The youngest ombudsperson in all Bavaria’s congregation councils

18-year-old Julian Appl was elected into the church council of his congregation. Photo: private
18-year-old Julian Appl was elected into the church council of his congregation. Photo: private

Julian Appl: “My grandma was thrilled”

(LWI) - The congregation council in Hohenstadt in the Hersbruck deanery has elected 18-year-old Julian Appl as its ombudsperson – very probably the youngest person in the Evangelical Lutheran Church in Bavaria serving in that role. Now, together with the pastor, he is deputy chair of the newly elected council.

Rev. Martin Simon, responsible for matters relating to the Bavarian congregation councils in the Congregational Services office in Nuremberg cannot remember ever having such a young ombudsperson: “That is proof of enormous confidence in him and great expectations.” When the congregation council elections took place in October 2018 all those who were entitled to vote, i.e. all confirmed congregational members from the age of 14, received their ballot papers in the mail. That led to a higher number of teenagers voting, Simon explains. And the chances of the younger generation being elected also increased. They can stand for election from the age of 18.

In Hohenstadt Julian was elected deputy chairperson at the same time. “At first I did not realize how important that was,” says the young man. But, he adds, when he came home from the first meeting and told them: “My grandma and my mother were immediately thrilled and proud.” There is absolutely no tradition in the Appl family of holding congregation council positions. And Julian is the first one to have stood for office.

Responsibilities

If the pastor as chairperson is unable to attend, Julian will chair the council meeting in future. He is also aware of his function of keeping an eye on the parish finances. “I also see myself as a contact for the people in the congregation,” Julian adds: “If they don’t like something and they don’t dare tell the pastor, then they will tell me.” In his new role he can press for his goal of introducing youth services, perhaps in the evening. He wants to encourage young people “get more involved with our congregation”, he says.

Get more involved with your congregation.
Julian Appl, youngest member of a church council in the Evangelical Lutheran Church in Bavaria

Julian already knows Rev. Georg Pilhofer from his elementary school days in neighboring Pommelsbrunn. Back then, the pastor was his teacher of religious education. Julian grew into youth work in the parish and the deanery, Pilhofer recalls. Meanwhile, Julian is an enthusiastic member of the Sunday School team and enjoys working with children. For that reason, his dream is to become an elementary school teacher. At present Julian is waiting to be accepted for a place at the University of Erlangen-Nuremberg. He wants to do his teacher training there, not further away from home – after all, he has a responsible position in his local church.

Young people in the LWF

The Evangelical Lutheran Church in Bavaria (ELCB), one of the 11 member churches of the Lutheran World Federation (LWF) in Germany, made a point of advertising for young people to stand for office prior to the congregation council elections in 2018. At its autumn session in 2017 the ELCB synod had already invited young people to play a greater part in church governing bodies.

Since the Seventh LWF Assembly in Budapest (Hungary) in 1984, LWF member churches have been encouraged to enable the participation of adolescents and young adults under 30 in their decision-making processes, with the aim of 20 percent youth membership of its governing bodies. Recently a resolution on the topic by the Twelfth LWF Assembly in Windhoek (Namibia) read: “The Assembly calls on the member churches to act on the implementation of twenty percent youth participation at all levels within the church to ensure youth participation in decision making, planning, strategizing and a right to vote.”

 

Source: Sonntagsblatt – 360° evangelisch, Jutta Olschewski. Editing: LWF Office for Communication Services