Was it really the money, I ask. Or was it loss of faith? No, he says, it was the money. “So now do you sometimes sneak into church nevertheless? At Christmas maybe, or Easter?” Yes, he says, as a matter of fact he does. “Does he feel guilty?” He puts the question for me. “Not really.” But sometimes he wonders if he shouldn’t go back and become a church member again. “Obviously, when you die, no priest is going to come to your funeral so that’s a downside but that’s a few years from now.”

Tall, impressively bald and dressed in a striking tweed suit he says he bought in a church bazaar, Pastor Johann Hinrich Claussen, Dean of the Hamburg region, says he keeps an eye out for tax dodgers. Especially wealthy tax dodgers. And gives me a piercing look as if I might be one myself.

The figures, he agrees, are worrying. Christians -- Protestants and Catholics combined -- are leaving their churches at a rate of about 300,000 people a year. That is a shame in itself but it also means a drop in income. So his church is trying to diversify its revenues in order to keep maintaining its churches and paying its ministers, deacons and so on. But, he says, Germany should keep its church tax.