VOLKHARD SPITZER AT NOLLENDORFPLATZ
THE BERLIN JESUS PEOPLE MOVEMENT OF THE 1970'S
The Jesus People Church in West Berlin, Germany, in the 1970's, under the leadership of Pastor Volkhard Spitzer and Pastor Wolfgang Müller
Welcome to the "Nolli" webpage, a meeting place for all former visitors of "Nolli", and for all who would like to learn about the Berlin "Jesus People" movement of the 1970's.
My name is Bill Price. I am a German-speaking American who lived in West Berlin, Germany, from 1973 through 1978. On July 18, 1973 I made my first visit to the Church at Nollendorfplatz, meeting place for the Berlin "Jesus people". From that date until my return to the States I had the privilege of participating in this marvelous experience. I fell in love with the church and with the wonderful people who were there, and from 1973 through 1978 I was a regular visitor at "Nolli" and an eyewitness to the tail-end of the "Jesus People" movement in Germany.
Many Americans are not aware that the Jesus movement was not confined to just the United States. On this webpage I would like to give you a brief overview of this remarkable phenomenon as it occurred in the largest city in Germany. If you were one of the many English-speaking visitors who passed through "Nolli" during the 1970's, or if perhaps you were a part of it yourself, then I hope that this webpage will bring back some pleasant memories.
What was "Nolli"?
Shortly after World War 2 the American evangelist Harold Herman paid a visit to the war-torn city of Berlin. Any Berliner who was living in the city during this period will undoubtedly remember the big revival tent that was erected at Potsdamer Platz, and which was subsequently moved to Breidscheidplatz (site of the present Europa-Center) after the Berlin crisis of June 17, 1953. Out of these evangelistic revival meetings grew an interdenominational church, the "Christian Missionary Society", which a few years later moved into the famous Metropol Theater located at Nollendorfplatz 5.
In September 1964, 21-year-old Volkhard Spitzer from the town of Göppingen in southern Germany became pastor of the "Christian Missionary Society" at Nollendorfplatz. The dynamic Spitzer, who was formerly known as a "boy preacher" among the American soldiers in southern Germany, gave new life to the church through his personal charisma and lively preaching. But it wasn't until seven years later that a significant event occurred which brought world-wide fame to the church and its young pastor.
In the early 1970's the "Jesus Revolution" broke out in the USA. Young hippies began turning to a living faith in Christ, and the stories made headlines in the American press. Many considered that it would only be a question of time until the movement spilled over into Europe and Germany.
In February 1971 a young teenage drug addict named Ingrid gave her life to Christ after hearing Pastor Spitzer preach at Nollendorfplatz. Shortly thereafter more hippies showed up at the meetings at "Nolli" and many more were converted. After about three months there were about sixty young people at the church. In a very short time the face of the church had undergone a radical change. On one side sat the old gray-haired widows who had been faithfully attending for years, and on the other side sat the long-haired hippies in their flower shirts, who gave a new vitality to the congregation with their youthful zeal and enthusiasm.
The "Spiegel" Interview
The phenomenal growth of the church eventually caught the eye of the German press. In 1971 reporters from the leading German news magazine "Spiegel" (roughly equivalent to "Time" or "Newsweek" in the US) looked up Pastor Spitzer and requested an interview. Several pages of the magazine were devoted to this dramatic story which was unfolding in West Berlin. Drug addicts were being healed through faith! Young drop-outs were turning to faith in Jesus!
The "One-Way" Tea-house
In April 1971 a tea-house was opened at Mansteinstraße 4. This was a place where people off the street could be approached in a relaxed and casual atmosphere. In March 1973 the tea-house was closed down due to a shortage of volunteer workers. One year later, on February 2, 1974, it was renovated and reopened under the name of the "Ladenkirche", i.e., the Storefront-Church.
