Berlin church worships leather fetish with inclusive, kink-positive celebration

Guests attend the leather mass at a church in Berlin

A Berlin church held a leather fetish event, bringing together the queer community, the fetish world, and classical music.

The Twelve Apostles Evangelical Church is nestled in the heart of Berlin’s gay neighbourhood Schoeneberg, is home to the city’s first-ever gay male choir and even runs a queer youth group.

Part of the Evangelical Church in Germany, on Thursday (9 September) it welcomed a congregation of around 100 people, all dressed entirely in leather.

The event kicked off the Folsom Europe festival, a four-day kink event culminating in the world-famous Folsom Street Fair.

Tyrone Rontgagner, who has organised the “Classic meets Fetish” church concert, is a translator and LGBT+ activist who has twice been named “Mr Leather Germany”.

Guests attend the leather mass at a church in Berlin

Guests listen to the performance at the “Classic meets Fetish” concert at Berlin’s Twelve Apostles Church. (AFP via Getty/ John MACDOUGALL)

He told AFP: “Lots of people think that the fetish scene is all about sex, but they’re just the clothes we wear.

“It’s just another way to express yourself, like music. Music brings people together just like our dress.”

The leather-clad churchgoers listened to musicians play Rachmaninoff and Grieg. One attendee, in a leather jumpsuit and tail, told AFP that while he is not religious, he came to the concert for the music.

“Classical music… calms me, and like BDSM, it’s a sort of game in which the excitement rises and falls,” he said.

Guests attend the leather mass at a church in Berlin

Leather-clad guests walk down the aisle of the Berlin church. (AFP via Getty/ John MACDOUGALL)

Even the Berlin church’s pastor dresses in leather for the ‘Classic meets Fetish’ event

The “Classic meets Fetish” event has the blessing of the church’s gay minister, Burkhard Bornemann, who also works with sex workers in the area, providing free meals and sexual health services. Bornemann himself also dresses in leather every year for the event.

The Evangelical Church in Germany, which includes Lutheran, Reformed and United Protestant churches, has taken huge strides for queer inclusion in the past two decades.

Blessings for same-sex couples were introduced in 2002, and the church even approved same-sex marriage in 2017, a year before it was officially legalised in Germany.

In July, on the day before Berlin Pride, Protestant bishop Christian Stäblein asked for forgiveness from the LGBT+ community during a service in Berlin.

Apologising for historic discrimination, he said that by denying LGBT+ people “their rightful place as children of God in the image of God… we discriminated against them and made them pariahs”.

“We have to assume that many more people were harmed by these practices than we are aware of or can document,” he added.