Church equipment dispersed as Babenhausen prepares to close
September 1, 2006
With almost no one around to enjoy it, the chapel at Babenhausen held its last service Sunday. Only four people were expected to show up for the last “Amen.”
Lack of attendance wasn’t the only reason church services at Babenhausen ended. The Pentagon announced Aug. 23 that it will turn Babenhausen over to the German government in fiscal 2007, and soldiers have been leaving the post in droves.
While the handful of parishioners left at Babenhausen now have to go to nearby Darmstadt or Hanau for church services, the post’s shutdown is good news for other chapels in the area, which have staked claims on the equipment, religious objects and other items in the defunct chapel.
“We’ve already taken 25 of their chairs with kneelers out to Landstuhl chapel,” said Staff Sgt. Jonathan Vinson, the chaplain noncommissioned officer in charge for U.S. Army Garrison Kaiserslautern.
Months before the announced closure, Babenhausen’s chapel posted a list, accompanied by pictures, of all the things up for grabs. “It was almost like a catalog online,” Vinson said.
Besides the chairs, Vinson also laid claim to Babenhausen’s organ, sound system and smaller items that will support three chapels in the Kaiserslautern area.
“It really enhances the worship services,” said Vinson, who has had to borrow equipment and religious items from other chapels on occasion.
All of the property at Babenhausen’s chapel has been spoken for, said Chaplain (Lt. Col.) Jack Herron, U.S. Army Garrison Darmstadt’s head chaplain, who used to provide Catholic services to Babenhausen.
Despite all the re-acquisitions, chapels in Germany aren’t strapped for cash, say officials at the U.S. Army Garrison Heidelberg, which oversees Babenhausen.
Requests for equipment do get turned down, but “I’ve never seen anything that was turned down because of the money,” said Chaplain (Lt. Col.) Michael Strom, who works in the U.S. Army Garrison Heidelberg chaplain office.
That also doesn’t mean all chapels have everything they want.
Strom said requests made by smaller chapels, such as the one at Landstuhl Regional Medical Center, may be turned down if officials determine the cost of a request outweighs its benefit.
But the closure of Babenhausen makes it possible for some chapels, especially the smaller ones, to sidestep the normal acquisition process and “allows us to get those ecclesiastical items quicker,” Vinson said.
Other valuables from Babenhausen, including a piano, will move to chapels across Germany. Nobody Stars and Stripes spoke with knew the monetary value of all the items being handed down.
Of the roughly 200 soldiers still at Babenhausen, all but about 20 are in the process of leaving, according to a U.S. Army Europe spokeswoman, Lt. Col. Elizabeth Hibner.
Meanwhile, an application has been filed to decommission the Babenhausen chapel before the post is handed back to Germany, Herron said.
“We haven’t heard back yet, but we expect approval.”