New Apostolic life in Barcelona: a congregation between tapas and WhatsApp

With a population of 1.6 million, Barcelona is the second largest city in Spain after Madrid, and the second most densely populated city in Europe. Small in comparison is the number of people who make their way to Calle Reverendo José Bundo 14–18 on Wednesdays and Sundays.

There is only one New Apostolic congregation in the city. But there are four others in Catalonia, a region in the north-eastern extremity of the Iberian Peninsula between the Mediterranean Sea and the Pyrenees mountain range: Centelles, Girona, Igualada, and Tarragona, but they are located 50 to 110 kilometres from Barcelona.

Getting to our church in Barcelona can be very time-consuming for the members who live in the environs of the Catalan capital. That is why church life in Barcelona is structured a little differently than in many other congregations.

Breakfast at church

Those who have to leave for church early on a Sunday morning have little time for a hearty breakfast. This is something they catch up on at church, at least the children do. They gather at nine o’clock in an adjoining room where a breakfast of milk, bread, and fruit has been prepared for them. After breakfast, at 10 a.m. the children either have pre-Sunday school or Sunday School, while the parents have their service.

The congregation of Barcelona is comprised of 196 adults and twelve children, who are looked after by six ministers. The rector, Priest Vicente Ballester, is assisted by three Priests and two Deacons.

Ten nations, one congregation

Our congregation in Barcelona is made up of many nationalities, ten to be exact. “In addition to people from European countries such as Switzerland, Germany, Romania, and Italy, there are also quite a few from South America, namely from Argentina, Uruguay, Ecuador, and Peru. And we have members from Africa.”

The language spoken is Spanish, and after the divine services there is plenty of opportunity to do so. After a short break, the children either gather for religious instruction or confirmation class, and the adults for choir practice in the church hall.

Time to talk

Those who are not in the choir and have to wait for their children or others before they can head home together use the time to catch up with their friends—either in the foyer of the church, the garden, or in a nearby café. They love these opportunities of being able to spend time with their brothers and sisters. Nobody is in a rush to get home after service. In Spain, lunch-time only begins at 1.30 p.m.

“For a long time, the members considered the job of cleaning the church as something tedious, and hardly anybody offered to help,” District Evangelist Suter writes. “Repeated requests by the rector to please help along, did absolutely nothing to improve the situation.” Finally, the ministers and their wives met on a Saturday at the rector’s home and had an open discussion on the participation in Church activities. One of the topics was “cleaning”. Everyone agreed that this circle would have to set an example.

WhatsApp helps with church cleaning

Since then, the whole group has been coming together once a month on a Saturday morning to clean the church, do some gardening, and make the place spick and span. The cleaning team created a WhatsApp group so that everyone is always informed. If someone cannot come, he or she lets the others know. Usually, more than ten members are there to clean. Many hands make light work. And when everything is done, they get together in one of the adjoining rooms for refreshments and tapas (savoury snacks). They enjoy spending time together.

“Of course, the congregation in Barcelona is not without its problems and worries,” District Evangelist Suter ends his report, “but we try to do what the congregation in Jerusalem did, of whom it says: “Now the multitude of those who believed were of one heart and one soul” (Acts 4: 32).

From the congregation’s history

The beginnings of the congregation in Barcelona—the mother church of Spain—date back to 1936, when a New Apostolic family moved from Zurich (Switzerland) to Barcelona. Before the family emigrated, Juan Reverter, the father, was ordained as a Deacon and given the commission to establish the Church in Barcelona.

The Spanish Civil War began that same year, followed by forty years of dictatorship. The prevailing circumstances were hardly conducive for development. Twelve years later, in 1948, the congregation received its first visit by an Apostle. Five souls were sealed. Deacon Juan Reverter was ordained as a Priest, and a Subdeacon was ordained as well. This date marks the founding of the congregation.

In 1958 the Church bought a property in Horta, where the congregation could gather. In 1971 the New Apostolic Church in Spain was officially recognised by the State, albeit with restrictions. In July 1981, Chief Apostle Hans Urwyler visited the members in Barcelona and dedicated the church building that is still being used by the congregation today. It is situated on the property that had been purchased in 1958. All members from across the country had been invited to this divine service.

At the time, there were two ministers and 18 members in Barcelona. The congregation of Barcelona did a lot of missionary work in the surrounding cities. Everyone helped along, ministers and members alike, and the beautiful result are the four congregations in the region of Catalonia today.

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Danièle Idler
Spain, Congregational life