A church in Essen-Haarzopf wants to avoid turning away people from its Christmas services. Overcrowding last year led the church authorities to decide on a new course of action for six services this year.
The atmosphere at the church doors last year was lacking in seasonal goodwill as disappointed visitors verbally abused some community helpers who refused to let them in to the Protestant church for a Christmas Eve service. So this year, tickets are being distributed to ensure an orderly entry.
Pastor Anne Simon said she knew the church was entering new territory with the tickets and had explained the procedure on the community websites to the 2,900 church members. The idea was not to exclude anyone from the services, she said, but to avoid unpleasant scenes at the church.
According to Pastor Tabea Meyer, reactions to the issuing of tickets for six Christmas services have been mainly positive, especially from the parents of children appearing in the nativity play. "So they can be sure they can see their children," Meyer said.
Christiane Imhof, deputy chair of the Essen-Haarzopf presbytery, told the daily Hamburger Morgenpost there had been "considerable discontent" last Christmas Eve when people refused to accept they could not enter the church because of security regulations.
Spokesman Jens Peter Iven of the Protestant Church in the Rhineland said overcrowding was a safety hazard. "Authorities are increasingly struggling to keep emergency exit routes clear within the churches," he told public broadcaster WDR.
Some churches employ a security service to count the number of visitors and make sure it does not pass the maximum permitted for safety reasons. Others have taken to holding services in community centers. "Space in the churches is just limited," Iven said.
The Fulerum community center, which holds two services, can accommodate 170 people and the Haarzopf church can hold 333 people. Tickets are being made available in the community offices and in the church after the Advent services.
The Christmas Eve late night service at 11 p.m. is free of tickets as experience from previous years has shown that not many people turn up.