In a move that appears to be hardly conventional, the Protestant Church in Berlin and Brandenburg has announced they will install Wi-Fi hotspots in its 3,000 churches.
Making “Godspot” a reality
In the next few weeks, the churches plan to install wireless routers in 220 churches, coinciding with the 500th anniversary of Martin Luther’s Reformation. Though it may be coincidental, the church’s motivations to connect people may be a reflection of Luther’s own movement, which may not have spread so far without quick translation and distribution of his message all throughout Europe.
They plan to install the network in all churches by March 2017. One of the first parishes to link up will be the French Cathedral on Berlin’s Gendarmenmarkt Square. Not too surprisingly, this is the first time a statewide church has offered such as service.
The service will be available free to those both inside and outside of the church, with no login or registration required. Instead, users will simply be first directed to a homepage to connect that provides information about the church itself and the local parish. Once moving past the landing page, users are free to browse as they like.
Motives and challenges
According to the Church’s regional IT administrator Fabian Kraetschemer, “People are no less spiritual than before. But the places of communication have shifted—a lot takes place in digital social networks and communities. With Godspot we want to build a protestant Church that’s a safe and familiar abode in the digital world.”
Kraetschmer also insists that Godspot is not to be interpreted as a recruitment tool for increased attendance. “Not everything a church does is for personal gain. It sees itself as a type of organization that does good as a matter of principle and tries to reach people with its joyful message. Churches have always been places that people could ignore or that people could enter to cool off from the heat, enjoy the art, rest themselves. They have always been perceived in different ways. And that’s how it’s going to be with Godspot,”
And even if religious motives don’t play a role, many Germans may also be glad to have access to free WiFi in general. Germany has only two WiFi sports for every 10,00 people, making it one of the least net-friendly states in the EU.
One of the biggest reasons behind this is the law concerning Internet usage, known as Störerhaftung. This holds the provider accountable for any content illegally downloaded by users of the WiFi network. Though Germany is planning to remove this law, the installment of Godspot will come before, and therefore the churches may find themselves liable. To provide insurance against this, they’ve hired two specialized Berlin companies the legal providers of the service who will deal with such situations.