The first hundred days as District Apostle
It was around three months ago that Swiss District Apostle Jürg Zbinden was entrusted with his new task. What has already changed for him during this time? Recently nac.today had an opportunity to speak with him.
District Apostle Zbinden, you conducted your first divine service in Switzerland as District Apostle in the congregation of Biel-Bienne. Why there, specifically?
Now that he has begun his retirement, I felt the need to welcome our District Apostle Markus Fehlbaum back into his congregation and, as Chief Apostle Leber often expressed it so nicely, to “give him back to the congregation”.
What is the tangible difference for you between the Apostle ministry and your new commission as District Apostle? How have you experienced this change in practice?
With every new commission, the humbleness in your heart becomes greater. While your respect for this new task increases, so also does your trust in the help of God. That was also how it was on the day that I was appointed District Apostle. Suddenly I was entrusted with the responsibility for the entire District Apostle district. In oneness with our Chief Apostle and my fellow Apostles, I look up trustingly to my Sender, Jesus Christ. I rely completely upon His help and grace and upon the inspirations of the Holy Spirit. Only in this way can I deal with the fact that the members’ expectations of me—but also my own expectations of myself—have become greater. I want to love all of them warmly and serve all of them. I do not want to disappoint anyone. From a human perspective, this is actually quite impossible—but with God’s help, nothing is impossible!
I am well aware that I am also the “ultimate authority” in administrative matters, and that I must ensure that the organisation serves as an aid—and not an obstacle—in achieving our goals. Our Church concept of “Serving and Leading” has become even more important to me in my current activity.
What things have left a particular impression on you over these first 100 days in your new job?
One thing is the direct experience of God’s nearness! To feel: “You are not alone—your Sender, Jesus Christ, will always help you!” Then there is also my collaboration with the Apostles and Bishops, the experience that we are a team! I also feel that the prayerful support, the encouragement, and the help of the ministers and members are very beneficial. Their concern over my physical strength and my health is always touching.
How do the congregations and ministers stand toward you? Has anything changed?
First of all, it is simply marvellous to experience how the congregations and ministers stand behind me and accept and support me! Only I have not yet become accustomed to being addressed as “District Apostle”, so every now and then I find myself looking around to see where the District Apostle is—at least until I realise that people are talking to me.
How do you feel when you have to lead an Apostle Meeting, for example?
Well, that is another thing I need to get used to, namely that it is now up to me to lead such meetings. My fellow Apostles make it very easy for me, however. We have already had some valuable initial meetings together. Teamwork, coordination, and dialogue are very important to me.
Are there any highlights from the last 100 days that you think about fondly?
Basically, every encounter with the ministers and the members, every divine service, every meeting, and every visit has been a highlight for me. I have even found my interactions with the employees in the Church office to be very strengthening and motivating. My travels to the various countries in our working area have also been very impressive so far. But my very first divine service for the departed as District Apostle, which I conducted in the congregation of Madrid, is definitely one of these special highlights. I am also very grateful that I can stay in touch with our Chief Apostle by text message every week.
I would like to fulfil my commission as a District Apostle with joy. There is nothing more beautiful than to be permitted to serve and work in the working area assigned to me with the gifts and abilities I have received from God.
District Apostle Jürg Zbinden is 60 years of age, married to Esther, and father of two children. On Sunday, 3 June 2018, Chief Apostle Jean-Luc Schneider appointed him as District Apostle over the working area of Switzerland. He thereby succeeds District Apostle Markus Fehlbaum. District Apostle Zbinden is responsible for 500 congregations that are home to some 56,000 members. The District Apostle district encompasses the countries of Andorra, Austria, Bulgaria, Cuba, the Czech Republic, Gibraltar, Hungary, Italy, Moldova, Romania, Switzerland, Slovakia, and Spain. The District Apostle is supported by Apostles Philipp Burren, Vasile Cone, Rolf Camenzind, and Thomas Deubel, along with another 2,500 ministers in priestly and diaconal ministries. He also enjoys the help of many teachers and administrative employees.
Photo: Daniel Rudolph