Pastor Elke Rosenthal has a problem that Christian clergy elsewhere in Europe can only dream of. While pews across the continent are emptying, her Lutheran congregation in this leafy suburb of Berlin has tripled in size in recent years, outgrowing its two small churches and eager to break ground for a much larger structure.
But the dream sometimes seems like a nightmare for the Resurrection Church parish, which has hit barriers every time it tries to expand. Once a sleepy town in communist East Germany, Kleinmachnow has boomed since the wall between it and West Berlin fell in 1989. But German reunification also brought the political pressure groups and building codes that have frustrated the parish’s plans for new premises.
“I never thought I’d spend so much time struggling with the bureaucracy,” sighed Rosenthal, who said demand for space is so high on holidays such as Christmas Eve that the parish offers 10 different services that day to ensure everybody can get a seat.
“There is a longing for spirituality and we have to give it room,” said the 49-year-old pastor, a transplant from West Berlin who runs the parish with Pastor Juergen Duschka.