Sunday no longer mandatory day of weekly worship, decides large Protestant Church in Germany

The Rheinland Protestant Church, with 2.2 million members, opts for “less rules and more freedom”. Baptisms and weddings can now be organised outside official buildings.

Evangelical Focus

31 JANUARY 2024 · 15:00 CET

Church buildings in Germany. / Photo: [link][/link], Unsplash, CC0.,
Church buildings in Germany. / Photo: [link][/link], Unsplash, CC0.

The mainline Protestant Church in the region of Rheinland (western Germany) has announced that the main worship services of the week no longer need to be on a Sunday morning.

The central gathering of the members could now happen “on a Friday or Saturday afternoon” or in any other moment of the week that better fits the “life rhythms of people, which have changed” over the decades, the chair of the State Church of Rheinland (EKIR), Thorsten Latzell, told the media.

The historic church in the region around the river Rhein has 2.2 million registered members (although only 1.7% of these attend church weekly). In a statement, the EKIR says it aims for “less rules and more freedom” for local church leaders.

“Worship service formats and times should be coordinated in the respective church district. The church leadership (presbyteries) can decide that the service is to be held regularly on another day of the week instead of Sunday”.

Speaking to Dom Radio, Latzell defended the changes as an “opening” to welcome more people. “The Sunday service at 10 a.m. dates back to farming times. It fitted in well between feeding times”, he argued. “But there are only a few people still working in agriculture in the big cities”. For many citizens, “Sunday is the only day of the week on which they can sleep in”, he said.


Less restrictions on Holy Supper, baptisms and weddings

Another change introduced by the EKIR is that being baptised as a child is now enough to take part in the Holy Supper. So far, attending a confirmation course was a pre-requisite.

Additionally, baptism and marriage ceremonies can now be held “at the desired place” of those who request it. In other words, “the previous restrictions regarding the location for church services for official acts (baptism, confirmation, wedding, funeral) no longer apply. The only rule is that the service should be public”, the EKI announced.

The Evangelical Church of Rheinland is a member church of the national German Evangelical Church (EKD), which has seen its membership numbers fall in the last years.

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