Where two or three thousand are gathered

A divine service with over 7,000 participants, a concert with around 2,000 performers, and a Church Convention that takes over an entire city. These major events continue to have an impact, whether on a small or large scale or as a catchy tune.

Faith becomes concrete

According to Hebrews 11: 1, what role does faith play in navigating adversity through prayer? Young people answered these and similar questions in a quiz. They came together at the Olympic Youth Development Centre in Lusaka, Zambia, on 20 April for a two-day youth event. District Apostle Kububa Soko had invited the youth from the Lusaka West, East, and Central Apostle districts. It was the highlight after two weeks of cleaning and scrubbing.

On Saturday, the young people worked out the meaning and importance of prayer based on our annual motto, the Catechism, and the Bible. Then there were quizzes to test their knowledge on various subjects of the doctrine. The programme also included workshops on other spiritual and doctrinal topics, such as the importance of the divine service. On Sunday, District Apostle Kububa Soko then conducted a divine service for more than 7,000 young people. As Bible text he used John 15: 9–11: “As the Father loved Me, I also have loved you; abide in My love. If you keep My commandments, you will abide in My love, just as I have kept My Father’s commandments and abide in His love. These things I have spoken to you, that My joy may remain in you, and that your joy may be full.” Special was that nine couples received a blessing on their engagement. A choir of 400 young singers provided the music for the service.

The young people had prepared themselves for this youth service with charity activities that took place two weeks before the actual service. And in these two weeks they cleaned a total of ten health care facilities, painted two health care facilities, distributed donations to prisons, donated food hampers to aged members, and cleaned the homes of some aged members. They called the event “Charity by 5,000 Youths” because it had been expected that fewer would lend a hand.

By the way, the answer to the quiz question is: “Faith serves as a foundation for hope, providing assurance even in challenging circumstances when navigating adversity through prayer.”

The kingdom of heaven is open to all

Around 1,500 singers, a hundred instrumentalists, 15 soloists, and a conductor gave over 11,000 spectators the feeling of having come a little closer to the kingdom of heaven at two concerts. It was the biggest musical event of the New Apostolic Church of Northern and Eastern Germany since the pop oratorio “I am”.

Some time after “I am”, District Apostle Rüdiger Krause approached conductor Gerrit Junge, who is also head of the district’s music department, and asked him to organise another such event. With the vague idea of making something about the Beatitudes, he and composer Sigi Hänger first locked themselves away to brainstorm in peace. Together with composer Christoph Oellig and director Benjamin Stoll, a story was created about the privileged Marc, who involuntarily and temporarily becomes homeless and finds out what life on the street is like. Marc gets to know some homeless people, their freedom, and how hard life on the street is and learns that God’s miracles go beyond death and that the kingdom of heaven is also open to him. After many regional rehearsals and a large dress rehearsal, the musicians were able to bring Jesus’ words from Matthew 5: 3–11 into the present day on 20 April in Hamburg and on 27 April in Erfurt (both in Germany). They did this with various musical genres from rap to pop to classical music.

Although the project originated in the New Apostolic Church, it is ecumenical. Not only because three denominations are represented in the closest planning team alone. The Council of Christian Churches in Germany supported the pop oratorio from the outset. Not all choristers are members of the New Apostolic Church. “This is very important to me,” says Gerrit Junge, “because this is not a message of the New Apostolic Church that we want to take out into the world, but a Christian and, above all, value-orientated one.”

With lots of music, but also with a touching story and the support of many helpers, the almost 2000-year-old Beatitudes were brought to life.

Come to Karlsruhe

‌Faith had a firm grip on the city of Karlsruhe in Germany over Ascension. The colours blue, orange, pink, turquoise, purple, green, and violet could be seen everywhere in the city over the long Ascension Day weekend. The colours were also used in the logo with the cross and on the scarves that the participants of the Church Convention received in the welcome pack, among other things. So you always had the feeling of togetherness on the way to the various events that were offered over the weekend.

The motto of the South German Church Convention was “Come Here” and with over a hundred events and free admission to the zoo and the city’s museums, there was plenty to do over the four days. There were concerts, panel discussions, lectures, and various booths spread over the city. So people not only came into contact with brothers and sisters from their own district or with members from other parts of Germany, but also with interested passersby. Ecumenism was not only the focus of major panel discussions with representatives of the World Council of Christian Churches (WCC) or Father Anselm Grün. Visitors could also visit the WCC stand on the market square and engage in ecumenical dialogue on a smaller scale. Or they could queue for a WCC sweet. In the Garden of Religions, people even engaged in interdenominational dialogue.

District Apostle Michael Ehrich conducted the closing divine service with the Bible text from Psalm 66: 5: “Come and see the works of God; He is awesome in His doing toward the sons of men.” The good works of God are the creation and mission of His Son, whose good works are an example for believers: look up to God, do His will, and serve in humbleness.

This marked the end of the Church Convention and the participants were called upon to “Go forth!” and spread the joy and infect others with it. On a smaller scale, for example, a sticker on the market square near the stage, where various bands, choirs, and orchestras impressed many random visitors over the weekend, it said: “It’s nice here, but have you ever been to a divine service of the New Apostolic Church?”