German Protestants turn away from Christ towards the veneration of Taylor Swift

Emotional Protestant experiment

More devotion than concert: That's what the big Taylor Swift service was like

Singer Tine Wiechmann interprets songs by musician Taylor Swift at a service in the Heiliggeistkirche in Heidelberg.

Dare to do more pop culture - this is the credo of the Protestant City Church of Heidelberg. On Sunday – in brilliant summer weather – several hundred Christians came to the first Taylor Swift service. And they were overwhelmed by music and emotion.

Groups of tourists make a pilgrimage through Heidelberg's world-famous old town. Marvel at the Church of the Holy Spirit - one of Heidelberg's landmarks. However, tourists must stay outside today. Around 900 Swifties are celebrating two pop services this Sunday afternoon with music and lyrics by the world star Taylor Swift - who of course isn't there herself, but at the start of her European tour in Paris. "The Church of the Holy Spirit has always been a place of encounter and exchange. That's why the pop service fits here perfectly. We give space to the questions and topics of the young generation," says the leading Heidelberg pastor Christof Ellsiepen.

The mood of the two services, which were good but not full, tended more toward quiet devotion than an exuberant concert party. Singer Tine Wiechmann interprets several Swift hits with a clear voice, accompanied live by a band. In front of the altar a rainbow poster with the message: "Everybody is welcome!" During the closing song “Shake it off!” The faithful Swift fans then go out on their own a little more. Including frenetic final applause. City church pastor Vincenzo Petracca quotes song lyrics and traces Swift's biography. Now we know that Swift's parents had a Christmas tree plantation and young Taylor wrote a song about the true meaning of Christmas.

The band provides instrumental accompaniment to the prayer requests for the sick, suffering and poor people. Petracca translates selected song lyrics and describes Swift as an outstanding poet, women's rights activist and political Christian who grew up in a Catholic environment. Her commitment to combating racism, misogyny and gender equality is exemplary. "Perhaps it will tip the scales in the US Presidential election this year."

Audience: younger than usual in the church

The Heidelberg audience is mixed and significantly younger than at normal church services. “I’m happy that my two daughters spontaneously agreed to be there today,” says Tiziana La Selva. “Such actions bring young people back into contact with the church.” Her daughter Clara likes the songs, but is annoyed that Swift doesn't use her popularity to do more for environmental and climate protection. "With so much success and money comes responsibility. And I find it difficult when she doesn't get involved and instead travels even the shortest distances in a private jet."

The service proves that Swift's music is open to a variety of interpretations. Experts see this as a basic condition for global music success. The expressively played songs also work in the venerable space of the Holy Spirit Church. Pastor Petracca, who developed the concept of the pop church service, appeared to be emotionally touched after the celebration: "I looked at beaming faces, and during the song with which Taylor addressed her mother's cancer, many had tears in their eyes."

Church attendee Nadja Quast also feels comforted by the music during the service. Swift is a strong woman and a personal role model for her. And Sergej Koch adds that there has been a standstill in the church for centuries. "She has long since lost contact with people. And has simply left many searching, questioning and suffering people alone." But perhaps the Taylor Swift service is a small sign that “the church can still move towards the world and the questions of today.”