Church and Flock Relocate to Pastures New | From the Fringe | DW | 23.10.2007
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From the Fringe

Church and Flock Relocate to Pastures New

German churches are suffering from declining congregation figures as badly as those in other Western European countries. But one church has decided to take control and move to where the believers are.

The Emmaus church in the Saxony village of Heuersdorf on its rolling platform

The path less traveled: The Emmaus church waits to leave Heuersdorf for a new parish

These are hard times for Christianity in Europe. While it is the world's most popular faith with some 2.1 billion followers, the recruitment drive in the Old World has been in the slow lane for some time.

Church attendance is down all over the western world and in Germany, rising maintenance costs and dwindling funds have seen parishes shut down churches and sell the buildings for commercial use.

Church dug up, ready to roll

Coining a phrase that references a rival in the faith stakes - "If the mountain won't come to Muhammad, Muhammad must go to the mountain" - one church in Germany has given up waiting for its flock to return and has gone of in search of pastures new.

Workers lift up the Emmaus church in the Saxony village of Heuersdorf

The Heuersdorf church is making way for a new mine

For a church to physically be uprooted and moved, there has to be a pretty good reason and while a lack of congregation may be a good argument, it is not usually enough to justify moving something which weighs a fair few tons.

The reason behind the relocation of the Heuersdorf church has as much to do with commerce as it does with spreading the word.

Mining company footing the bill

The 660-ton stone church is being moved because it was sitting on extensive deposits of lignite, or brown coal, a fuel used in power generation plants. After an extensive legal battle with the Mibrag mining company, the church and 59 residents of the village will be moved 12 kilometers (7.5 miles) to land near Leipzig in eastern Germany.

The church's journey to its new home will begin on Wednesday. The 750-year-old church, complete with tiled bell tower, was separated from its foundations and lifted 1.5 meters (five feet) onto a massive rolling platform on Monday. The painstakingly slow journey to the village of Borna is expected to take about a week at a cost of three million euros ($4.2 million).Time will tell if the miraculous relocation rekindles the belief of the lapsed locals.

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