The "One-Way" House
In order to nurture young coverted drug addicts in a more intimate and family-oriented atmosphere, the church purchased a spacious home in an upper middle-class area of southern Berlin. It was named the "One Way House." Here lived the Berlin "Jesus Family", a community of young Christians under the leadership and support of the church at Nolli. Several years later the "One Way House" was converted into a cassette tape duplication and distribution center, a Bible school, and church office.
The "One-Way" Newspaper
The church published a newspaper called the "One Way". This newspaper, published by Aussaat Publishers in Wuppertal, came out in billboard format, and was dubbed the "first German Jesus People Press". It was published monthly and had a distribution of about 10,000 to 30,000 issues per month. It was distributed not only in Berlin, but also in other cities in West Germany. Copies of the "One Way" newspaper even found their way over the Iron Curtain into East Germany.
This newspaper was printed on colored paper, every month a different color. The content was geared toward non-Christians and primarily appealed to young people. I once had a collection of One Way newspapers, all issues from July 1973 through August 1978, but unfortunately they became misplaced through the years and are now lost.
My first visit
I first found my way to the church on July 18, 1973.
At the time I was in the US Air Force, living in the barracks at Tempelhof Airport. I was looking for a good church, and by chance a friend mentioned to me about the "Jesus People" church at Nollendorfplatz. On Wednesday evening, July 18, 1973, I took the subway to Nollendorfplatz to check the place out. The meeting hall was located inside of the large Metropol Theater at Nollendorfplatz, which at the time was the home of a gigantic porno movie theater! It was such a grotesquely contrasting spectacle: a large porn theater, and just to the left in the same building an entrace with a sign that read "Evangelisationssaal", i.e., "Evangelization Hall". A winding staircase led the way up to the second floor, home of the "Christian Missionary Society". I didn't know anybody and was rather shy, and so I quietly took a seat next to the aisle, allowing me a quick getaway in case I wouldn't find the place to my liking.
The speaker that evening was a young 29-year-old Volkhard Spitzer. As soon as he began preaching I knew that I was in the right place. The message was so riveting that I soon forgot that I was sitting alone in a room full of "strangers."
A friendly girl by the name of Heidi came in and sat next to me, and afterwards she introduced herself to me. She then introduced me to several of the "Jesus People", who invited me to a seminar that was being held that week. From that evening on I was a regular visitor at "Nolli."
Every summer the church held a public baptism at the Havel river in Berlin. The first Havel baptismal service took place in July, 1971, just as the Berlin Jesus movement was in full swing. There were about seventy young people who were baptized during this first event. For every summer thereafter, throughout the rest of the 1970's, the church held its traditional riverside baptism down on the Havel.
I myself was baptized by Pastor Spitzer during the fifth Havel baptism on August 24,
1975. The service took place at a beach called the "Großes Fenster", which, I
believe, was the traditional spot for all of the baptisms.
A unique church
What was it like at Nolli?
Nolli was a church like none other at the time in Germany. You had to have been there to know what I am talking about.
German churches are generally more lifeless and rigid than their American counterparts, as well as being more sparsely attended. Nolli, however, was a remarkable anomaly on the German landscape. It was full of life and had a personality that couldn't help making a vivid impression on the most casual visitor.
All age groups were represented. The old people who had been there from the very beginning made up the core of the congregation. Then came the young people who had been converted during the early years of the Jesus movement. In addition there were many families with children.
It was very much an international church. Among the regular visitors there were Americans, Koreans, Yugoslavians, Norwegians, English, Russians, Africans, Indians, Indonesians, Lebanese, Egyptians, and many others. The most diverse combination of nationalities all came together as one in the love of Christ. What an example for the world today, which seeks to bring peace to the nations through artifical and secular means.
It was a very lively church. Nolli was certainly no place for taking a nap. The services were lively and energetic, the people were full of love, and the atmosphere was very contagious.
