BERLIN ( Associated Press) – Churches have joined Germany’s efforts to save on heating costs this winter by forcing their congregants to wear as many layers of clothing as possible. But at the same time, they are providing a warm place for the homeless and those struggling with financial distress.
German lawmakers last week approved a plan to provide up to 200 billion euros ($212 billion) in subsidies to households and businesses to ease the pressure of high gas, electricity and heating prices. But prices are still higher than before, causing widespread concern. Germany is also trying to reduce energy use to avoid a possible energy crisis after Russia cuts off gas supplies.
Many German churches have decided to turn off the heating altogether or limit the temperature.
At the Martha Church in Berlin’s Kreuzberg district, worshipers were offered extra blankets and warm cushions during church services as temperatures in the capital recorded below zero.
Pastor Monica Mathias says the temperature in the church is now between 12 and 14 degrees Celsius; Tea and coffee are served to the worshipers to keep them warm.
During a recent service, most members of the congregation wore their thick winter coats, and many wore hats, scarves, and even gloves. Some had blankets on their lap.
“You have to dress really warm and it took all of us a while to learn that,” said Marina Elvis, a 64-year-old member of the troupe.
Both Protestant and Catholic churches have shelters for the homeless and those in distress, and this year the focus is on providing warm places for those who do not have access to adequate heating.
At the Diakonie Deutschland charity linked to the Protestant church, workers serve hot drinks and soup to visitors.
The head of its central Berlin branch, Ralf Nordhaus, said the situation was “dire” for people struggling to pay bills amid skyrocketing inflation. He said many people would rather turn down or turn off the heat than go into debt, and many more people are expected to be forced into shelters.
“Here, it’s not just the homeless, but people just looking for company or advice, or a coffee and a warm room,” Nordhaus said.