Old First Welcomes Adelheid Duhm As She Prepares for Ministry

Seminary intern Adelheid Duhm is spending four weeks in Brooklyn and at Old First as she participates in a practicum on her way to the ministry.

She’s currently a student at the University of Heidelberg in Germany, and a candidate in the Badische Landeskirche there.

She explains that her practicum is a voluntary internship, which supplements her initial experience, in Mannheim, Germany. There she participated in diverse congregational activities, including supporting the teaching of grammar school lessons (perhaps surprisingly to U.S. congregants, Christian religion is taught in German public schools in a course entitled “Religion”).

Stateside, she’s involving herself in a total Old First immersion: elders meetings, services, visiting, teaching, and anything interesting that may be going on (hit us up — we’re open to suggestions).

While aspiring to partner here at Old First, she is joined by her husband, Ken Quinn, who is originally from Brooklyn. He grew up in Flatlands and attended St. Thomas Aquinas Elementary School, which he recalls was “the center of his universe.” He first stepped foot in a public school as an assistant teacher, after which he spent seven years working for the Board of Education.


“This is an exciting thing for both of us, especially for Adelheid, but for me too as a witness,” he says. “I lived in the neighborhood for many years before I relocated to Germany. Coming back, I get to experience things anew through her eyes.”

Although his stay is limited (he won’t be here for the entire four weeks with Adelheid), he’s been back many times to watch Park Slope evolve and to reconnect with family.

How does he feel about what he’s seeing now?

“I’m a bit sad about the loss of diversity and the growing split between the haves and the have nots,” he says. But of his wife participating in the practicum, he says, “I’m so impressed that she has the nerve to do this, to make this experience part of her preparation for the ministry.”

Adelheid adds, “This is an international marriage already. I like to look beyond, all the time. Maybe that’s my second reason for doing this. To connect to what had been my husband’s home for so many years. I think it is time to connect with the people in the neighborhood.”

That’s your cue, people of God. Reach out and introduce yourself, invite Adelheid to coffee or for a walk, and make her feel to home. She could have associated with any church in the area, but she chose us. Old First called to her.

“There is a church on every other corner here,” she says, “so I just started here. The name of the church also sounded somewhat convincing. Immediately, I felt so welcome and so familiar. I felt very good.”

One of the pending church issues Adelheid sees back home is the shrinking number of members. She says, “The big task is how to make it grow. And I want to make a contribution in this direction.”

She admits that the task is a daunting one, but for starters, she says, “You have to be welcoming, you have to take interest in their lives and their questions and then listen to them. I don’t know if the answers will come, but I think that is the most important thing to do. And I think you have to establish a spiritual routine, a structure, a liturgy – the kind of reliable program we practice every Sunday during services.

“I think it’s good to have a service that follows a certain pattern, because this provides a spiritual home” she says, “and if such patterns could be established throughout the week, this could probably support people’s spiritual lives.”

As far as opening the church doors and waiting for people to stream in, she doesn’t think that strategy is “real world.”

“I don’t think you can call people to the church these days,” she says. “Well, maybe you can, but I’m skeptical there.”

Of people discovering the benefits of churchgoing and membership, husband Ken adds, “It needs to brew, like a good tea. It’s discovered during the process.”

Be sure to say hi to Adelheid and Ken during their visit!