Why church planting in Heidelberg?
“Why not?” Americans whose love for the city of Heidelberg has become proverbial may be inclined to say. However, we do believe there are good strategic reasons for having chosen Heidelberg as the site for our first church plant and hub of the new denomination. But what is the rationale?
Heidelberg, though only #54 on the list of the largest cities in Germany, has an influence that extends far beyond its size. The heart of its influence as “city of science and teaching“ is the university with which in 1386 Heidelberg became the first city with a university. On the official ranking of German universities, the university of Heidelberg ranks #1 by far; worldwide it ranks #73. Traditionally, the “U of Heidelberg” is strong in the humanities, but particularly in philosophy and theology. It can be fairly said that in many ways Heidelberg has created and still creates trends. Among the influential names in the area of philosophy were Max Weber and Georg Friedrich Hegel.
But Heidelberg is also known for influential scientific research, particularly in areas such as molecular biology, cloning and genetic engineering. The U of Heidelberg has produced seven Nobel price winners to date. All in all, the University of Heidelberg has 16 graduate schools – more than any other German school.
With 27.000 university students in a town of 146.000, Heidelberg has the highest ratio of students per capita of all German cities (20 out of a hundred; compare this with Berlin were the ratio is only 4 out of a hundred).
In short, whether it is medicine, theology, philosophy or just the plain Zeitgeist, Heidelberg is one of the most influential cities in all of Germany. Specialists use this and other factors to predict a steady growth for the city of Heidelberg within the next decades, while most other major German cities are static in growth.
Geographically, Heidelberg is also a so called „Oberzentrum“ (the most important center) in the Rhein-Neckar region which is home to about 2.4 million inhabitants.
A different, but not unrelated aspect, is Heidelberg’s own history, its church history. Heidelberg was one of the most important theological centers in the Reformation and Early Orthodoxy, the famousHeidelberg Catechism, which is part of our constitution, being only one of the many fruits from that time. Of course, this aspect of Heidelberg’s past is now largely forgotten among the general population and merely a matter of historical interest to the specialists. However, what could be more natural than founding a Reformed church in a city with a rich and influential Reformed past and teaching the Heidelberg Catechism in the city where it was drafted?
As Germans look with a good amount of suspicion on new church planting efforts, it is crucial that we tell them: “we are not bringing anything new, but simply the old Reformation faith!”
Click here to go to the German website of the Heidelberg church plant.