German churches save on heat, still help the needy warm up

German churches save on heat, still help the needy warm up

BERLIN (AP) – Churches have joined Germany’s efforts to save on heating bills this winter, forcing their congregations to dress in ever more layers. But at the same time, they provide warm spaces for the homeless and people struggling to pay their bills.

German lawmakers last week approved a plan to provide households and businesses with up to 200 billion euros ($212 billion) in subsidies to ease the burden of high gas, electricity and heating prices. But prices are still higher than they used to be, and concerns about rising costs are widespread. Germany is also trying to cut energy use to stave off a potential energy crisis after Russia halted gas supplies.

Many German churches have decided to switch off the heating completely or to limit the temperatures.

At the Martha Church in Berlin-Kreuzberg, the faithful are offered extra blankets and heating pads to keep them warm during the service. In the Advent season, the capital was affected by a long-lasting minus temperature.

It is currently between 12 and 14 degrees Celsius in the church, says Pastor Monika Matthias. She says the low temperatures aren’t a problem for her because she’s active during services, but worshipers have found it difficult to adjust to – and she offers them tea and coffee to warm them up afterwards.

During a recent service, most members of the congregation continued to wear their thick winter coats, with many also sporting hats, scarves, and even gloves. Blankets were draped over the laps.

Marina Alvis, a member of the congregation for over 20 years, said she and her husband found adjusting to the colder church to be a “big adjustment” but it was important for the church to be a role model in tackling climate change.

“You have to dress really warmly, and it took us all a while to learn that,” said Alvis, 64.

As believers wrap up warmer, both the Protestant and Catholic Churches operate shelters for the homeless and those otherwise in difficulty, and this year the focus is on providing warm spaces for those who do not have access to proper heating.

At the Protestant church aid organization Diakonie Deutschland, employees serve warm drinks and soups to visitors who are recovering from the freezing cold.

The head of the central Berlin branch, Ralf Nordhauss, said the situation was “critical” for people struggling to pay bills amid rising inflation. He said many prefer to turn down or turn off the heating rather than go into debt and many more people are expected in shelters.

“There are not only homeless people here, but people who are simply looking for support or advice, or a coffee and a warm room,” says Nordhauss.


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