert.

The first public church space was literally 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 General Boards of Church and Society, Discipleship, and Global Ministries.

Districts of the Methodist Church in Great Britain are part of the Contain Churcher 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 LeCamera and distributed by United Methodist News Service.

The city of Oranienburg, represented by Mayor Laesicke, 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, Mayor Laesicke praised the cooperation between the church and the community over the last 10 years.

The account of the May 10 dedication and history are based upon a report by the Rev. Heinrich Meinhardt.


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Topic: Christian love Communities GBGM news International affairs United Methodist Church Methodism Focus on Congregational Development
Geographic Region: EuropeGermany
Source: GBGM Press Releases
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Date posted: May 19, 2009