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Looking Back: Woman Minister from Germany

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Friday January 26 2018

Looking Back: Woman Minister from Germany

In early 1968, the Church of Scotland was poised to approve the ordination of women to the ministry. This piece in praise of a female minister from Germany appeared in January.



Many doubts were expressed about the wisdom of her appointment - especially by older people - who had been brought up on the words of St. Paul: "It is a shocking thing that a woman should address the congregation."

LEADING a group from her congregation on a Study-Tour of Scotland recently was Pfarrerin Elizabeth Specht of the Marienkirche, Hanau-am-Main. It was only in April 1962 that she got the right to the full ministry after the Synod of the United Church of Hesse passed a law to that effect, with the proviso that marriage puts an end to that right.

Many others were worried by the breach made in age-long tradition; but when, in February 1963, the Bishop of Hamburg wrote that “a woman as minister cannot be fatherly; but God is the Father” this view made for easier acceptance.

For some years after taking her B.D., she worked as a Deaconess. Then she was elected sister-minister by her present congregation. She and the brother-minister share the work, preaching on alternate Sundays. Each has confirmation classes and a district for pastoral care.

The pastor is in charge of Youth Work and Pfarrerin Elizabeth sees mainly to the Women’s Groups. Both visit schools. It was with a small group of Sixth Formers drawn from Hanau High Schools that Elizabeth came in 1963 to stay in the Gean House at Alloa. It has suited their requirements so admirably that 1967 was their fourth visit.

A special link between St. Mary’s Dumfries and St. Mary’s Hanau was forged when Elizabeth took April Communion there in 1965. Because of this link, the 1967 Group paid a visit to Dumfries where it was inspiring to watch them forgather round the Ruthwell Cross and sing – with all its varying cadenzas - Dona Nobis Pacem; or later in the charming Church of Troqueer listen intently to the minister as he answered their questions.

Pfarerrin Elizabeth does not have a Guild as we know it. All women are invited to the meetings and are just ‘Fraukenreis der Marienkirche,’ not organised with membership and fees; their offerings are yet used for missionary purposes. They have supported a young girl student from Formosa who came along from time to time to speak to them. They collected to put a new roof on their Churhc in the Cameroons. The Sunday School gathered enough to give bells to the church.

Every month there is a meeting of about eighty women to talk over parish problems. In all she does, Elizabeth is greatly helped by her fifteen elders, four of whom are women.

Her ‘manse,’ a house with an ever-open door, is a five-room flat with a balcony, and a garden complete with lawn.

Elizabeth Specht as a person is young and wise, humble and diligent, full of fun and the wish to sing, wonderfully understanding and a dedicated minister.

According to German Wikipedia, Elisabeth Specht was the first woman to be ordained in her church, the Evangelical Church of Kurhessen-Waldeck. She remained a parish minister until retirement in 1982, and died in 2002, aged 90.

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