The church's leaders, Pastor Volkhard Spitzer and Pastor Wolfgang Müller, were both very gifted men of God, each in his own way. Volkhard was a gifted evangelist and had the gift of motivating people, and could be a marvelous entertainer as well as a great Bible expositor. In contrast to Volkhard, Brother Müller had a more quiet temperament. He was regarded by many in the church as a kind of father image. Although they were both very different in their personalities and pastoring styles, there was absolutely no friction between them. Quite to the contrary. They complemented each other by their differences.
Pastor Wolfgang Müller
Wolfgang Müller came from Hamburg and began pastoring at Nollendorfplatz in September, 1973. I remember his arrival in the church very well, since at the time I myself was a newcomer at Nolli.
As mentioned earlier, Brother Müller was in contrast to Brother Spitzer a completely
different personality. That is not to say that Wolfgang's delivery was boring. Not at all!
Brother Müller had a very unique preaching style, sometimes very witty, sometimes very
serious, but always very focused and effective. As a German-speaking American I
particularly noticed that he spoke with a very clear and polished High German, and it was
always a linguistic treat for me to listen to him speak.
As a counselor he was without equal. Once I went to him with a particular problem, and the wise advice he gave me has helped me even to the present day.
For eight years Brother Müller served faithfully at "Nolli." In 1981 he bade farewell to the church and took over a pastoral vacancy in the southwestern corner of Germany, near the Swiss city of Basel.
1978 - Formation of the CZB
1978 was my last year in Berlin. During that year the church at Nolli, then known as the "Jesus Center" but still bearing the official title of "Christian Missionary Society", and another church at Krummestraße, the "Christian Congregation of Charlottenburg", united to form the Berlin Christian Center - whose German name "Christliches Zentrum Berlin" formed the acronym CZB.
From 1977 to 1978 I served as a simultaneous translator during the Sunday morning services. During this time period two young Americans came over to the church from Ralph Wilkerson's Melodyland School of Theology in Anaheim, California. Sam Fields and Dennis Ortmann heard Paster Spitzer's sermons for the first time through my translations. I noticed that Sam always paid close attention to me, but Dennis was always concentrating on Volkhard's German voice. Within a year Dennis was speaking fluent German, and a few years later became a pastor at the CZB. Dennis served in the CZB until just recently in May 2000 when he returned back to the States. Sam Fields also served as a pastor in the Berlin Christian Center for many years until his return to the US in 1990.
Where are they today?
The old "Nolli" is no more. The former "Evangelisationssaal" at Nollendorfplatz 5, where the joyful worship songs of the Berlin Jesus people were heard over 30 years ago, is today a night club.
Pastor Volkhard Spitzer is still preaching in Berlin. Latest information can be found at the City Kirche Berlin website.
Pastor Wolfgang Müller now lives in southern Germany near the Swiss border town Basel. You can read about his ministry at www.heuteschongelebt.de.
After a long and full life, world evangelist Harold Herman passed away on August 4, 1999 at the age of 96. He was at the time living in Oregon.
Today the Berlin Christian Center is located at the cathedral at Südstern.
Dennis Ortmann is now pastoring at Chapel in the Pines in California.
Sam Fields pastored a church in Alaska for several years until his death on February 12, 2006.
Most of the following links related to Nolli and Volkhard Spitzer are still in German and will eventually be translated into English as I find the time to do so:
Volkhard Spitzer today:
Wolfgang Müller today:
|Please write if you have any additional or personal information that you would like to contribute. I am looking for photos, personal testimonies, or magazine or newpaper articles dealing with Nolli, the Berlin Jesus People movement, or Volkhard Spitzer.|
|I am especially looking for any cassette tapes of Volkhard Spitzer or Wolfgang Müller from the time period between 1971 and 1975.|
|Copyright © 2001-2009 by Bill Price.|
|Original German version copyright © 1998 by Bill Price.|
|Responsible for content: Bill Price|
|Many photographs are taken from CZB archives and from photographers Dieter Groß and Jürgen Brates|
|Last updated on September 10, 2012|
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