Die Sundigste Meile: The Most Sinful Mile

Contributing Writer
Pastor Shawn Hannon

Hope Lutheran Church, Arcade, NY

I had an opportunity to travel to Germany last month. I experienced lots of new things, but few of them surprised me as much as what was waiting for me in Hamburg. There on the intersection of two roads (Reeperbahn & Grosse Frieheit) was a Beatles’ monument. I had always thought of them as an English rockband, but I learned that the band spent its infancy jelling and honing its sound in Hamburg (of all places!) from 1960-1962. But what is really remarkable, is that that wasn’t even the most surprising site on that street.

The intersection of Reeperbahn and Grosse Frieheit is the center of Hamburg’s night life. Clubs and bars line the street, and along with the expected establishments are number adult clubs and brothels. You read that right. It’s a red light district.

A Beatles monument sits at the heart of Hamburg’s red light district. The locals have nicknamed the area “Die Sundigste Meile.” That translates, “the most sinful mile”.

But get this. That’s still not the most surprising part. Even more seemingly out of place than the Beatles’ statues is a building that sits just down the road: St. Joseph’s Church. There’s a church across the street from a few night clubs, strip clubs, and brothels. It seems paradoxical, but there it is, and it has placed a permanent message out front for all to see. It reads: “es gibt nichts, vomit jesus nicht fertig wird,” or “There’s nothing Jesus cannot handle.”

At the heart of a street nicknamed “the Most Sinful Mile” is a church with a message, “There’s nothing Jesus cannot handle.”

Martin Luther, a proper German who sparked the Protestant Reformation, once wrote to his colleague Philip Melanchthon that “God does not save those who are only imaginary sinners.” His message was that God’s mercy is real and true because of its power over real and true sin. He was well ahead of St. Joseph’s sign, but his message was the same. Even on the most sinful mile, there is nothing Jesus cannot handle.

We all walk sinful miles. We are in bondage to it and we cannot free ourselves, but our “trust in Christ is stronger, and we rejoice in Christ who is the victor over sin, death, and the world” (Martin Luther).

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Pastor Shawn is a 2010 graduate of the Lutheran Theological Southern Seminary in Columbia, South Carolina, and he began his call at Hope Lutheran Church, Arcade NY that summer. While he spent four years learning and serving churches in South and North Carolina, as a Jamestown, NY native, Western New York has always been home. He is glad to be here. Pastor Shawn and his wife Carol Hannon met while attending SUNY Geneseo in the mid-2000s. They have enjoyed making their home together in Arcade with their daughters Quinn and Perry.   Pastor Shawn has a background in youth and outdoor ministry. He is a former camper and staff person at Lake Chautauqua Lutheran Center in Bemus Point, NY. He has also served camps in urban settings and oversees in Madagascar. In seminary he was recognized for gifts in Greek and New Testament, and in his senior year was recognized with awards in both Preaching and Biblical Studies. Pastor Shawn continues to emphasize the youth in his ministry, but not simply because they are the future church, but because they are the church of today.  He also enjoys working on service projects, and takes the role of planning meaningful and engaging worship seriously.  He loves helping people find ways to put their passion and energy to work making their community and other people’s worlds a better place. When he is not working at church, Shawn enjoys remodeling and construction projects around his family’s home.  But as busy as he gets, PS always has time for a quick nine (okay, 18) on the golf course. He enjoys playing sports of all kinds and fiddling with his guitar.