The powerful sounds of Taylor Swift’s song “Shake it off” resound through the Protestant Church of the Holy Spirit in Heidelberg. Singer Tine Wiechmann stands at the front of the microphone, the band members accompany her on piano, bass and drums.

Next to him, Father Vincenzo Petracca is clapping enthusiastically at the lectern. The visitors bob and dance in their seats, some of them sing along to the 34-year-old’s global hit with the lyrics.

Around 1,200 people from all age groups attend two pop services with live music by Taylor Swift. Almost all of the seats in the old Gothic church are occupied. There was even a queue in front of the entrance. The program includes six pieces by the American, who has already addressed her Christian roots in her music – and also moved the masses with political statements.

All tickets reserved

Admission is free, but due to high demand, visitors had to book tickets in advance. According to the church, the first reservations came from parents whose children wanted to attend services with the family. The two services, titled “Anti Hero” after Swift’s song “Anti-Hero,” are part of a series of pop services and were fully booked.

“I think it’s great that the church also appeals to younger people,” explains 17-year-old Solvej Biederstädt. She is a big Swift fan and came to the service with her sister Lina. Edward and Julia Bachem from Heidelberg are also big fans of the pop star, and they follow the service with their 14-year-old daughter Cecilia. They wear Taylor fan shirts and father and daughter have even bought tickets for the singer’s concert in Gelsenkirchen. “I go to pop church services regularly,” says Julia Bachem. “When I found out that this time it was about Taylor, I booked tickets straight away.”

Singer Wiechmann said in advance about the great interest: “We try to address things in the church that primarily affect people. If it is then full, that is of course a nice thing for us.” If people leave the service with the feeling that they have experienced something that comforted them and spoke to them spiritually, then that makes them particularly happy. “And if these are people who haven’t found this in the church before, then that’s a very positive aspect for me,” said the 37-year-old. The singer was formerly a professor of pop church music at the Heidelberg University of Church Music.

Sermon on Swift’s political work

In his sermon, Pastor Petracca looks for clues and talks about Swift’s political influence, her commitment to women, homosexuals and against racism. With humor and charm, but yet very seriously, he discusses, for example, the song “Christmas must be something more”, which the global star released in 2007. In it, the artist quotes the Christmas story according to Luke and, according to the pastor, criticizes the fact that the festival has lost its meaning in a consumer society.

According to Wiechmann, Taylor Swift’s pieces were selected to fit the course of the service. For example, the song “Soon you’ll get better” was chosen for the intercessions, in which Swift deals with her mother’s cancer. “We will combine this with the intercessions and, based on this, pray for people who are sick, relatives of the sick and people who care for the sick.”

The concept is well received by many visitors. “I find the approach of the church service series exciting,” says Maria Oberkofler, for example. The 25-year-old is studying in Heidelberg and became aware of the event through the announcement poster that featured Taylor Swift. “I generally go to church services more often, but of course this is something special,” she sums up.

“The most powerful pop musician on our planet”

According to Pastor Petracca, the Church of the Holy Spirit has been offering concerts with pop music since 2015 – Beatles, Leonard Cohen, Queen, Madonna. There was also a service with music by Michael Jackson, where the pastor said he also addressed the allegations of sexual abuse against Jackson and the topic of abuse in the church.

“It’s a lot easier with Taylor Swift,” Petracca says of the theme behind the music. The services are about the relationship between religion and politics with Taylor Swift. “She is the most powerful pop musician on our planet at the moment,” explains the 59-year-old. “She is believed to be influential enough to influence the US elections in the fall.”

Holy Spirit Church for Taylor Swift services