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432: St Willibrord, Munich, Bavaria, Germany
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St Willibrord, Munich, Bavaria, Germany
Mystery Worshipper: Runaway Disciple.
The church: St Willibrord, Munich, Bavaria, Germany.
Denomination: Altkatholisch. The "Old Catholic" Church was founded in the 1870s by Roman Catholics who felt they couldn't agree to the dogma of papal infallibility. They cooperate with the Anglican Church.
The building: 19th-century brick building in neo-medieval style, outside neo-Romanic, inside a few neo-gothic arches. Otherwise, the interior is painted white and is surprisingly bright. If it weren't for the stained glass windows (small rectangles in yellow, pink and various shades of blue) and the 1970s stained glass abomination behind the chancel, you could love it.
The church: There aren't many Altkatholische parishes, so this one extends over virtually all Munich county and a good deal further.
The neighbourhood: The church is located in the Sendlinger Tor neighbourhood. To be precise, it's wedged between the Munich Fire Brigade headquarters and a major road with heavy traffic, with some 1950s apartment buildings and small shops in the proximity.
The cast: Celebrant: Fr. Karl Harrer. Deacon and preacher: Dirk Faulbaum.
What was the name of the service?
Mass on All Saints' Day.

How full was the building?
About 15 people; the church could comfortably seat 70.

Did anyone welcome you personally?
No, but you never expect that in Germany anyway.

Was your pew comfortable?
Standard wooden – that is, too short to sit comfortably.

How would you describe the pre-service atmosphere?
German standard: quiet, with a few whispered exchanges between parish members who hadn't met for some time.

What were the exact opening words of the service?
"Im Namen des Vaters und des Sohnes und des Heiligen Geistes." ("In the name of the Father...")

What books did the congregation use during the service?
Lobt Gott, ihr Christen, the hymnbook of the Altkatholische Church.

What musical instruments were played?

Did anything distract you?
At precisely the moment the deacon was finishing his homily, two elderly men came in and moved to the front pew. One of them left again immediately.

Was the worship stiff-upper-lip, happy clappy, or what?
German standard, dignified with not exactly fervent enthusiasm of the congregation.

Exactly how long was the sermon?
9 minutes.

On a scale of 1-10, how good was the preacher?
5 – Content: 8. Style: 2. He spoke as if he were delivering a lecture at some somber event; I'm afraid that's precisely the preaching style you learn at German seminaries.

In a nutshell, what was the sermon about?
A saint is a person who is open for God while living in this world. This shows in fighting injustice and caring for those our society usually forgets. We are all called to be saints.

Which part of the service was like being in heaven?
Let's put it this way: the Lord's presence is a fact, not a feeling.

And which part was like being in... er... the other place?
The offertory hymn was suitable for a baptismal service only, and for nothing else. Who on earth (or from the other place?) had chosen it?

What happened when you hung around after the service looking lost?
I followed the "crowd" of 10 people to the grave of Ignaz Döllinger, a major figure in the founding of the Altkatholische Church, in a nearby graveyard, exchanging a few words with Fr. Harrer during the five-minute walk and staying through the memorial service at the grave. The group simply dispersed afterwards.

How would you describe the after-service coffee?
No coffee after this mass due to the subsequent memorial service.

How would you feel about making this church your regular (where 10 = ecstatic, 0 = terminal)?
6 – It's not exactly a lively community, but it's infinitely more Spirit-filled than most German parishes. Re-evangelisation of Central Europe is urgent!

Did the service make you feel glad to be a Christian?
Yes, although the absence of children (see below) left me worrying for the future of the community.

What one thing will you remember about all this in seven days' time?
No children! Either the community has no young members right now, or it is typically German in its hostility to children. Secular Germany is openly hostile to them, and some communities aren't much different. You'd prefer a visit to hell rather than receive the glances you get if your toddler makes the slightest noise during the service. If St Willibrord's is like that, it has a serious problem.
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