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Friday, 15 April 2016

Refugees, Interfaith dialogue, youth ministry: lively issues in Christ Church Vienna

Men's Breakfast

From Friday 8 April until Sunday 10th, I was at Christ Church Vienna for a parish visit. This is a very active congregation, and a very international one.

Among the many parish activities is a "Men's Breakfast". Some wonder about whether there should be single gender groups in the modern Church, and that is a good question. However this meeting every couple of months is not intended to be a type of secret den where men can plot together to keep hold of power! Far from it, it simply recognises that very often in the life of the Church, for a variety of reasons, many men seem to be less inclined to engage in the usual (mixed) study and fellowship groups. The Christ Church Men's Breakfast provides space for this encounter. It is a follow up from one of the aims of the parish mission statement: "To engage with one another through the shared experience of worship, education and social events".

On Saturday I was pleased to be invited to the group, to lead a discussion on interfaith dialogue, I focussed on what I had experienced at the Marrakech Meeting in January when over 300 Muslim scholars and political leaders came together to explore the significance of the Charter of Medina for today. The Charter is a model for majority Muslim societies to champion the protection of religious minorities within their societies. There was an interesting discussion around the table coming from the rich and varied experiences of relations with Muslims in Austria and Muslim societies around the world. Some, including the Assistant Curate, the Revd Mike Waltner, are directly engaged in dialogue with Muslims presently, or have been in the past.

Church Council Meeting

At the meeting of the Church Council a variety of mission challenges were discussed including ministry with young people (Christ Church has a flourishing Sunday School) and lay leadership development. A major focus of the meeting was on Safeguarding matters in the life of the Church.

A parish dinner meeting was arranged for me to speak about the refugee situation and its impact, especially in our diocese. I was impressed by the personal commitment and insight of the parishioners on this complex issue. Many have been volunteering in Vienna to assist refugees and some are hosting refugees in their own homes, so their experience is very close to home.

Judy Castelino with a refugee she is caring for in her home

The Sunday Liturgy was an Eastertide celebration of new and renewed faith, with Baptism and Confirmation and Reception into the Church of England of some who have been previously episcopally confirmed.

As one adult was baptised and the other candidates renewed their baptismal faith at the font, the congregation were sprinkled with the baptismal water, reminding them of their own incorporation into Christ's Body.

A sign of the responsibility taken on in Confirmation is shown in the intercessions when the candidates lead the congregation in offering the intercessions for the Church and for the World. At the end of the service the candidates lead the congregation out into the world where their service as Christians is lived out every day.

The Chaplain of Christ Church, Vienna, the Revd Canon Patrick Curran, until last year was also the Archdeacon of the East, so in effect he had two full-time jobs. Now he is able to devote more time to the leadership and pastoral care of this lively community. The Assistant Curate, the Revd Mike Waltner, seen in the photo above, second from the right.

Fr Patrick can be seen below at a hostelry close to Christ Church, tempting me with a local brew.

The Revd Canon Patrick Curran

Many pictures are courtesy of Judy Castelino.


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