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German church puts on Taylor Swift-themed service in bid to boost attendance

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A Protestant church in Germany held two Taylor Swift-themed services over the weekend with the aim of increasing the number of young believers in the pews.

The 600-year-old Heiliggeistkirche in Heidelberg, southwest Germany, held two special services on Sunday (12 May), using the music of the American pop superstar to inspire religious discussion and reflection.

All 423 seats were quickly reserved by people excited to partake in the experimental event, titled “Anti-Hero – Taylor Swift Church Service”.

The demand was so great that the Heiliggeistkirche – otherwise known as the Church of the Holy Spirit – decided to run a second service to welcome as many hopeful worshippers as possible.

Swift had a Christian upbringing, having grown up partly in the “Bible Belt” of the American South in Tennessee.

Heidelberg Pastor Christof Ellsiepen told the German publication Deutsche Welle: “The Church of the Holy Spirit has always been a place of encounter and exchange. That’s why a pop-music religious service fits so perfectly.

“With it, we are giving space to the questions and issues that occupy the younger generation.”

Taylor Swift performing in France (Copyright 2024 The Associated Press. All rights reserved)

The service included performances of some of Swift’s best-known (”Shake It Off”) and more religious-leaning (“Must Be Something More”) tracks.

According to Deutsche Welle, Parish Pastor Vinccenzo Petracca acknowledged that Swift’s songs are open to interpretation, but highlighted the strong Christian messages she integrates into her songs, as well as her choice to reference political and social issues.

Swift’s discography, particularly in the last decade, has addressed the topics of women’s rights, racism and gender equality.

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It is reported that the pastor also noted that such topics have made Swift the object of criticism in conservative Christian circles, especially among Evangelicals in the US, who have branded her “anti-Christian”.

In the 2020 documentary film Miss Americana, Swift was seen calling herself a Christian while declaring her support for the democratic candidate Phil Bredesen in that year’s Tennessee Senate race, where he faced off against conservative Republican Marsha Blackburn.

“I can’t see another commercial and see Marsha Blackburn disguising these policies behind the words ‘Tennessee Christian values,’” she says in the footage from 2018. “Those aren’t ‘Tennessee Christian values’.

“I live in Tennessee. I’m a Christian. That’s not what we stand for.”

Taylor Swift (AFP via Getty Images)

Tine Wiechmann, a singer and professor of religious music, performed Swift’s songs with her band, leaving the congregation emotional in some moments and dancing in the pews at others.

Speaking to The Times, she admitted she didn’t expect the services to have a drastic impact on the numbers of young churchgoers in the long term, but was hopeful that it could spark positive feelings towards the Christian faith.

“I don’t think all the people who are coming on Sunday will say ‘now I will go to church every Sunday’, Wiechmann said.

“But I have the great hope that people who usually can’t relate to church realise that there is something beyond the music that touches them, comforts them, gives them strength.”

After the success of this event, the church hopes to keep the momentum going with Billie Eilish and Beyoncé-themed services being planned for the autumn.

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