Pastor about Oktoberfest: Reverend, another beer!

The Munich pastor Rainer Maria Schiessler knows the Oktoberfest better than almost any clergyman. He worked there as a waitress for many years.

Portrait of Rainer Maria Schiessler carrying beer mugs

He was still lifting beer mugs: Pastor Rainer Maria Schiessler at the Wiesn Photo: Ulrich Wagner

taz: Mr. Pastor, it starts again on Saturday: 17 days of celebration, fairground rides and festival beer. How will you after two years of abstinence celebrate the return of the Wiesn?

Rainer Maria Schiessler: It's only my second week in Munich. I have arranged my vacation in such a way that I don't even run the risk of having to serve again. Because it always annoys me so much. But reason says: Don't relapse! You're done with it, you're old, that's for boys. That's why I'm in Brittany for the first week now, very far away.

Rainer Maria Schiessler was born in 1960 a few days after the Oktoberfest. Since 1993 he has been pastor in St. Maximilian in Munich. Little media shy, he is one of the best-known Catholic priests in the country. From 2006 to 2012 and from 2015 to 2018 he worked as a waitress at the Wiesn. His book "Wiesn-Glück" was published by Bene/Droemer-Knaur.

But in the second week you're already going out to the Oktoberfest?

Yes of course. I'm looking forward to that too. I already have a number of invitations. First and foremost, of course, I visit my former colleagues in the Schottenhamel, the beer tent where I served for years. But I won't eat and drink my way through it. That's not my style, I just say hello and join the party for a moment. I don't ride a roller coaster either, I don't buy Turkish honey, I don't buy cotton candy. But I drink a pint of beer, eat a piece of pretzel and just enjoy being there.

No chicken?

No, I sold too many for ten years.

And does it stay with one measure?

Yes, I can't take any more. I didn't like the second one at all. And with the first one, the first sip is always the best.

Did you the Oktoberfest was missing?

Very. For me it is very important that it takes place again. If it had failed a third time now, I don't know if we wouldn't have lost it forever. That was an incredibly difficult thing for us from Munich, not only economically, but also psychologically. The Wiesn is part of our attitude to life, and that just fell away. That's why I'm also grateful to all the smaller folk festivals that - despite Corona - were celebrated beforehand and that showed that it works.

But recently after the Gäubodenfest in Straubing, the little sister of the Wiesn, the number of infections there has skyrocketed. And the Oktoberfest is a lot bigger and more international.

Yes, incidences were high, but not hospitalization. Of course, many will get infected out there. There is no perfect protection, but the hospitals will not be overrun. And that is the most important.

Between 2006 and 2018 you served ten times at the Wiesn, now you have your experience in the book "Wiesn-Glück" written down.

But I'm not just talking about the ten years. The Wiesn has accompanied me since I was a small child. I grew up over in Laim, in an apartment building on the third floor, and from the balcony we could see the cone of light to the east, where the Wiesn was, and if the wind was good we could even smell it - this mixture of sweet almonds and chicken The Wiesn has its very own scent.

You call your book a “declaration of love”, describe the Wiesn as a cultural asset, tradition and home, mission and gift, obligation and creative opportunity. I was reassured that you, as a churchman, did not also speak of a "high mass of interpersonal relationships".

There are a few references to the Acts of the Apostles and the Book of Isaiah.

Also to the feeding of the 5000.

That is imperative. But the most beautiful Bible association for me is still that of fellowship without class distinctions in the New Testament. The distinguishing feature of this young Christian congregation was this life without differences, without class distinctions. This fellowship at table that these Christians have formed. The fact that people from all walks of life came together and sat at a table had a special appeal. And that's why Paul writes in Galatians: We are all one in Christ. There is no difference anymore. Jews, Greeks, slaves, free men, women. All suspended, all one in Christ. And I always had this image in my head. And then you look down from the gallery into the tent and you see all these people who were working in different offices that afternoon, where one might be the manager of the other, but now they're dancing together, they're all the same! And please don't tell me it's just the alcohol! Some don't drink a drop and still experience this community experience.

As a waiter, you're not really a part of it.

