German church fills seats with Taylor Swift music, fans of all ages

Singer Tine Wiechmann performs in the Heiliggeistkirche during a Taylor Swift service. Pastor Vincenzo Petracca is on the left. The artist sang six of the pop star's songs with her band. Seats were were fully booked. Uwe Anspach/dpa
Singer Tine Wiechmann performs in the Heiliggeistkirche during a Taylor Swift service. Pastor Vincenzo Petracca is on the left. The artist sang six of the pop star's songs with her band. Seats were were fully booked. Uwe Anspach/dpa
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The sound of Taylor Swift's song "Shake It Off" echoes powerfully through the Protestant Heiliggeistkirche church in the old centre of Heidelberg, a medieval university town in south-west Germany.

Singer Tine Wiechmann stands at the microphone at the front, accompanied by band members on piano, bass and drums.

The church's pastor, Vincenzo Petracca, claps along enthusiastically. The visitors sway and dance in their seats, many of them singing along to the 34-year-old's global hit.

About 1,200 people from all age groups attend two pop church services with live music by Taylor Swift. Almost all the seats in the Gothic church are taken. People even line up outside, waiting to enter.

The programme includes six songs by the American singer, who has already addressed her Christian roots in her music - and has also moved the masses with political statements.

Admission is free, but due to the high demand, seats must be reserved in advance.

The first reservations were made by parents whose children wanted to attend the services with their families, the church says.

The two Swift-themed church services, entitled "Anti-Hero" after the song by Swift, 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 in this way," says 17-year-old Solvej Biederstädt, who is a big Swift fan and came to the service with her sister Lina.

Other big fans of the pop star are Edward and Julia Bachem, who attended the service with their 14-year-old daughter Cecilia. The family are wearing Taylor fan shirts and father and daughter have even bought tickets for one of Swift's concerts in Germany.

"I go to the 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, who used to teach religious pop music at the Heidelberg University of Church Music, says, "We try to address things in the church that primarily touch people. If it's also full, that's of course a great thing for us."

When people leave the service with the feeling that they have experienced something that has comforted them and touched them spiritually, they are happy.

"And if these are people who haven't found that in church before, then that's a very positive aspect for me," Wiechmann says.

In his sermon, the pastor talks about Swift's political influence, her commitment to women, homosexuals and against racism.

He discusses the song "Christmas Must Be Something More," which the international star released in 2007.

In it, the artist quotes the Christmas story according to Luke and criticizes, according to the pastor, that the festival has lost its meaning in consumer society.

According to Wiechmann, Taylor Swift's pieces were selected to blend into the service.

The song "Soon You'll Get Better," in which Swift deals with her mother's cancer, was chosen for the intercessions.

"We will combine this... and pray for people who are ill, relatives of the sick and people who care for the sick."

The Heiliggeistkirche has been incorporating pop music into services since 2015, with previous services featuring music from the Beatles, Leonard Cohen, Queen and Madonna, Pastor Petracca says.

There has also been a church service with music by Michael Jackson, during which the pastor says he addressed the allegations of sexual abuse against Jackson and the topic of abuse in the church.

"It's much easier with Taylor Swift," says Petracca. The church services focus on the relationship between religion and politics.

"She's the most powerful pop musician on the planet right now," the pastor says. "She is thought to be so influential that she will influence the US elections in the autumn."

Singer Taylor Swift performs at Soldier Field during her "Eras Tour." Singer Taylor Swift is famous all over the world. Shanna Madison/Zuma Press/dpa
Singer Taylor Swift performs at Soldier Field during her "Eras Tour." Singer Taylor Swift is famous all over the world. Shanna Madison/Zuma Press/dpa