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Hallelujah! It's Raining Knickers in Hamburg

What inspires Karl-Günther Petters, pastor of St. Jacob's church in the northern German city of Hamburg, to buy ladies' underwear? It's not a matter of personal taste or secret passion. It is a sense of charity.

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As long as the sun shines and the wind blows, the ladies will have their panties

Next time you see a German man buying ladies' underwear in a department store, you should really think twice before making a snickering remark. First of all, it's none of your business. And, second of all, the man in question could be a man of the cloth on a special church mission.

Take Karl-Günther Petters for example. Petters is the head pastor of St. Jacob's church in the northern German city of Hamburg. His job -- in addition to guiding the souls of his parish and taking care of their well-being -- includes buying ladies' panties.

Not for personal use, of course. The bizarre deal dates back to 1762, when a charitable Hamburg lady called Johanna Margretha Eding bequeathed 850 marks to St. Jacob's for charitable purposes. In addition to being a generous and socially conscious lady, Johanna Margretha Eding was also quite clever and a tad bit megalomaniacal.

The eter n al retur n of the same

Herrenunterwäsche Schaufenster Boxershort

I need a pair just like that! Maybe the kind people at St. Jacob's will have something for me

Eding decided to provide underwear for needy ladies ad perpetuum. In a stroke of legal genius, she made the church sign a contract according to which they would respect the terms of her lingerie action "as long as the sun shines and the wind blows." In other words, forever. Für immer. Para siempre. No exceptions.

"This is a lovely oddity of our tradition-rich church," Petters said.

The case was taken to the courts twice, in 1920 and 1985. Eding's assets have long lost their value, but according to the terms of the settlement, the church nonetheless committed itself to providing 12 sets of ladies' underwear of medium quality every year.

"Nothing cheapish, but also not the most expensive silk kind," Petters said.

Needy ladies looking for sexy G-strings will have to look elsewhere. What they get here are cotton knickers of the Bridget Jones variety: half knickers, half parachutes, they are supposed to keep the ladies warm and not unnecessarily expose their derrieres. (But that doesn't mean they will have to become spinsters. After all, the world learned an important lesson from Bridget Jones about the law of adverse underwear effect: the bigger and more embarrassing, the better. Action is always possible.)

U n derwear ma n ia

Die Alster in Hamburg

There's more to Hamburg than you'd think at first sight

The church is luckily getting donations itself for its unique underwear project. Last year, a department store donated a batch of underwear, while the German Actors' Association contributed a pair of self-crocheted lace panties filled with 100 euros ($122).

One wonders whether filling lace panties with money is exactly what the pious eighteenth-century German lady would have considered appropriate. But she would've been happy to learn that in northern Germany the sun is still shining (occasionally) and the wind blowing (a lot), which means that the underwear will keep falling from the sky.

And so, when you do run into the next German guy buying panties, give the guy a break. Remember that charity is a virtue, smile, and move on.

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