Holy Ground: German church embraces Taylor Swift’s music to lure young people to booked-out services

Head of Lutheran church in Heidelberg ‘blown away’ by response to worship featuring songs by top-selling pop artist

Germany’s student city of Heidelberg is staging the ultimate shake-it-off next month when a city church bins the Bach to embrace instead the music of Taylor Swift.

At two booked-out church services on May 12th, the Lutheran Church of the Holy Spirit has decided the music of Swift – a self-described “Tennessee Christian” in the Presbyterian tradition – is now the best way of reaching her local fans, or Swifties.

“I am quite blown away and surprised, I hadn’t expected this response,” said Rev Vincenco Petracca, who heads the Heidelberg church, with a focus on culture and outreach, to Der Spiegel magazine. “We deliberately want to reach other milieus, especially younger people.”

The demand for the 11am May service was so great – mostly from mother and daughter visitors – that a second service will happen at 1pm. In total nearly 900 people are expected to attend the services in the 600-year old Gothic church. Its official motto is “Anti Hero”, based on a song where Swift confesses that “being left to my own devices ... come[s] with prices and vices”.


Taylor is sadly unavailable to sing so, in her place, is Tine Wiechmann, professor of popular church music at the Protestant School for Church Music in Heidelberg.

She has been involved in other pop music Sunday services in the city that incorporated songs by, among others, Madonna, Leonard Cohen, The Beatles and Queen.

Asked why pop music belongs in a church, her answer is: why not?

“At its best, church music wants to facilitate an encounter with God, create an atmospheric setting in the church service and enable moments of reflecting on a thought or feeling,” she told the Katholisch.de portal. “One form of music is not per se better or worse for this than another. It is not at all a question of replacing one with the other, but of enriching or complementing it.”

Germany’s Lutheran church is not the only one tapping into the power of Swift.

In advance of June’s EU elections, all volunteers for the pan-European party Volt’s Austrian branch will be entered into a prize draw to win two tickets to Swift’s concert on August 10th in Vienna.

“We know that this is rather unconventional but we are getting the younger generation to engage with European politics and the election,” said Nini Tsiklauri, Volt’s lead Austrian candidate. “We are showing, too, that, as a progressive party, we are breaking new ground in order to achieve a big impact even with a small budget.”

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