Freedom reveals itself in connectedness

29. June 2020In DevotionalBy Karsten Risseeuw4 Minutes

Freedom is not the absence of limitations. It rather has to do with relationships. More precisely: It has to do with us and how we fulfill our lives in this world.

It is irrelevant whether it concerns the relationship to ourselves, to our fellow men, our life partner and spouse, or also the relationship to God. You even could enhance this idea to our work and obligations and to many more «things». Freedom is, how we experience and define any kind of relationship, be it personal or impersonal.

True freedom is the opposite of selfishness. It has more to do with self awareness and the freedom to commit. Commitment is the opposite of co-dependency, where people “need each other” and only commit to get the “prize of attention”. Truly free people commit and love because they acknowledge their uniqueness and confirm the otherness of other people involved. Love your neighbor as yourself.

In every relationship and in every respect we can only ever bring in ourselves. Martin Buber wrote about relationships:

“The free man is the one who wants without arbitrariness. He believes in reality; that is: he believes in the real connection of the real duality of I and you. He believes in destiny and that it needs him to fulfill it.”
(Martin Buber, I and Thou)

The free man is the man who believes that he is required for the relationship. Neither growth nor freedom is possible without connection, without relationship. It needs both decisions and commitment, but not as demarcation, but as relationship reality. Commitment as connectedness. It is not «freedom from», but «freedom to be and to do».

Freedom reveals itself straight out of any relationship. What we do shows our freedom.

«For this reason I bow my knees before the Father, from whom every family in heaven and on earth is named, that according to the riches of his glory he may grant you to be strengthened with power through his Spirit in your inner being, so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith—that you, being rooted and grounded in love, may have strength to comprehend with all the saints what is the breadth and length and height and depth, and to know the love of Christ that surpasses knowledge, that you may be filled with all the fullness of God.»
Ephesians 3:14-19

«For you were called to freedom, brothers. Only do not use your freedom as an opportunity for the flesh, but through love serve one another.»
Galatians 5:13

Subtle racism in Switzerland

Subtle racism in Switzerland

The press about the event "Let's talk about race".

13. June 2020In SocietyBy Karsten Risseeuw2 Minutes

(The rest of the article will be in German, as are the references, reflecting the local language.)

Am Samstag, dem 6. Juni 2020, fand in der Kirche Rotmonten ein Anlass mit dem Titel “Let’s Talk about Race” statt. Die offene Gesprächsrunde zu den Themen Rasse und Rassismus hat verschiedenste Menschen aller Altersgruppen zu einem gemeinsamen Gespräch zusammengebracht.

In den Bodensee Nachrichten vom 11. Juni 2020 erschien eine Zweidrittel-Seite mit einem Bericht des Anlasses. Enthalten war auch ein Interview mit Charmaine Strey zum Thema Rassismus in der Schweiz.

Learn more about racism in Switzerland and abroad

Learning about the origins of racism

Learning about the origins of racism

English and German articles | Englische und Deutsche Beiträge

9. June 2020In SocietyBy Karsten Risseeuw9 Minutes

To understand today’s racism, one must look back into history. Here are some noteworthy shortcuts to historic knowledge and how it works out in today’s society.

Article updated on June 26th, 2020.
Article updated on June 22nd, 2020.

English articles and videos

Deutschsprachige Beiträge und Videos finden Sie weiter unten.

The Atlantic slave trade (1400–1800)

Lesson by Anthony Hazard

Let’s get to the root of racial injustice

TedTalk by Megan Ming Francis

Megan Ming Francis is an Assistant Professor in the Department of Political Science at the University of Washington where she specializes in the study of American politics, race, and the development of constitutional law.

The symbols of systemic racism

— and how to take away their power

TedTalk by Paul Rucker

Multidisciplinary artist and TED Fellow Paul Rucker is unstitching the legacy of systemic racism in the United States. A collector of artifacts connected to the history of slavery – from branding irons and shackles to postcards depicting lynchings.

A Class Divided

Educational experiment about racism, by Jane Elliot

A must-watch if you care about education.

A Swiss-American view:

We must strive to be anti-racist

., Swiss perspectives in 10 languages.

Swiss-American Rose Wettstein argues that amid the global outcry over racism and discrimination, it’s time for each individual and each society to face reality and act.

We must strive to be anti-racist

Deutschsprachige Beiträge und Videos

English articles and videos can be found at the beginning of this article.

German talk about racism in Switzerland

Rassismus in der Schweiz unter der Lupe

18. April 2018. SRF Kultur, Sternstunde Religion

Rassismus ist in der Schweiz verbreitet und äussert sich im Alltag meist subtil. Am häufigsten werden dunkelhäutige Menschen rassistisch diskriminiert und auf ihre Herkunft reduziert. Dies zeigen neuere Studien. Eine Debatte über Rassismus und Diskriminierung in der Schweiz.

Schweizer Sklavenhandel:

Die Schweizer Sklavenhändler

30. Juni 2004. Handelszeitung.

«Der Versuch, sich aus der historischen Verantwortung zu stehlen, misslang kläglich. Denn neue, nun erstmals zugängliche Forschungen zeigen praktisch lückenlos auf, dass die Schweiz auf allen Ebenen aktiv in den Sklavenhandel involviert war.»

Die Schweizer Sklavenhändler

Rassismus in der Schweiz

Die Schweiz muss sich ihrem Rassismus stellen

., Schweizer Perspektiven in 10 Sprachen.

«Es gibt strukturellen Rassismus in der Schweiz und ich erfahre ihn täglich am eigenen Leib.» Standpunkt von Anja Glover zur aktuellen Debatte.

