Backstage at the District Apostles’ meeting

Manuela van Husen walks down the hotel hallway with a crowbar in her hand. She is on a special assignment. Here is a look at all that is involved in organising such a meeting––and what all can happen.

‌The District Apostles meet twice a year: once at the head office of the New Apostolic Church International (NACI) in Zurich, Switzerland, and the other time at alternating sites in Europe, Africa, America, Asia, or Australia, depending on who is hosting the conference.

If the meeting takes place in Zurich, the preparations begin a full year in advance with the booking of a hotel. It is not possible to get around 25 rooms at short notice, especially not on dates like Pentecost. ‌The location of the hotel is decisive, explains Manuela van Husen, the Chief Apostle’s secretary: centrally located between the airport, the NACI building, and the place where the Pentecost service will take place on the Sunday.

And then the detailed planning begins. Who will be arriving when and by which means of transport? Where, when, and what will there be to eat? Who needs which invitations to apply for their visa?

Spring cleaning at the head office

Pentecost in Zurich means extra work for Roger Mattenberger. He normally makes sure that the conference and break rooms at the NACI building are suitably furnished and gets them shipshape.

But this time it is spring in the northern hemisphere so he also wants the grounds to be spotless. That means weeding, cleaning the pond, and scrubbing the tiles. “Nobody expects this and nobody probably sees it, but it’s important to me.”

More than one meeting

For Simon Heiniger it is time to deal with the content of the various items on the agenda. Among other things, he oversees project management at NACI. The agenda comes from the Chief Apostle or from previous sessions. Often the international president of the Church initiates a matter, the District Apostles deliberate about it, and additional information or preparatory work is required.

‌As a result, the same topic comes up several times. “It is good and important that the Church leaders have the time and the protected space to discuss things—perhaps even controversially—in peace.” This is how Heiniger, who is also head of communication services, explains an effect that not only affects decision-makers in the Church.

Frank Stegmaier is also busy drawing up an agenda. He is the head of administration and finance at NACI. His field is the Delegates’ Meeting. Although it overlaps with the District Apostle Meeting in terms of personnel, the topics here are not of a spiritual nature, but of a decidedly organisational nature.

Ready for any situation

Monday: The first District Apostles and their assistants arrive. It is not just the Americans and Australians who have more than than a twelve-hour trip. The route from South Africa to Europe usually goes via Dubai.

The countdown is on: Roger Mattenberger picks up the minibus from the car hire company at nine in the morning. He has to be at the airport by half past nine. Meanwhile, Manuela van Husen rushes down the hotel’s hallways. Someone has forgotten their mobile charger? That can be solved. The key for the suitcase is still at home? This is a job for a crowbar.

United in word and deed

The meeting is in full swing. Samuel Mueller is glad that he has been able to translate the necessary documents in advance. He would rather interpret a divine service than a District Apostles’ meeting or even a Delegates’ Meeting. Because he is more familiar with the language of church matters than business matters.

It is three o’clock in the afternoon. Mental fatigue sets in. The interpreter begins to yawn in his booth. Surprised, he puts his hand in front of his mouth. Because all the District Apostles and their assistants who are listening to him over headphones suddenly start yawning too.

Before, after, in between

Simon Heiniger cannot afford to be tired, not yet. Around midnight, he and Sam Mueller can be found in the hotel lobby fingers flying across the keyboard of a notebook. The consultations today went well. A draft resolution is needed for tomorrow.

He still has a few days ahead of him before he can throw himself on the sofa at home on Sunday afternoon for a short breather before Monday calls with more work. Writing minutes, carrying out orders, and preparing documents for the next session.

Indeed, everyone involved agrees that as one conference ends, the next one begins.

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