Germany has a long-standing tradition for churches to hold an “Israel Sunday” one week in the annual liturgy. The tradition dates back to the early decades of the Reformation, when it was called the “Jew Sunday” and often featured antisemitic messages. It was scheduled for around Tish B’Av, the date on the Hebrew calendar when Jews commemorate the destruction of both Temples in Jerusalem. The liturgy eventually changed, especially after World War II and the Holocaust. It was renamed ‘Israel Sunday’ and now serves as a day for churches to underline God’s eternal faithfulness to the people of Israel.
This year, ICEJ-Germany national director Gottfried Bühler was asked to provide for the first time on television an ‘Israel Sunday’ service to be broadcast across Germany. This weekly service reaches up to 300,000 people and it presented a great opportunity for the Christian Embassy to share about God’s plan for Israel. ICEJ President Dr Jürgen Bühler flew to Germany for this service to preach a message on the Shema, the central prayer of Israel and the Jewish people. He was accompanied by his wife Vesna with Hebrew songs.
The location for the televised service was very special. It took place in the Mauritius Church in Reichenbach. During the Nazi era, this church was pastored by Theodor Dipper, who repeatedly spoke against Hitler in his sermons and oversaw a network of around 40 pastors of the Confessing Church who hid Jews during the Holocaust. The church compound served as a safe haven for many Jews who were hidden there, each for several days to weeks, during Hitler’s reign of terror.
Pastor Heinrich Hoffman, who serves today as the church’s pastor, said it was very appropriate to host the first televised Israel Sunday service in his church. Jürgen Bühler added that it was a tremendous privilege to preach in a location with such a legacy of heroism and of blessing God’s people.
Besides the televised service at the Mauritius Church, Jürgen and Vesna ministered in several other places during their visit to Germany, which was their first trip outside Israel since the coronavirus pandemic arose last year. This included ministering in word and song at a large Israel gathering organised by the Saxonian Friends of Israel. They also spent several days in Stuttgart at the new offices of the German branch, which has seen tremendous growth and impact in recent years under the leadership of Gottfried Bühler, Jürgen’s brother.