Veldhoven has had a scoop since Friday evening. The first ‘climbing church’ in the province has been opened there. The monumental Sint-Willibrorduskerk (church) is filled with climbing walls. “We have moved from mental health to physical health. That hurts”.
Pastor Frank As still has to get used to it. In the past people mourned and married in the church. From now on, climbers will be higher up here. It makes the pastor a bit melancholic. “Climbing closer to God is done spiritually and not on a climbing wall. It’s not like that if you’re in an apartment, that you are closer to God”, he says with a laugh. “Our dear Lord is in our hearts”.
He thinks back to the past. “Everything was done here”, he says, his voice booming: weddings, baptisms, confirmations and first communion. “The church was expanded at the time because it was too small. There are a lot of people in Veldhoven who have a lot of precious memories here and they are very grateful for that”.
From now on, the light through the stained glass windows no longer shines on the pastor who addresses the faithful. “The altar used to be there and behind it the organ. I stood here and looked at the people. It is a completely different view now”.
Many churches are given a different function. This church was also for rent. It’s a shift for the pastor. “This is the place where people sought God. For their mental health. If people only look for their physical health, a society will decline further, I think. Then there is indifference and intolerance. I can have a beautiful and healthy body, but we are all going to die someday. Then it is of no use to me anymore”.
“You have to be careful not to lose your identity. Who am I? You are more than a beautiful and fit body. Faith gives us our own identity. Can I accept myself?”
Meanwhile, Nienke Swart from Boulder Veldhoven is completely happy. After all, it is the first church in Brabant where you can climb. “There is another one in Venlo and that’s all”, she says proudly. “It is a very attractive church”.
The climbing sport here is called bouldering. Without being on a rope, athletes climb up more than four metres using various grips on the wall. Anyone who falls ends up on a mat. “It is a bouldering hall in a small municipality. In the Netherlands they are normally in big cities, but this is so special. We are already in Eindhoven and that is why we wanted to start here.”
The pastor can live with this repurposing. “I think this is a nice solution. It’s colourful”.
Translated by: Bob