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Interview with Apostle Hans-Jürgen Bauer, head of the ICC 2014 planning group

Following years of planning and organization, the ICC now belongs to the past. What is your personal résumé of the ICC?
My very personal feelings tell me that everyone was able to experience the wealth of our faith and fellowship at the ICC. A fascinating capacity for enthusiasm could be sensed among all participants, and the joy experienced by each individual was shared with one another.

Our Chief Apostle conveyed a wonderful surety of faith to all of us, or at least that is how I experienced it. And in my opinion the numerous encounters and dialogs also enabled one to experience a personal strengthening in faith.

The words "It is more blessed to give than to receive" which our Chief Apostle brought home to us in the Pentecost service are truly a valuable pointer. That this "giving" is rated higher than "receiving" could be experienced by everyone involved in planning of the Church Convention or making a contribution during the Pentecost weekend.

As a personal résumé I additionally perceived that our Church has a wonderful future not only in Africa but also in Europe. I could feel that God has control of everything and that we can rely on Him completely.

How would you summarize the ICC in a nutshell?
"Experienced kingdom of God" – as based on the motto.

All participants at the ICC could experience three unique days with encounters, fellowship and mutual joy, and could take home many valuable impulses. What did you take along personally from the ICC?
I recognize it as great grace to be permitted to be a child of God being prepared along with many believers for the return of Christ. This joy was increased even further by my experiences at the International Church Convention.

As head of the planning group you had the main responsibility for the event. How did you experience the ICC? Were you also able to attend individual program contributions?
I personally experienced the Church Convention from two different angles. On the one hand, I felt the magnificent fellowship full of joy and peace probably like every other participant. And an atmosphere which truly exceeded my personal expectations.

Apart from the divine service – which I do not wish to characterize as a program contribution – I could only participate in one event: the panel discussion with our Chief Apostle, and this greatly fascinated me. Otherwise I briefly looked in at various events and experienced a wonderful atmosphere.

As a result of my responsibilities, I of course experienced the Church Convention with a certain degree of tension and the hope that it would be a success.

When did planning and organization of the ICC begin?
Planning of the International Church Convention started about two years before the event took place. The planning group was given the assignment to conceive and organize the event in a manner in which it was then actually carried out.

The thought had originally arisen in summer 2011 after the first South German Youth Day – which was also held in Munich's Olympic Park – that a Church Convention could be carried out for the District Church South Germany in 2013. However, when the decision was made to hold an International Church Convention over the Pentecost weekend 2014, planning started in May 2012.

The ICC was a singular occurrence in the New Apostolic world so far. Why was it held at all? What were the objectives to be reached?
I think one of the reasons was certainly to meet the desire of the middle-aged and older members in our Church to experience such fellowship, and not just the youth.

All age groups ranging from children to seniors should be granted the opportunity to experience such fellowship together. From my personal perception, this was an important reason for holding the ICC.

In my opinion, the objectives which could be reached with the ICC are highly diversified.
One objective of the Church Convention could perhaps be formulated that it would allow believers to strengthen their personal faith and make it experienced in numerous encounters. This was certainly a main objective which in turn included numerous other detailed objectives.

When I say detailed objectives I mean the feeling of being connected, the experiencing of surety in faith through the fellowship which could be relished. Joy could be strengthened, and certainly also increased for many, for example the joy resulting from prayers, through experiencing God, and through joint activities. But also one's own conviction concerning our doctrine which could be deepened at the Church Convention. And certainly the existing and experienced openness of our Church should be demonstrated and not just felt. Furthermore an increase in personal identification with our Church, and the experiencing of mutual bonds despite dissimilarities or cultural differences. Chief Apostle Urwyler once said words to the effect "It is different everywhere, but nevertheless the same" – one faith, one goal, becoming prepared for the return of Christ.

If I can refer to the motto of the Church Convention again: a further central objective was experiencing the kingdom of God. As it can be currently experienced in its beautiful diversity and marvellous facets.

In your opinion, were the objectives reached?
Based on the many positive feedbacks I received from participants and on my personal evaluation, I would say "Yes". The objectives were most certainly reached for the moment.

But I intentionally say "for the moment". How ongoing the experiences of the Church Convention and the resulting impulses are, will have to be demonstrated in the everyday life of the congregations. What the results are depends on each individual. "We are the Church" – simply everyone belonging to the Church – and it is our task to now make sure that as many impulses as possible are addressed, experienced and implemented in the congregations.

And all this with regard to the valuable impulse of our Chief Apostle in the service on Pentecost Sunday: "It is more blessed to give than to receive".

How did you attack the organization of the huge project ICC?
An attempt was made to approach the organization as professionally as possible, within the limitations of voluntary work. The approach was similar to that used for large projects in other sectors.

A planning group was initially established, tasks and organizational structures were then defined, deadline and project plans were created, milestones defined, and so on. However, the great difference compared to other projects is certainly the fact that prayers for correct guidance played an important and decisive role – and this was always a great concern of mine.

Ultimately everything concerned serving the believers and the Church in the mind and spirit of Christ. This is therefore a different level compared to projects perhaps known from our occupation. But the tools of the trade are the same as in other sectors.

The ICC had an even greater dimension than the European Youth Day (EYD) which took place in Düsseldorf in 2009. Was it possible to exchange experiences with persons who had already organized such large events?
The ICC planning group included Brothers who had already been responsible for important sectors at the EYD. It was therefore possible to fall back on these experiences.

Since I was also part of the planning group of the EYD I can say that the formats of the two events were quite different. The circle of participants as well as the objectives were highly different, and the preparation time for the ICC was far shorter than that for the EYD.

