Whatever I wish to achieve, I do my utmost to make it happen. I’m not the type to sit back and do nothing. What’s the point? It gets you nowhere. No matter what task or project comes my way, I rise to the challenge. I want to make myself available to people of all ages, no matter what their concerns.
In the year 2000, the Millenium Bell was consecrated in St. Michel’s Hamburg. Not only was this an event for St. Michel’s church and its congregation, but also for Hamburg as a whole. And so I came up with the idea of organising a bell workshop. Together with a small team of experts we set up seven learning stations to be explored by primary school classes. 322 steps up on the seventh level of the bell tower, this is where school classes could carry out experiments and do research one project morning long. “How is a bell made?”, “Why does a church bell ring?”, “What bells do other religions have?” These were some of the questions the children were asked to explore. Within the space of a few weeks 140 school classes from all over Hamburg had signed up to take part. And now, when these children hear a bell ring, many of them will listen a little closer and be able to distinguish its sound from the general hubbub of noise on the street. Since that time the bell workshop has gone mobile and can be loaned out from the Institute of Religious Education.
In the years 2002 to 2008 the “open church” was the second biggest provider of adult education for women and families after the Volkshochschule, with around 800 courses per year. 180 teachers offered a variety of courses ranging from family preparation, child care, creative arts, religious education, health and well-being, to maternal health care, counseling and life management. The “open church” was an organisation set up by the Evangelical Lutheran Church in Hamburg.
As head of this educational body it was important to me and my dedicated team to develop and offer a “distinctive” programme – one that promoted a light-hearted and easy-going approach to life, one that encouraged people to take heart. The participants should learn to accept themselves as they are and grow together with others. This temporary community within the “open church” should generate a positive experience. Since those days the “open church” has now become the Evangelical Institute for Family Education.
Not only in Bangladesh or Rumania can children be found living on the street. It is estimated that some 20.000 youngsters in Germany live and work between railway stations and bus-stops.
In Hamburg, the charity Basis e.V. in St. Georg is involved with looking after street kids in this city.
In May 2005 the charity project “Angels for Street Kids”, initiated by the „open church“ Hamburg under my direction and by the company, susawill, under the sponsorship of NDR TV-presenter, Bettina Tietjen, collected money to support these children.
Hamburg school classes took part in a drawing competition. The pupils were asked to draw a picture of their favourite place in town.
A jury comprising, among others, of star architect, Hadi Teherani, and provost, Karl-Günther Petters, chose five of the submitted drawings to be used as designs on T-shirts. 999 of these shirts were then produced in limited edition and donated by Tom Tailor.
The first four T-shirts were bought by actor Til Schweiger and his wife Dana for their four children at a charity event with NDR-presenter Bettina Tietjen at the Hotel Gastwerk. The five young winners of the “Hamburg – my favourite place” drawing competition were also invited to receive their prizes.
The T-shirts went on sale in various shops and outlets. The proceeds went to the charity Basis e.V. in St. Georg. They totalled 4.400 Euro and all of it for a good cause.
It was not an easy decision for the St. Mary’s church board members, nor for me as their chairwoman. The forecasts of the Evangelical Church in Germany (EKD) were indicating that church taxes in the Federal Republic would halve by the year 2030. So it was high time to take measures to preserve this largest of brick churches in Europe. For five years there had been much wrangling and debating about how to counter the ebb in church funds. Then finally in April 2009 the time was ripe. The Marienthaler, the name given to the admission fee, was introduced.
Church and money – that is a delicate subject. And this was reflected in the public outcry, both national and international. The true reason for this outburst, however, is that we make God synonymous with church. God and money, that’s a no go for many people. They link it with: I must pay for my beliefs. But that is wrong for God is for free, now and forever. No one has to pay for their salvation. Not even at St. Mary’s in Lübeck.
Who would have thought that nearly one million viewers would participate via TV in the ZDF church service held on 9th December 2012 in the Meldorf Dome? Certainly not the 6-member team which helped pastor Elke Rudloff, representative of the EKD, in the months of intensive preparation prior to the TV-broadcast.„The Lord dwells in thick darkness“ was the chosen theme. The hymn „Die Nacht ist vorgedrungen“ – the night has drawn in – by Jochen Klepper, one of Germany’s most important protestant lyricists, was at the centre of this three quarters of an hour.
I was approached by pastor Rudloff while still serving at St. Mary’s in Lübeck and asked whether I could envisage giving a sermon to a television audience. I moved from the east to the west coast of Schleswig-Holstein. And that’s how the ZDF came to be in our congregation and in the Meldorf Dome.
One Friday evening in February I am sitting, rather tired, on the sofa. It is talk-show time on TV which is compulsive viewing at the pastorate. On this day it is “Tietjen and Hirschhausen”. During the show Bettina Tietjen makes an appeal asking viewers to send an email if they would like to swap jobs with her for a day.
Suddenly I am wide awake. Wouldn’t that be great publicity for the Meldorf Dome and our wonderful congregation? Instinctively I reach for my laptop and immediately write a few short lines. Probably it won’t come to anything. Not with all the other hundreds of emails the show is bound to receive. But there’s no harm in trying.
In the week before Easter I receive a phone call from the editorial office. I have totally forgotten about my email. “Mrs Tietjen has made her selection. She’d like to swap jobs with you”, says the friendly editor. “She’s chosen you from 1,100 applicants.”
And what a full work day it turned out to be when Bettina Tietjen became “Pastor for one day”. Children’s church at the kindergarten in Nindorf. Market-day prayers in the Dome. A visit to a milestone birthday celebration in Epenwöhrden. Participation at the ceremony to honour volunteers in the parish support team. Actually it was quite a normal day for a pastor, except for the reporters and TV-crew in tow. And the fact that our TV-personality was quite nervous, despite being a full-blooded communicator, made her all the more likeable and genuine to the members of our congregation.