United over thousands of kilometres

The pandemic forces people to keep a distance from one another. This also applies to the regularly occurring conference of the international Church leaders. In some respects, a digital conference of the District Apostles is uncharted territory, and the preparations for it were quite complex and involving.

The Canadians and Americans will appear on the screen at eight o’clock in the morning. In terms of the local time of day, they will be the first to dial in. By contrast, the day will be nearly over for Australian District Apostle Peter Schulte. He will join the conference in the middle of the night. In between there are several other time zones ranging from South America to Indonesia, from Germany to South Africa.

Legally necessary, but also desired for content

Why does there have to be a District Apostle Meeting in such times of constraint anyway? There are at least two reasons. One of these is of a legal nature: the Statutes of the New Apostolic Church International—whose membership is comprised of the District Apostles of the world—state that a DAM must take place twice each year. The other reason has to do with the content of such conferences: Chief Apostle Jean-Luc Schneider, who chairs the conference, wants to continue working on the agenda items that are currently up for discussion. On this occasion, the members of the District Apostle Meeting will explore in detail the topic of “Man and woman in the image of God”. A general discussion on such forward-looking content should not be held up by the corona pandemic—even though the participants are all agreed that a virtual discussion does not offer the same advantages a meeting in person.

Following some common rules

Ehrich Senn, the administrative head of the New Apostolic Church International, knows what he is talking about when it comes to such meetings: “The important thing with video conferences is that all participants know and follow the rules: microphones stay off for all those who are not talking, and the microphone of the person talking must be on. And it is a definite advantage to speak slowly and clearly.” Talking at the same time or interrupting what is being said is not only improper, but also prevents the other participants from understanding what has been said. Erich Senn: “When you think about the distances the sound and picture have to cover, it is already quite a miracle that anyone can understand anyone else in the first place.”

Several District Apostles will dial into the conference from home. District Apostle John Kriel will meet with District Apostle Helper Patrick Mkhwanazi in a Johannesburg (South Africa) conference centre with good Internet reception. Most of the participants will join from their respective offices. Erich Senn: “With 25 receiving stations and over 30 participants, one or the other will occasionally drop out, only to register again immediately afterward. And you always have to expect blackouts in Africa. Plan B is always important, namely participation by telephone.”

A successful trial conference

A trial conference has already taken place and worked perfectly. The international Church leaders are quite accustomed to digital conferences. Many of the District Apostle Areas cover vast regions. Meetings concerning organisational and administrative content can be held quickly and inexpensively via video conference. This was already the case before the pandemic.

Although not all District Apostles were able to participate in the trial conference, as some of them had external appointments—for example, District Apostle Michael Deppner from Kinshasa (Democratic Republic of Congo) was travelling through the bush with very little prospect of an Internet connection—all were at least represented by an office employee. The audio and video quality was good for the most part. Thus there are no further obstacles in the way of the digital District Apostle Meeting at the end of November.

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