And there they were again my three

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Which have found their place .

21.09.2021 | 08:45

And there they were again my three

Elke Dressel feels connected to the church, she is involved in many ways. "My parents were rather distant from the church, they rarely attended services," Dressel answers when asked which people taught her about the faith. "My grandmother was traditional Catholic in a good sense. She took me to the church services."

In her youth, Dressel’s contact with the church remained important because her best friend was a church musician. In connection with this friend, she attended church services more often. "There we were exotic in a way, because only a few young people in our age between 15 and 20 were to be seen there." Also important for her was the youth pastor at the time Dr. Jurgen Lenssen: "It appealed to me how he interpreted the Gospel and how he thought – open-minded and open to the world."

A circle closes

A pre-study internship at the Open Work for the Disabled of the Diakonisches Werk in Schweinfurt set the course for his career. Elke Dressel works in individual care with disabled people.

One experience had special meaning for her: she washed a disabled man’s deformed feet. "I had to be especially careful not to hurt him there. For me, this service immediately brought us full circle to the washing of the feet, which the Bible tells us about, and which is commemorated on Holy Thursday in the liturgy of the Catholic Church." Dressel held fast to faith, got involved in church administration and confirmation preparation.

She has a clear opinion on the current church crisis: "You have to separate the home-made church problems from the message of Jesus, from the faith. The unconditional dignity of every human being, and the obligation that arises from faith to care for people in need, to wash their feet, so to speak, is for me the central message of Jesus. No one can save the world, but everyone in their place can treat the people they deal with with goodwill and respect their dignity."From her point of view, it would do the church good if more people who are in the middle of life were decision-makers – women and men.

Like Elke Dressel, Hans-Walter Schmalzbauer looks back on decades that connect him to the church. He was taken to church at an early age by his mother and grandmother. Schmalzbauer was an altar boy with enthusiasm and had a good relationship with the priest and chaplain. "The priest knew how to make us understand that faith in Jesus unites people worldwide," he remembers.

Role models in the church

During puberty, Schmalzbauer visited Mallersdorf sisters with his grandparents. The experience of the community life of the sisters, their openness and their manifold commitment to the people inspired the adolescent, so that he even thought of becoming a priest. "If it weren’t for the celibacy obligation, I would have gladly taken up this profession," Schmalzbauer sums up. "My grandmother was very disappointed when I informed her that I had backed away from the goal of becoming a priest again."

Instead of becoming a priest, Schmalzbauer worked as a sales manager in the automotive industry. He has been retired for a few months. He remained faithful to the faith and the church, even though there were disappointments. Such as when he was a member of the parish council and attended a training session for new members. The contents were good, also well conveyed, but that the common Eucharist celebration in the morning was not pointed out, was missing to him, he explains. He felt the training more like a training for managers, the spiritual background was not noticeable for him. "That was almost a reason for me to drop everything," he adds.

With what thoughts does Hans- Walter Schmalzbauer look at the future of the church?? "The church establishment should realize that women are not just there to clean the church and take care of the church vestments." Women need to be more involved at the various decision-making levels of the church, he thinks. But he qualifies: "If women were to become priests – I would have a hard time with that."

Freedom to question

Angelika Marz is a mother of three adult children, a psychologist and psychological psychotherapist. For 16 years she directed the marriage, family and life counseling center of the Diocese of Wurzburg in Bad Kissingen, Germany.

March grew up in the village, in a devout family where criticism of the pastor was allowed. Marz has retained the freedom to question church matters. "The church was then, and still is today, too much a church of dominance and fear," she says. March experienced this fear church especially during the time of her communion preparation. As an eight-year-old, she could not fall asleep for weeks at night for fear of having committed a mortal sin without wanting to. The strict religious sister told many martyr stories in communion classes and instilled fear of sins and wrongdoing.

However, Marz likes to think back to her community experiences in the Catholic rural youth group. The weekends at Volkersberg, her first trip abroad at the age of 16, a study trip to England, are fond memories for her. The trips organized by the university community, for example a stay in Taize, left lasting impressions.

In her student days, Angelika Marz dealt with religion and the church – critically, constructively, down-to-earth and accepting opposing views. Social injustice here and in developing countries was hotly debated at the time. The theology of liberation, feminist theology, and interreligious dialogue were topics of conversation in Angelika Marz’s environment. Of herself and her six flatmates, she says today, "We were committed to Christian social thinking."The flatmates from that time still keep in touch, even though they live far away from each other.

Hope that lasts

Despite all her criticism of church structures and ministers, Angelika Marz has found her place in the church. Why? She has hope for change, she says – especially as the multi-layered abuse of power and especially the overwhelming number of sexual assaults are coming more and more to light. She imagines the "higher power" in which she believes to be benevolent, unconditionally devoted to people, affirming life in all its forms. Many people in distress and despair have told her of their faith in something greater, without whose existence and help they say they would not manage to stay alive. She feels connected to these people.

Marz thinks it’s good that the church creates places where people in need can get fast and effective support. She has fond memories of the freedom and openness of her church counseling center. This is how she still conducts counseling sessions – as an honorary retiree.

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