Yes and no. You are part of this beer tent construct that makes it possible for people to celebrate there. You contribute by bringing food and drink, by flirting with people and by making jokes and merrymaking. So you are part of this good vibes. Anyway, it wouldn't be my nature to stand on the beer bench as a guest and sing "Come on, get the lasso out". But I enjoy seeing people who can be so boisterous.

Don't you even get on the bench for your favorite Oktoberfest hit "Sweet Home Alabama"?

No, there I am, resting deep within me, pondering, somewhere in the tent. Think of my Dammerl, a very good friend who has sadly passed away in the meantime, who used to play in the band, and inside I'm endlessly happy.

How did it come about that you became a priest at the Wiesn?

That was my loose mouth. That was just faster than Brain. I was introduced to someone from the Schottenhamel family at a reception and suddenly asked him: “Could I work in your beer tent?” I had never thought of that before. But suddenly the question was there. And while I was still asking, it was actually clear to me that I would be rejected. Instead, it was immediately said: "Yes, of course."

And then you didn't think again?

no I couldn't get out of the number.

To what extent were you able to take care of your sheep out there in addition to your hens?

A priest is always a priest. I didn't push anything, but people approached me. Colleagues, guests who knew that I am a priest, and then the question kept coming up: If you have a moment, can I talk to you about something.

So you were a body and pastor.

Exactly. It can be said like this.

Once a guest ordered a baptism from you in addition to the snack.

"A mass of beer," he said, "a chicken and a baptism." I replied: "I'll bring the first two things in a moment, we'll talk about the other one." It was midday, not that busy yet , so I was able to sit down with him for a bit. And then he told me that his pastor didn't want to baptize his child because he and his wife had left the church. But we were able to solve the problem. At the end the guest got his baptism too.

Many visitors are frugal and only want beer. How many pitchers did you lift at the same time?

So a normal man wears fourteen measures, seven in each hand. If necessary, you can still pinch a 15th in between.

That's over 30 pounds.

But it's not just a matter of muscles. Above all, you have to be mentally strong. And you always have to think about everything: how long is the distance you have to walk? Is the way clear or do you have to go through the crowd? What do you do when you can't anymore? Where can you put the jugs? If you fall, that's your loss. As a waiter, you are a subcontractor.

Is it true that there are no shifts, so waitresses work from 8 a.m. to 11 p.m.?

Yes. On weekdays, however, it starts a little later, since the bar doesn't start until 10 a.m. And of course you take breaks.

One of the most important topics in Munich's local press is yes the beer price every year ...

I can't work my way through it. If I go to a tavern, half a beer costs 4.50 euros there, so 9 euros per liter. If you then consider that the Oktoberfest beer is brewed using a special process and the location is unique, the price is justified.

Are there any aspects of the Wiesn that you see critically?

What has always struck me as negative is the handling of food. I think that the sentence in the Basic Law "Ownership obliges" does not begin with the condominium, but on my plate. Once I had to throw away an almost full plate. A colleague who lives in Colombia in the winter stood next to me and said: In my village there are ten people sitting around and having a party. The sentence burned itself into me. But the Wiesn can't change anything there, we have to change.

Your guest performances at the Oktoberfest were also fundraisers at the same time.

That's how it turned out. I wasn't dependent on the money. And I find it easier to struggle when I have an overarching goal. That's why I donated my Oktoberfest earnings to Lotti Latrous for the first few years, who takes impressive care of the sick and orphans in the Ivory Coast. And in 2015, the refugee crisis was the reason why I started serving again after a break. Then the money went to the Orienthelfer association founded by my friend, the cabaret artist Christian Springer. He takes care of refugees in Lebanon.

Another tip for Oktoberfest novices: What should you definitely not do at the Oktoberfest?

preheat! Young visitors in particular often make the mistake of getting in the mood with some cheap booze on the way to the Oktoberfest. And then they wonder when they can no longer tolerate the Oktoberfest beer. It has more alcohol than normal beer, but above all it has significantly more original wort. And that can be upsetting. Therefore: Enjoy the beer and don't play the fight drinker!

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