Europe and Canada switch over to transmissions

All activities in all New Apostolic congregations throughout Europe have been cancelled with immediate effect. This was the decision made by the Chief Apostle and District Apostles earlier today. And still there will be divine services—but of a somewhat different nature.

The eleventh week of the calendar was quite a turbulent one for all lead ministers, ranging from district rectors to District Apostles: while all congregational events were already cancelled as of Tuesday in Italy due to the corona pandemic, the rest of Europe still managed to celebrate Holy Communion in midweek services across the continent. And while Western Germany had already cancelled the Sunday divine service throughout the District Church by the previous Saturday evening, some of the members of Southern Germany were still able to gather as usual.

Emergency measure: a pause in the congregations

Behind these measures were the various prescriptions and recommendations of local authorities. Effective immediately, however, a uniform decision has now been made: “all divine services and other Church activities in all districts and congregations throughout Europe will be cancelled until Thursday, 2 April 2020,” according to an official statement on www.nak.org.

This is just one of the measures which the Chief Apostle and the European District Apostles discussed in a telephone conference this morning. Another such measure is that funeral ceremonies will only be permitted in a small circle at either the cemetery or crematorium. And personal pastoral care visits are reduced to cases of absolute emergency only.

Purpose: reducing the risk for all

The reason for this has already been described by the District Apostles in letters to the members of their working areas: the aim is to reduce the dangers of the corona pandemic for all. Doctors are assuming that a large part of the population will definitely become infected with the virus, and that a certain percentage will even need intensive medical care.

If too many people fall ill at the same time, there may not be sufficient resources to provide the necessary care for everyone, which would cause even more people to die. For this reason it is important to stretch the infection phase out over a longer period. This will work best if people avoid personal contact with others.

Alternative: transmission services at home

Nevertheless, the District Apostles do not want to leave our brothers and sisters without divine service or pastoral care in these troubled times. It is for this reason that the European District Churches will make divine services on 22 and 29 March available to members by telephone, IPTV, and YouTube streaming—albeit without Holy Communion, but still incorporating the absolution and the Lord’s Prayer.

This decision follows the template that was already put into practice over the past weekend. In some places, congregations were able to make telephone and video transmissions of their services available at short notice. In other areas, for example, in Austria and Switzerland, there was already a central transmission.

The live-streamed service by the New Apostolic Church of Western Germany caused quite a stir on YouTube. Including telephone and IPTV participants, this divine service was viewed in nearly 20,000 receiving stations, with an average of two to three viewers or listeners at each.

Tension over the international situation

Even though the pandemic currently seems to be focused on Europe, the situation on other continents is also becoming more serious. For example, the District Church USA has introduced special cautionary measures for those attending divine services, and Canada has taken the preventative step of cancelling all congregational services and activities until 5 April. The country is traditionally well equipped for divine service transmissions.

In Africa, the documented number of infections is relatively low. So it is that measures in the District Churches Zambia, Malawi, Zimbabwe and the Democratic Republic of Congo-West are still only limited to special instructions for hygiene and conduct. In South Africa, where the government has declared the situation a national disaster, the crisis team of the Church’s leadership has been convened. A video transmission by the District Apostle has been announced for this Tuesday.

A further telephone conference between the European District Apostles and the Chief Apostle has been scheduled for 30 March. At that point, they plan to reassess the latest developments and decide on the next steps to be taken.

For extensive reports on last Sunday’s live-streamed divine service, please visit nak.org and nak-west.de.

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Andreas Rother
16.03.2020
Divine service, Congregational life