Thursday, November 4, 2010

The Role of the Church

One of the things that amazed me was the beauty of the churches. These were rather small communities and I could not believe the architecture and intricacy of the altar pieces and stained glass windows. As it ended up, much of the land was owned by the Church. The peasants were landless and farmed the land, paying rent to the Church. This guaranteed a steady source of income.

In present day Germany,churches are supported by a "Church Tax." The following explanation was found on wikipedia:

About 70% of church revenues come from church tax. This is about 8.5 billion (in 2002).

Article 137 of the Weimar Constitution of 1919 and article 140 of the German Basic Law of 1949 are the legal basis for this practice.

In Germany, on the basis of tax regulations passed by the communities and within the limits set by state laws, communities may either

  • require the taxation authorities of the state to collect the fees from the members on the basis of income tax assessment (then, the authorities withhold a collection fee), or
  • choose to collect the church tax themselves.

You can follow the links for a more comprehensive explanation.

Werner told us that many in Germany choose not to be a part of a church to avoid paying the tax. However, if you do not belong to a church, you may not get married, buried or participate in other religious functions of the church. You pay or you don't play.

The original Sts. Peter and Paul Church was constructed in 1827. Previously, residents of Holdorf attended church in the nearby town of Damme. The original church was very simple by comparison to the new one. The nearby town of Steinfeld applied for a grant and was able to tear down and rebuild the church for a multi-purpose use. One floor of the former church is a tannery museum. After the new church was built, there was a period of time when the building was used as a tannery. The second floor houses local records, a meeting room and is part of the Historical Society. Werner's nephew is mayor of the town and took us on a tour of the building.

Interestingly, the original doors of the church were recovered and are now on display on the second floor. They had served as doors to a tavern for many years.

I was so happy to see the baptismal font so prominently situated in Sts. Peter and Paul Church. I have every reason to believe that my g-grandfather, August, and his siblings were baptized at that very font.

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