Rev. Keith W. Loesch, Director
2031 Cheltenham Court
Woodbridge, VA 22192
Phone: 703 494-0602
“Notes from the Castle Church Door”
2014 MINISTRY UPDATE, No. 1 – April 5, 2014
Dear friends and ministry partners,
This is the first time a WEM Ministry Update is being sent out in April, before our ministry season
begins. We hope it will become a monthly publication so that we can keep in closer touch with
you. For now, there are some things that came out of my annual “Arrangements Trip” to
Wittenberg in mid-February which I think you would be glad to hear about!
Why Such a Trip?
The purpose of this annual February trip is to consult with as many key people in the city as
possible. This year I was able to be in touch with 20 different entities and individuals, as
compared to 5 back in 1997. My intent is for this growing group of key people to know in their heads and feel in
their hearts that this ministry operates as a very real partner with them, and that WEM is serving both tourists and
townspeople on behalf of the Church and the City.
Additionally, we talk about the nuts and bolts of WEM according to the person’s individual interest and seek their
input. We want each person and entity to recognize that through our English worship program, our primary mission
is to provide tourists from every part of the world with a Lutheran worship experience that helps them connect their
faith in Christ with their heritage of the Reformation. As we do that, so we also seek to model Christian outreach
ministry that benefits not only the individual tourists who come from so many nations, but also gives a “shot in the
arm” to both the Castle and Town Churches as well as to the City itself! It is a joy to be able to say that more and
more, the WEM is being recognized as the “English arm” of the Castle and Town Churches, even as we are being
seen as a valued asset by the city itself. We find it a great joy to see the development in congregational life
happening in the two churches.
On the day of my departure for home, Markus Wagner of the Mitteldeutsche Zeitung (Central Germany Newspaper)
interviewed me in the lobby of the Luther Hotel. The article he wrote about the WEM was published on February 19.
He was most impressed by what he learned, particularly that the WEM is a unique “one-of-a-kind” ministry which is
considered in Wittenberg as being its own offspring. You can read the article and feel his enthusiasm. I find it
interesting to get his take on our ministry. (See the English translation attached to this Newsletter.)
A Pleasant Surprise
One of my consultations was with Eckhard Naumann (right side
of photo), the elected Lord Mayor since 1991, who asked me to
initiate this ministry during my sabbatical in Wittenberg in 1996.
Not only did he reassure the WEM of his full backing, but he also
gave me to know that our outreach ministry to the English
tourists in Wittenberg is being touted as an example for what
the Evangelical Church of Germany should be doing for the
German Christian tourists who visit Wittenberg and other Luther
sites! I was surprised to hear that, and would never have
imagined that the WEM might be such a stimulant! To both his and my knowledge, there is no tourist outreach
whatsoever by the church in Germany to its own Lutheran and Protestant Christians. Across Germany, Luther is
primarily honored as a “George Washington-type” historical person of the past who did great things for Germany,
while his faith in Christ and his Reformation theology are largely ignored. I find it very encouraging that the
Wittenberg Information Center has added Jens Erik Paul to its staff with the specific job of reaching out to German
congregations all across the country to bring their church members to Wittenberg. I hope he will be very successful
in doing so!
2017 is the Beginning, not the End
We are two-thirds of the way through the “Luther Decade,” the 10 years of preparation leading up to the 500 th
Anniversary of Luther’s posting of the 95 Theses on October 31, 1517. All of Germany is involved, and Wittenberg will
be the center of it all! Many of the local residents are very weary of the publicity and are hoping that 2017 will be the
end of the hyping. In fact, it has been said among the citizenry that when 2017 is over, Wittenberg will crash and
burn! Actually, the church leadership in Wittenberg considers 2017 as the beginning of a new era and are hoping to
ride that horse as far as possible. They were most pleased to be reassured that the WEM is committed to continue
its ministry in 2018 and indefinitely on into the future.
Town Church Closed All Year;
Castle Church Closed Until July 8
Both the Castle Church (left) and Town
Church (right) have been under complete
renovation since 2012. In 2013 they were
partially open so that they could be used
for both German and English services.
This year, however, both churches are
closed completely, requiring both
congregations to worship elsewhere. The
Castle Church congregation now uses
space in the Evangelische Akademie,
while the Town Church congregation uses
its Katharina Luther Fellowship Hall, the
“Katharinensaal” for worship.
Our Saturday English services this year will all be held at the “Katharinensaal” until July 5. The Castle Church is
anticipated to be partially opened on July 8, so that thereafter all our Saturday English services will then be held at
the Castle Church through October. Both churches are scheduled to be completely finished by 2015, when all is
expected to revert back to the previous normal. The Wittenbergers can hardly wait!
