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10 years of Kirche im Grünen am Höchster Stadtpark

12.06.2024 | 18:02 Clock | Citywhispers
10 years of Kirche im Grünen am Höchster Stadtpark

The Church in the Green at Höchster Stadtpark has been in existence for ten years. Stefan Hecktor looks back on the early days and the now well-established open-air church life. On Saturday, June 15, there will be a celebration from 3 p.m.

FRANKFURT.- The church in the greenery at Höchster Stadtpark is somewhat hidden between gardens, bushes and trees. At the entrance, a large, colourful sign draws attention to the services offered by the parish of St. Margaret - but it is impossible to tell from the outside how much there is to discover for those who walk a few meters along the grassy path.

The hidden, shrouded, somewhat mysterious aspect is part of the magic of a very special place of faith in the west of Frankfurt. "Landlord" Stefan Hecktor proudly shows first-time visitors around, showing them the impressive willow chapel for church services, the fire pit, the barefoot path and the various small buildings. Hecktor is a member of the parish council of St. Margaret's and, together with Simone Hacker, co-chair of the local committee of the parish of St. John the Apostle. He is also the gardener and owner of the 8,000 square meter site, which has been used for ten years to offer activities for believers and anyone else who feels drawn to spirituality in the open air. "The project is largely organized like a summer camp: Close to nature, simple, uncomplicated, pragmatic, practical, but always with high standards," describes Hecktor, who says of himself that at the bottom of his heart he is forever part of the St. Margaret's tent camp movement.

Children and parents are happy here

"Back then, we were already focusing on family ministry in the parish of St. John the Apostle," says Hecktor, who comes from a family of gardeners. There were various ideas for family church services and projects suitable for families. "Privately, we often met with young families in the nursery. Children and parents were happy here. We told our PGR chairwoman at the time, Margurit Aßmann, about this - and asked whether we should take it up." Within a week, Aßmann and Hecktor formulated an application for funding from the Limburg diocese's innovation fund and set up a steering group in the Frankfurt-Höchst pastoral area at the time. Lisa Gerdom and Katrin Stahlschmitt were engaged as project developers, and Sigrid Pörtner from the family pastoral service in the diocese of Limburg accompanied the development. "Resistance was overcome with determination and the project was put on a sound footing," says Hecktor, looking back with a smile.

The steering group chose the slogan "Adventure Faith - Church in the Countryside" as the project title, which also sets the direction in terms of content. "Adventure because the adventure trails are like an adventurous world of their own for children," says Hecktor, himself a family man. "You come into contact with faith here. We are all church - and in the countryside, in the open air." In addition to Hecktor, the steering group now includes Gerda Abel, Christiane Hampel, Simone Hacker, Dieter Schmoll, Mi-Ra Bak and pastoral worker Bettina Ickstadt. Margurit Aßmann was involved until her death in 2019.

A lot has happened since the start

A lot has happened on the site since the start. With money from the diocese's innovation fund, the parish's own contribution and "many, many donations", a composting toilet was built, the boiler house was redesigned as a base for the refrigerator and materials, the orangery was created with a paved floor, raised beds were built, a large meadow was created, a construction trailer was renovated, a barefoot path was set up and, of course, the popular willow chapel was tied by gardeners.

The program includes a variety of low-threshold formats. "Outdoor family services are simply different to those in a church building," says gardener Hecktor. "The greenery is incorporated into the catechesis. Last Saturday, for example, there was a wild church service where adults could be inspired by nature. God speaks to us in every detail of nature - whether in the swaying grasses, the blue sky that can be glimpsed through the canopy of the willow chapel or the fragrant lavender."

How many people come to the events varies - and depends on the format. Some events are open to the public, others are for closed groups such as class parties or confirmation preparation meetings. "We've had around 70 to 90 events in recent years," estimates Hecktor. That makes several thousand visitors.

Fierce wind, lightning and rain

There were many highlights. "The biggest experience was Assumption Day 2018 with 100 senior citizens in the Orangery, when the biggest thunderstorm of the year suddenly broke out," recalls Hecktor. Lightning from everywhere and heavy wind and rain: "No one could leave, everyone huddled together and got wet from the side, and after the rain we ate cake, drank coffee and celebrated an impromptu snack. Everyone who was there remembers that to this day."

But also the events in cooperation with the city church, for example dates with the Netzwerk Eine-Welt-Gruppen Frankfurt or the Sommerfest für Berufstätige des Projekts Ankerplatz-ffm were inspiring. And much more: the conversations about God and the world at the campfire evenings or in the orangery, the green sauce meal during a world record attempt, the large camp rounds of the children's tent camp, the building activities of the young people and the scouts, including the 72-hour campaign five years ago, the special corona time when people were only allowed to meet outdoors, the first mass celebration of priest Matthias Thiel ... The examples are almost endless.

How to operate a vacuum cleaner

In 2022, Kirche im Grünen won the Schöfpungschallenge der Stadtkirche. The solar cells went into operation in 2023 - and Stefan Hecktor and the team at Kirche im Grünen have never tired of spreading the word about the benefits of a balcony power plant. "2023 we had two theme evenings about this and on Wednesday, June 26, 7 p.m., an expert from the Frankfurt solar project will explain the idea of the balcony power plant as part of our 'Open Talks on Wednesdays' series," says the gardener. He wants to take away people's fear of contact and show them how easy it is: "Balcony power plants are like operating a vacuum cleaner."

Stefan Hecktor is still grateful to Margurit Aßmann for her support: "Without her, this project wouldn't have happened. She was the main driving force in the steering group." Hecktor is still committed to his long-time comrade-in-arms to this day out of appreciation for everything she has done for the district and the church in the countryside. Most recently, he campaigned for the small traffic circle on Chattenweg to be renamed "Margurit-Aßmann-Platz" in November 2023 - an eternal memorial to the much-loved "Grandma Maggi" in Unterliederbach. He also planted a tree in memory of her in the church in the green area. Beneath it is a bench from which you can watch the children play.

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