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1092: St Peter & Paul, Eschweiler, Aachen, Germany
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St Peter & Paul, Eschwieler, Aachen, Germany
Mystery Worshipper: Ecclesiastical Flip-flop.
The church: St Peter & Paul, Eschweiler, Aachen, Germany.
Denomination: Roman Catholic.
The building: The original building dates from the Middle Ages. A significant feature of the church is the Lederpieta ("leather pieta"), which can be found in a chapel just inside the main door, and was made by an unknown artist in the 14th century. The building was damaged by fire in 1678, and the only copy of the picture of the Mother of God was rescued from the flames, and preserved. Then in 1821, a new parish priest arrived on the scene – Anton Ackerman – who found the church building on the verge of collapse. With action urgently required, he mustered the community into action and organised a massive restoration from 1822 to 1824. The lower part of the tower outside is of stone, and the remainder of the tower and the rest of the building are of red brick. There is modern stained glass, and the wall behind the plain high altar contains many paintings, probably painted by young people, reaching up to the high ceiling. In the middle of that wall are the words, Und Er ging mit ihnen... ("And he went with them"). The overall effect is simple but effective.
The church: This is one of several parishes in Eschweiler, mainly Roman Catholic, and there are also one or two Lutheran churches.
The neighbourhood: The church borders the marketplace, with all its hustle and bustle, and the shopping area and a few cafes and restaurants are nearby. This is also a residential area.
The cast: The celebrant was unnamed, but if he was the Pfarrer (parish priest), then the name was given as Peter Müllenborn. There were also three robed girl servers.
What was the name of the service?
Heilige Messe (Holy Mass) at 6.30pm on Saturday. This vigil was for the 9th Sunday in ordinary time.

How full was the building?
There were about 50 people in the congregation, scattered all over the nave. I suppose the building was capable of holding up to 500 people.

Did anyone welcome you personally?
No one welcomed me. My only contact with people was later on, at the sign of peace.

Was your pew comfortable?
Each pew had a full-length padded mat to sit on, so, yes, it was more comfortable than usual.

How would you describe the pre-service atmosphere?
Three or four bells were ringing outside – a joyous sound. It was peaceful inside, with the organ playing. No one was on duty at the back of the church, so people helped themselves to the service books.

What were the exact opening words of the service?
There was an introit hymn, the number of which I was unable to ascertain, and I could not catch the opening words of it. Then Im Namen des Vaters und des Sohnes und des Heiligen Geistes ("In the Name of the Father," etc.), which is standard.

What books did the congregation use during the service?
A book called, Gotteslob ("God's Praise") was provided, being a missal and hymn-book combined. I also supplied my own booklet of the text for the order of mass in German, and I was able to follow the service from that.

What musical instruments were played?
Just an organ.

Did anything distract you?
Inside, I could not help noticing the pictures on the wall behind the high altar, also the modern stained glass. Outside, there was band-playing in the square, which had already started before the service began, and went on all evening until late, and this could be heard during the service. The reason for this was a visit from the English twin town, the Borough of Reigate & Banstead, Surrey, to commemorate 20 years of twinning, and I was part of the deputation from England.

Was the worship stiff-upper-lip, happy clappy, or what?
It was a simple mass with hymns and organ accompaniment. There was no incense or elaborate ceremonial, though it was six-candle power. The celebrant wore a dark green chasuble, and the three girl servers wore albs. The second eucharistic prayer was used; the one which in our language begins, "Lord, you are holy indeed".

Exactly how long was the sermon?
9 minutes.

On a scale of 1-10, how good was the preacher?
6 – To be fair, it was not the celebrant's fault that my understanding of the sermon was limited. My German is reasonably good, but not fluent. He was short and to the point, and the presentation was unassuming, gentle and unemotional. He did not wave his arms about, and there were no jokes prompting laughter.

In a nutshell, what was the sermon about?
The Gospel reading was from Matthew 7:21-27, and was about Jesus' parable of the houses built on rock and sand. There was a reference to Christ living in us, and the peace and joy of God in our lives.

Which part of the service was like being in heaven?
The music and the singing.

And which part was like being in... er... the other place?
Hymn numbers were not announced verbally, but were given out visually by wall projection, but I looked in vain for the wall projection. The message had got through to the rest of the congregation, but not to me. I thought my appreciation of the service was going to be incomplete because of it. However, once I moved my seat, I found that there had been a pillar in the way, preventing me from seeing the hymn number.

What happened when you hung around after the service looking lost?
Everyone kept themselves to themselves, and quickly made their exit. Either fellowship is minimal to non-existent, or else it is a "for members only" church.

How would you describe the after-service coffee?
There did not appear to be any.

How would you feel about making this church your regular (where 10 = ecstatic, 0 = terminal)?
4 – I would need to try the principle Sunday mass to give a proper assessment, but I did not have that opportunity. But that particular mass was not inspiring enough for me.

Did the service make you feel glad to be a Christian?
It served to remind me that I am a Christian, but did nothing to make me feel glad to be one.

What one thing will you remember about all this in seven days' time?
The paintings on the sanctuary wall.
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