One is of course always dependent on the budget. It would most certainly have been "nice to have" much more at the ICC, and many ideas still existed. But it was necessary to appropriately use the provided resources, and even if the comparison is somewhat poor, I wish to emphasize that we had to be ultimately guided by the motto "need to have".

May I emphasize that it is always essential to apply the existing and approved resources as economically and responsibly as possible and not to overdo things.

What many participants greatly impressed and enjoyed were the event grounds, the Olympic Park in Munich which was erected for the Olympic Games in 1972. Had there been an event there similar to the ICC since 1972?
On one occasion I had a very interesting discussion with directors of the Olympiapark München GmbH (OMG). They told me that there had never been an event in the Olympic Park with a format such as the ICC since the Olympic Games in 1972, in other words never an event with such a comprehensive program with respect to the large number of individual events as well as the many locations which had to be equipped.

A further main area at the ICC was the voluntary commitment of thousands of helpers. How was this possible?
This was only possible because every individual – as I frequently saw – often went beyond everything humanly possible, even beyond that which could ever be expected. Every involved person made a full contribution and sometimes even had to "suffer ". If I can express it in this manner: all were even prepared to suffer a little for the matter, to give more than was perhaps possible. And all this for the well-being of the community and success.

I absolutely also wish to emphasize that God was tremendously with us and that we experienced Him in many things. Without His help, everything would certainly not have been possible.

Relevant in this context is an e-mail which I received recently. A Brother wrote to me who has great occupational experience concerning large events. Permit me to cite a few words from this mail: "I can say this as a result of my experience gained from many large business events: they simply cannot be compared with the ICC, despite the use of professional agencies. The performance and commitment of all involved persons cannot be esteemed high enough." And I wish to join in with this praise to all those involved, and simply pass on all glory to God!

Many thousands of ICC participants and other visitors were present in the Olympic Park during the ICC. How was it possible to channel the huge numbers on the grounds?
It was already taken into consideration when establishing the event program that the stream of visitors had to be slightly scattered. For example, the interests of the various groups were considered and the program contributions appropriately positioned with regards to time and location. Other control possibilities on the grounds were, for example, the signposts or the free shuttle services.

There was an incredibly versatile program with lectures, concerts, workshops, exhibitions etc. during the three days of the ICC. Which program items were particularly well received?
The divine service on Pentecost Sunday with our Chief Apostle was and will remain for me the absolute highlight, although I do not wish to refer to this as a program contribution but as a completely separate moment. For the service has a special dimension for me and my feelings will never permit me to place it on a level with the other program items or refer to it as such in the customary sense.

As far as I can estimate, all events included in the program were well-attended. Whereby the panel discussion with our Chief Apostle must most certainly be emphasized. As a result of the transmission to several other event locations, the highest number of persons could participate in this discussion. The members were highly interested in hearing what our Chief Apostle will say, and how the panel will comment on the topical questions we have.

But other program items such as the devotionals – which are not so familiar with us – where really something special for the members. The form in which the devotionals were carried out, with arrangement, music and theme, was very well received by the attendees.

Many other things come into mind – also the final concert was a great success, I have heard this from everywhere. Or the male choir from South Africa and the Angklung music from Southeast Asia were received enthusiastically …

Altogether, I wish to say that the Church Convention lived from the diversity of events.

All age groups were invited to the ICC. But what age group was represented most?

My feelings, but also from the numbers I know from the advanced ticket sales, tell me that the group between 40 and 60 was represented most. This is the group which has never experienced such an event and was therefore particularly interested in making such an experience. And I am quite sure that particular expectations existed and that the Church Convention also triggered special enthusiasm exactly among this age group.

As far as the organization was concerned, was there anything that caused great headaches prior to the ICC?
One concern was most certainly whether everything can be implemented as planned. The reason for this was that insufficient time was available for carrying out all sound checks or rehearsals. In addition, the Church Convention was a huge logistic challenge.

And as things simply are, one can plan, define and discuss everything exactly, one can follow-up, repeatedly inquire, and provide against contingencies … but from a certain point onwards one no longer has everything in one's hand. Then one must be able to rely on the many committed helpers.

That, all things considered, everything was successful from the viewpoint of the participants was and will remain for me a sign of God's special grace. And it is due to the commitment of all involved persons who went far beyond their possibilities and personal limits.

Looking back, what would you have done differently?

One could mention a few very detailed points, but the time is insufficient for this. But one thing is clear: with voluntary work – this is my awareness – we reach the limits of feasibility.

When one is responsible, one certainly also sees things which could be optimized. Certain things had been planned and then developed completely differently. And this will always be different depending on the event and the persons responsible. One will always be dependent on defined parameters, on the willingness to make a contribution, and on the reliability of those involved.

Perhaps one more thought in this context: as a visitor one often knows how one would have done it, what one could have done differently. But those who are responsible have to manage with things which exist and are feasible. As a participant one should therefore never be presumptuous and think that this or that could have been done better or carried out in a different manner… Whoever sees the matter correctly will realize that not everything is feasible.

Will there be another such Church Convention?
You should ask our Chief Apostle that! I have no authority to make a comment. Let's see what happens …

Do you wish to add anything else?
What is really important for me is to simply thank everyone. Truly, with all my heart and soul. To thank all who helped along, who made a contribution – and there were thousands … The Church Convention only became possible through this cooperation. Irrespective of who had what function, everyone who fulfilled their task had made a contribution to the success of the whole event. And that is simply marvellous!

Thank you for this interview.