On October 1, 1989, the church council of the Gethsemane community made a seemingly insignificant yet historic decision. It granted the request of opposition members to open the house of worship for a vigil. The committed Christians wanted to advocate and pray for the release of demonstrators who had been arrested in Leipzig. There, a few brave people had been protesting for weeks, moving from the Nikolaikirche into the city every Monday evening. The opponents of the regime in East Berlin were also threatened by state power; they were under close surveillance by the informers of the Secret Police.
The vigil received an overwhelming response. On the evening of October 4, 3,000 people came to the church. Some stayed there day and night, a handful fasted. A prayer was followed night after night by a so-called political part. Anyone could step up to the microphone and speak freely, which was not possible anywhere else in public. Victims of arrests and mistreatment talked about their experiences. Others read out names of arrested people and informed the attendees about resistance and persecution in the entire GDR. They received their information around the clock via the contact telephone in the community office.
Most calls came around October 7, 1989. This was the 40th anniversary of the GDR, which the regime celebrated with mass rallies. There was, however, also a spontaneous protest march against the ruling SED moving in the direction of the Gethsemanekirche. Around the place of worship, police and intelligence services acted brutally against the demonstrators and arresting hundreds, many fled into the church. Western television teams were on the scene and broadcast these images of violence. Relatives and friends of those arrested from all over the GDR came to the church to learn about their fate.
On October 9, the mood was particularly tense. News arrived from Leipzig about additional hospital beds and blood supplies having been made available. This nurtured the fear that the Monday demonstrations could be brutally crushed. Many believed that the state would then certainly also take action against the peaceful protest in the Gethsemanekirche. Soon, however. the relieving news came that there had not been any acts of state violence in Leipzig. The 70,000 demonstrators were so many that those responsible did not decide to use violence. The crowd in the Gethsemanekirche cheered. Many of those present felt this news was a turning point. Real change now seemed possible.
Even after the night shifts in the Gethsemanekirche had ended on October 13, the church remained an important meeting place for newly founded political groups in the GDR. The New Forum or Democracy Now presented their ideas here, creative people and initiatives made announcements. They all discussed the GDR’s future. After the free elections in March 1990, the People's Chamber celebrated a service in the Gethsemanekirche. This was how the peaceful revolution ended at one of its hotspots.