Milestones in the making
Pentecost in Vienna has what it takes to create milestones. So also in 1990, a year that went down in New Apostolic history. Besides being the first international conference of Apostles it was also the first international transmission of a Pentecost service. Follow us on a journey through time.
“Here is Vienna” – “Ici Vienne” – “Hier ist Wien”. This is what flickered across the screen in 830 congregations in 17 countries in Western and Eastern Europe on the first Sunday of June in 1990. It was the first time ever that a divine service of the New Apostolic Church was broadcast internationally. Since then such transmissions have come to shape the Pentecost experience for New Apostolic Christians.
“A piece of apostolic history has been written today,” Chief Apostle Fehr said at the end of the divine service. But he was not referring to the virtual gathering via satellite but the face-to-face meetings in Vienna. It was the first time that the New Apostolic Church had invited all Apostles for a conference. And 218 Apostles followed the invitation. Only three could not make it.
A jungle of regulations and tangled cables
Three days before, on Thursday: “It takes unity to complete God’s work.” This is how Chief Apostle Fehr explained the purpose of the conference when he welcomed the Apostles on the first evening. The cultural differences around the world are great, he continued. “We stick to our customs and respect each other,” he said, adding: “We want to be one in the mind and spirit of Christ.”
At that time, the OB van and the transmission team were still on the road. They had left Frankfurt (Germany) at nine o’clock that morning, arriving in Austria in the wee hours of the morning. A few hours of sleep had to suffice for the team. They had to get a move on and set up their equipment in the Austria Centre: five cameras and thirty microphones had to be installed and some 8,000 metres of cables laid.
In the meantime, events of historical significance were taking place in the conference: the New Apostolic Church International (NACI), as a legal entity, was elected to succeed the International Apostles’ Council. The Apostles discussed and approved the Statutes, the jungle of regulations that governs the new association under Swiss law.
Tests and rehearsals with varying degrees of success
Things are not running as smoothly for the OB team. A test transmission that had been planned at noon failed. A second attempt succeeds: at 6.20 p.m. the broadcast is set to go. A huge hurdle has been taken.
Saturday afternoon. There is not much time. The dress rehearsal for the choir and orchestra has been scheduled for two in the afternoon. But the technical equipment is a little temperamental: a cable is too short, there is no transmission signal, and one of the cameras has decided to strike. The OB team has to do without them when the Chief Apostle and the 218 Apostles enter the Austria Center for the concert. Camera one is on the Chief Apostle as he walks into the auditorium. Camera two takes over when he steps behind the altar …
“Beyond, where clouds no more appear” is the title of the musical work that made this concert unforgettable.
72,000 kilometres in a tenth of a second
Breakfast outside … Sunday is the most important day for the OB team. By 8.30 a.m. everybody has taken their positions. At nine o’clock the whole team breathes a sigh of relief: a connection has been established to the satellite. The divine service can begin.
At 10.09 a.m. Chief Apostle Fehr reads the Bible text. It is 2 Corinthians 13: 14. A satellite dish measuring five metres in diameter sends the audio and video signals to a telecommunication satellite, which distributes the signals across Europe. Satellite dishes on 830 church buildings receive the broadcast.
10.09 a.m. and 0.27 seconds. In the churches, huge projectors with a 150-centimetre screen have been set up behind the altars. Exactly 272,526 people hear and see the Chief Apostle begin and end the divine service with the words: “The communion of the Holy Spirit be with you all.”