Like a father

It was always there, a large capital “F” in his calendar. And it did not stand for “free”, but for the word “family”. This is how Chief Apostle Hans Urwyler regularly scheduled time for his loved ones.

He has gone down in the annals of the New Apostolic Church above all as the father of personal responsibility. At first, it was simply a question of allowing homosexuals and people living together access to Holy Communion. This then marked the beginning of the end of official paternalism by Church representatives, who even went so far as to interfere in the private lives of their members.

Likewise, his appeal to all ministers and function bearers to follow the example of the Chief Apostle and make time for their families was a small revolution—at a time when it was completely normal to devote every day of the week to the service of the Church, between choir practices, divine services, testifying, and meetings for ministers.

History and the present

For Hans Urwyler, born in 1925 in Berne (Switzerland), family was a historical foundation: he was able trace the history of his ancestors, the Plüss family, back three hundred years. As Huguenots they had fled the south of France for Switzerland because of their faith. He often spoke about his grandfather, Bishop Hans Plüss, with deep respect. He carried his first name. It was through him that the family became New Apostolic in 1905.

For the Chief Apostle, family was above all an experience to be enjoyed in the present, even if his ministry left him painfully little time. It was exactly because of this that, shortly before his sixtieth birthday, he marked an extra large “F” in his calendar and rounded up the entire Urwyler-Plüss clan. A Saturday dinner was followed by a Sunday service—in the congregation of Schwarzenburg, where his father had been rector, where he had met his wife, and in which his brother was now the rector in the ministry of an Evangelist.

Stay in the hearts

The love Hans Urwyler felt for his family touched the hearts of many sisters and brothers. For example, in 1987, when he expressed his gratitude to the musicians after a concert the evening before the Pentecost service in Frankfurt am Main (Germany): “I still have a sideline, that of a grandfather. However, I only do it part-time,” he said, and reported about a particular day when he was looking after his youngest grandson. “When his parents came to pick him up in the evening, he wrapped his arms around my leg and said only one word: dabiebe.” [Translator's note: this is Swiss-German for dableiben (= stay)].

“This is how I feel right now. I would love to stay. It was peaceful and a preparation for the divine service as I could not have imagined it,” the Chief Apostle thanked the musicians. “And if we all share the same sentiment, that when we are in divine service and wherever else we might be in God’s work, and always keep in mind that little word in the Swiss-German dialect dabiebe (stay), then everything will be fine.”

Chief Apostle Hans Urwyler passed away in the circle of his family 25 years ago on 17 November 1994. His loving and fatherly nature left traces in the worldwide family of New Apostolic brothers and sisters.

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Andreas Rother
Chief Apostle, People/Personalities