The team has got the hang of it

The blue shelf in the background is unmistakable. This piece of furniture always appears when a new year begins, namely in the Chief Apostle’s New Year’s address. In a supporting role this time around: a piece of invisible art.

Once each year, a certain picture takes a little trip. It is a small painting that likely dates back to the tenure of Chief Apostle Richard Fehr. And it hangs in an office in Zurich where few have ever set foot, but with which many are familiar—from the Chief Apostle’s New Year’s address, that is. However, the picture needs to be moved every year because it disturbs the background.

International teamwork

Technology rolls along the corridors of the head office of the New Apostolic Church International. It is a spectacle of teamwork that transcends borders: the camera and assorted equipment have been provided by the Church in Switzerland, the cameraman (and editor) has come from the south of Germany and the editorial team has travelled in from the western part of Germany. The whole production is directed by the German-Swiss Simon Heiniger, the new head of the NACI communications services. And as expected, there is a Frenchman seated in front of the camera.

The equipment is set up in less than an hour. It used to take quite a bit longer in the past, but by now the team is familiar with the equipment and the premises. After all, they now have it down to something of a routine: this recording will be the ninth edition of the New Year’s address. One of them was created in the video studio of the Regional Church of Western Germany, another in a church building in Frankfurt, and the other seven were produced right here in Switzerland.

Putting on the brakes!

The edge of one hand rests on the desk, thumb pressed down on the fingers, which are almost bent into a fist. No, recordings such as this will never become a favourite pastime for Jean-Luc Schneider. Of course, he is actually quite accustomed to cameras, but that is usually in the context of a divine service in the presence of the congregation. This is different. The first language version is halfway through, and the hand opens to make a gesture. Now the speaker is moving along nicely.

The New Year’s address is recorded in three languages. To warm up, there is German, which the Chief Apostle already learned with commendable determination as a young student. Then comes English, which he mastered as a Chief Apostle Helper—simply because that is the international language of the Church. And as a reward at the end, the Frenchman is allowed to feel at home in his native French.

It is at this point that the team has to apply the brakes from time to time, since the viewers would hardly be able to keep up at the pace of the presenter. When he is at home in his own mother tongue, it’s not just the hands that play along. Even the eyebrows hardly ever stand still.

What is the new motto for the year?

Every New Year’s address is a premiere for the respective motto of the year: “Labour in love”, “Joy in Christ”, “Victory with Christ”, “Glory be to God, our Father!”, “Faithful to Christ”, “Rich in Christ”, “Christ makes free”, “Christ, our future”, “Together in Christ”. These were the mottos for the years 2014 through 2022.

And Christ is once again the focal point of the motto for 2023: “Serving and reigning with Christ”. Reigning? Ruling? Exercising power? Certainly not! The New Year’s address explains exactly how we are to understand these words and put them into practice.

“Okay we’re done now. Done!” Chief Apostle Schneider laughs and turns away from the camera. “You’ll have to manage with that now,” he says as he smiles at the team. But the group has what it needs: six recordings, two in each language—the team can work with that. The team dismantles all the equipment. The picture can now be put back in its place—until the time comes to move it again next year.

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Andreas Rother
Serving and reigning with Christ , Media, motto