Post-secular rapprochement in peripheralized regions – politics of withdrawal and parish community responses
Abstract. In many parts of Germany, processes of secularization overlap with ongoing sociodemographic changes such as outmigration and population decline. As a result, Christian churches face significant financial pressure due to plummeting numbers of parish members. In East Germany, these circumstances are aggravated by policies of de-Christianization during the socialist past. Using a case study in the Evangelical Church in Central Germany and its church district Altenburger Land, we argue that forms of post-secular rapprochement – transgression of boundaries of belief – develop following severe budget cuts and the withdrawal of pastoral positions. Contemporary literature on post-secular rapprochement specifically illuminates social issues emerging in urban landscapes due to neoliberal policies. In contrast, we highlight corresponding incidents of cooperation in peripheralized regions. On the one hand, parish members in our case study region aim to cooperate with local clubs to organize common festivities and increase their visibility. On the other hand, they attempt to get in touch with other Christian groups in a more subtle way. Hereby, we illuminate the everyday work of post-secular rapprochement in peripheralized regions using an empirically driven and practice–theory-based approach.