This is the Lutheran Church in Parum, Mecklenburg Germany, where the Golnitz and Koplin families came from that settled in Afton Township, in Cherokee County, Iowa. This churches very old, built for sure before the Reformation. Some efforts have been made to restore it inside, but having been in East Germany under communist rule for so many years, there was very little money to do much here. The Pastorin Brautigen and her husband the church organist, have done an admirable job of bring it to it's current state of restoration with great pride. As you walk in the cemetery there around the church, you see many of the names you find in the town cemeteries in Iowa. The country side around Parum is nearly identical to that in northwest Iowa, and is some of the best farm land in all of Europe. Many people in America do not realize that the Lutheran Church in East Germany was nearly the only form of organized resistance to the communist rule in this country, and that this area was nearly all Lutheran, and still is today.
Johannes Bugenhagen was one of the great reformers who worked with Luther and by many accounts is credited with making this whole area Lutheran. He was born June 24, 1485 and was the son of a town councillor. He studied under or Luther at the Universität Greifswald. He worked with Luther on the translation of the Bible and is credited with translating Luther's hochdeutsch (high German) New Testament to niederdeutsch (Low or Platt Deutsch). Platt Deutsch is the normal language spoken in East Germany at the time, and is today through much of northern Germany both east and west by the older people. He probably at one time would have been a guest pastor at this church as most like Martin Luther himself would have visited, but there are no confirming records for this.
Here is perhaps a little better view of the old Parum Church from the side entrance. If you notice here, there is not church tower for the bell. As there is nearly no native stone in this area, it was of course very expensive to build churches, so it is not uncommon for churches not to have a bell tower. In almost every case throughout the smaller towns in Germany, particularly in the north, you will find in the church records that the bell tower was added at some later time from the original building.
Here is the picture of the bell and the structure that holds in what we would think of as the front of the church. When ever a little war or a big one for that fact would break out, the first thing that would be taken care of would be the bell. It, along with perhaps some other things considered of value would be buried, and then when peace would again arrive a joyous ceremony would take place to restore the bell to the church. This was done, as metal was in scare supply, and if the bell was available, it would be melted down to make weapons of war. I am sure this dates to the very earliest days, when weapons consisted of swords and armor the Dragoners (Knights) wore for protection. This structure you see here is made of wood and has been completely restored in good condition.
The inside of the church is quite simply, but you immediately get the feeling of being in a very special place. As you can see the alter is also very simple here, much like we find today in many of our own Lutheran Churches in America. In the more wealthy Lutheran churches, you will find an elaborate alter with carvings of the Apostles and more with quite a lot of gold leaf decorations. On one Sunday when we worshiped here, the Pastorin had a cross on the floor made into a flower pot but quiet large with live plants growing in it, and lighted candles. As in almost all churches in Germany, except for the old people and perhaps one or 2 families with young children, and of course the children who are in the confirmation classes, the services are not well attended. We would encourage you to attend however, even if you can not understand German, as the music will be familiar as really nice to hear from these very old organs. Also you will find the order of service almost exactly the same as here in America. You will also receive a very warm welcome, and maybe someone will be there that can speak some English to tell you about the History. The daughter of the Pastorin Brautigen has studied 1 year in London England to become a deaconess in the church, and if she is there, will be happy to help. If you would like to write a letter to the church, the daughter will translate it for the parents and parishioners we are told.
As you look around inside at the walls and ceiling of the church, you will find many, many frescos. Some of these have been restored and for sure date long before the Reformation. Again some work has been done to restore some of these, but it will take much more effort to bring this church back to it's original beauty that it must of once exhibited. We must warn you however, that if you plan on attending or visiting one of these churches, there is no heat. So unless it is summer, plan on wearing warm clothes. There is also no bathroom facilities in any we have found either, and this is regardless of size or what part of Europe. There is normally a nearby woods that can be used in the case of emergency however.
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