One year on…... with warm Greetings to all of you from Vienna
by Christine and Malcolm Allsop
One year on since leaving Johannesburg – Michaelmas, Michaël Merle`s Ordination and the next Advent Fair already looming – and since our landing here in another new home, this time a smaller city but living much more in the hustle and bustle.
We have four tram routes on our door step, (to and over the Danube, to the city centre, or out to the Wienerwald) and a bus that goes directly past the city centre Christian Community address.
We also walk quite often, (when the bus isn't due) and continue to enjoy the charm of the 19th Century architecture and the efforts to integrate the new as well. Just the garden is missing, but herbs in pots are taking over the kitchen window sill at least.
As a second congregation gradually established itself in one of the suburbs, and finally a small church could be build there a couple of years ago, there was the fear that the old Wien-Mitte congregation would suffer, even expire, but it hasn't been the case, rather the two centres are existing alongside each other, sharing the three priests, the festivals, programme highlights and finances. In short, a healthy development. As in Jo`burg, the congregational life nurtures a good mix of cultural events (the arts) and “content” (talks, discussion, study groups). Just no puppet theatre!
A feature that has developed here over the years is a good working relationship with other, predominately Christian groups. (Others – Muslim, Jewish, Hindu, etc. - appear sporadically at meetings and events.) It's refreshing to experience the genuine tolerance and openness towards us, and to have the framework in which to reciprocate. With the Catholic Church – traditionally the strongest denomination here – we also meet on a bi-annual basis, to compare and contrast our understanding of Christianity and how that manifests in their and our Sacraments.
In the Summer Break I had the long overdue opportunity to visit friends in Scotland, (no longer so very far away) and look in on Peter and Judy Holman who were just settling into new routines in Edinburgh. Lots of walking and nature, from dingy dells to rugged hills, canals and coastal routes. Then Christine and I explored some of our still new surroundings here; the mountains and lakes South of Vienna towards Slovenia and circling back North along the Hungarian border. The proximity to these Eastern countries is very tangible; family names over generations, Austrian menus full of recipes from the East, musical influences and holiday destinations, e.g. Croatia, Czech Republic.
Europe, this luxurious corner of the world, wrestles with its own problems. How to unite a very varied mix of nationalities (from Dutch to Greek, French to Polish) and also do justice to the uniqueness, strengths and weaknesses of each land. Inevitably the demands of a “Brexit” are exhausting vast reserves of time and energy for all concerned, notwithstanding the worry that other countries might follow suit.
A word of consolation too regarding corruption; the diesel scandal here in flag-ship car manufacturers, for example, reminds us that it’s a learning curve, a long learning curve, when it comes to using our freedom and honouring our fellow human being's space, and rights as well.
The dust settles, I find my feet in the German language little by little, (grateful for the fortnightly practice Saturdays in Dover Street), breathe out as Christine also builds her network of contacts and clients, and with the first shades of Autumn feel the completion of a year. (Oh, how stunning the Autumn colours were in the Norwegian woods just after leaving South Africa.)
Therewith too, pictures of places and people from our four years in Johannesburg gradually re-surface, and smile.
Where are they now?
Members of our congregation move away from Johannesburg. Whenever they visit us they feel immediately at home. In part this is through receiving our monthly newsletter. We too would hope to remain connected through these posts and learn something of their lives and where they are now living.