The left photo is a view of the Front
Door of the Town Church in its
previously normal appearance.
The photo on the right is what you
would see if you were in Wittenberg
today. We are anxious to see what
it will look like when the work is
The photo at left shows scaffolding almost completely encasing the Castle Church, leaving only a less-than-closeup
view of the Theses Door. On the right, an “Info-Center” stands outside the Front Door near the base of the Tower.
Notice how the “Info-Center” is dwarfed by the Castle Church in the photo center left on the previous page.
Tour Companies Connecting with WEM More and More
First it was Luther Tours from California who contacted us in 1998 in order to add our worship services to their
itinerary because many of their travelers were asking for it. Since then, many Luther Tour groups have been present
at our services. A few years later Reformation Tours from Belleville, IL, Ed-Venture Tours from Rochester, MN, and
Zweckreisen Tours from Adelaide, Australia, also began scheduling their groups at our services for the same reason.
There have been many other tour groups from other companies in attendance as well, but mostly on an individual
Now we have just been contacted by Collette Tours from Pawtucket, RI. They are just beginning to offer tours to
Lutherland and have been directed by TourComm, a European trade association, to contact WEM to get our worship
services on their tour itineraries. As a result, Collette is planning for 7 tour groups to come to Wittenberg in 2015 and
also programming an English service into each of their group’s 2-night schedule at Wittenberg.
This is the first time that I have being contacted this far in advance by a tour company intent on including a WEM
service as a standard part of their itinerary. As delighted as I am about that, I can only anticipate perhaps the same
thing happening with additional tour companies in the coming years leading up to 2017.
Children’s Choir from Berlin to sing
We are greatly pleased that Ms. Veronika
Strahler-Pretorius is once again bringing her
Children’s Choir from the JFK American
School in Berlin to Wittenberg to sing at our
Saturday evening service on June 21. The
photo at right shows the choir, known as the
“Kammerchor” singing at our service on May
7, 2011. It was an excellent experience for the
children to sing at the service and for the
worshipers to hear them. Everyone in
attendance at the June 21 service will be in
for a special joy!
The Luther Hotel – A Major Blessing to our Ministry
Since the WEM began in 1997, the Luther Hotel Wittenberg
(first known as the Alba Hotel, then the Park Inn, and Park
Plaza in turn) has stood solidly behind the WEM by providing
its 3-star accommodations, first free, then later at a greatly
reduced rate, in order to make it affordable for our English
pastors to manage the cost of two-week stays while they
conduct the English services and other volunteer duties. In
2005 it was purchased by the Berliner Stadtmission (Berlin
City Mission), completely renovated and renamed the
“Luther Hotel Wittenberg.” Over the years it has become
established as the leading hotel in Wittenberg and known
for its gracious hosting of English speaking guests along
with its German clientele.
The Luther Hotel is located in the center of the town and
is an easy walk to anywhere one would want to go. We couldn’t find a better place for our pastors to live and work
from during their time in Wittenberg.
Comments from Rev. Don Hinchey are typical of what the pastors have to say about it:
“The Luther Hotel is wonderful. The room is comfortable, restful and functional. I especially appreciated
the counter/desk for study and organization. Internet was almost always working. Full German breakfast
was a great start to the day and the staff, both in the dining room and at the reception desk were
thoroughly professional and pleasant.”
All this is due to the graciousness of Hans-Georg Filker, a
Lutheran pastor who is the CEO of the Berlin City Mission.
He has a high regard for our ministry and keeping the rates
for our pastors at the lowest possible. We value most
highly our partnership with the Berlin Stadtmission and its
care for Wittenberg and its people. [The Stadtmission is a
social ministry organization that is responsible to the city of
Berlin for meeting the needs of the entire gamut of social
needs encountered in the city. It operates as a Christian
service organization in service to the citizenry of Berlin.]
At right, Rev. Hans-Georg Filker and former receptionist at
the Luther Hotel Wittenberg during one of my past visits.
Geared Up and Going Forward
As you read this letter, everything is in readiness for the beginning of our 18th year of ministry that begins May 1. I’m
excited about the coming year! The four Deputy Directors are set to go, the assigned pastors are preparing for their
two-week ministry periods, and Wittenberg is awaiting our arrival!
Thank you so much for your care and interest in this ministry. Your prayers and continued financial support are key
to our ministry as we go forward into this new year. Please make checks payable to “Wittenberg English Ministry”
and send them to me at the address at the top of the letter. Also, if you have Thrivent Choice Dollars to direct,
please consider directing them to the WEM. Your interest and care for this ministry is most important in enabling it
to happen! May the Lord bless you as you bless the WEM!
With joy in Christ,
Keith W. Loesch