Auf derselben Website gibt es weitere Beiträge zum Thema «Rassismus in der Schweiz».

Die Schweiz muss sich ihrem Rassismus stellen

Racial Profiling in der Schweiz

Wer als «fremd» erscheint, wird auch hierzulande häufiger kontrolliert

. NZZ.

Rassismus ist kein individuelles Problem. Um latenten Rassismus und das Problem des «racial and ethnic profiling» anzugehen, ist Präventionsarbeit und Sensibilisierung der Polizeikräfte wichtig.

«Racial Profiling» in der Schweiz

There is much more information available. Start learning about these things. Speak about it.

Social Media

Connect on Social Media

Ways to stay in touch

Social Media is a powerful connector these days, between people, groups and interests. While not everyone uses Social Media, many people are primarily using Social Media. We want to be found and we want to find you.

Get in touch with the All Souls community on one of the following platforms:








There is a WhatsApp group for people regularly joining the fellowship. Please contact our > pastor if you would like to learn more about this group.

Do not murder

Do not murder

Black Lives Matter

6. June 2020By Karsten Risseeuw1 MinutesIn Reflections, Society

The text in the background is Hebrew and reads “lo tirtzach” (do not murder) from the ten commandments (Exodus 20:1-17), repeated. There’s an idea that the Torah/Bible is black fire (the letters) and white fire (the spaces) and the spaces say just as much as the text. I hope we’re also working towards a world where it’s universally obvious that “do not murder” includes black people, but it’s spelled out here because ‪#‎blacklivesmatter‬.

Calligraphy and text by Rachel Stone (
Free to use non-commercially.

We are getting back on our feet

We are getting back on our feet

The event calendar is back again!

29. May 2020In EventsBy Karsten Risseeuw1 Minutes

The event calendar is now switched on again. If you want to know which are the upcoming events that you can join online or offline, just visit the website and have a quick look! We are getting back on our feet!

What is going to change?

  • No regular services till at least the end of the summer holidays (mid August 2020)
  • Digital Services take place > see the calendar.
  • Social events on a limited basis, please contact Inreach.
  • Additional events, like reading the Didache, are planned for June. Contact Scotty Williams.

Check the calendar

God is not religious

God is not religious

Differentiating between faith and religious practice

19. May 2020In ReflectionsBy Karsten Risseeuw8 Minutes

It may surprise you, but God is not religious. People are religious. God is God. That is enough. It is man who tries to shape his attitude towards his creator. This results in various ideas and “religious attitudes”, which then receive a certain influence. Religiousness or religiosity is the expression, the visible shaping of the assumptions about God and the world. Religiousness is human, not divine.

Where do these assumptions come from? Religious traditions are condensed experiences. People can follow traditions without ever having had the experience that led to that tradition. Martin Buber describes that every culture (as probably every religious culture) had a true relationship moment as its starting point. Religious traditions would therefore be memories of these original moments of relationship.


Man cannot live constantly in true relationship. Martin Buber describes (in “I and Thou“) how man knows two types of relationships. Both types of relationship are described by word pairs. One word pair is “I-You”, while the other word pair is “I-It”. The I-It relationship is related to things. This relationship is demarcative and descriptive. We describe the world and use the world. Values and traditions also belong to this external demarcation.

If, for example, in an assumption about the world something is good and something else is not good, this is descriptive and delimiting. When I call my friends by name and introduce them to someone else, it is also descriptive and shows these friends as “own persons” facing someone else. It is this demarcation that belongs to our world and that we need to move in the world. There is a relation, but it is derived from otherness, from differences and demarcations. When I say “man” or “woman”, they are not things, but the quality is derived from differences, from description and from demarcation. This is the I-It relationship with the world around us.


This is contrasted by another type of relationship, which Martin Buber describes with the word pair “I-You” (in old language: “I and Thou”, as the title of Martin Buber’s booklet). It is a different quality. Here there is no demarcation, but rather a soul-to-soul experience. In this type of encounter, all descriptive and delimiting qualities are eliminated. It is a direct encounter. It is a moment of true relationship, from me to you, without demarcation lines. Our very being is touched and nothing separates or stands in between.

This direct encounter cannot last. We alternate between the two types of relationship, experiencing the I-You relationship perhaps only occasionally. Then we slide back into the I-it relationship, in which we describe, use and in which we (and others) separate ourselves. But the real encounter for us humans is this I-you encounter. It is perhaps also this quality that is meant when the apostle Paul writes that God will one day be “all in all” (1 Corinthians 15:28).

Religiosity and tradition

It may be obvious that religiousness and tradition always only represent the I-it relationship. They are descriptive and delimiting actions and opinions. They are never to be confused with the essence. Even if the origin of a certain religiousness or tradition is based on a true relationship moment, it has fallen out of this relationship moment (as it inevitably happens). Only then can it become a religious behavior or a certain tradition.

Now what is the value of religiousness or tradition? They are an expression of essence and should not be confused with the true relationship itself. They can, however, be pointing to “the real thing”. If you get stuck in religiousness or tradition, then the goal is lost. But occasionally, despite religiousness or tradition, one can gain a glimpse of the original relationship moments and find one’s own relationship moments. This is perhaps the nearest description of what is described as living faith.

Religiousness and tradition can (not: must) carry people through times of personal spiritual drought. They can (not: must) form a key to understanding. In this sense, religiosity and tradition are quite human bridges or perhaps just “crutches” so that a true core and understanding can be carried through this world.

Image and reference

When we read the Bible, it is not the relationship itself, but Scripture can point to the relationship. The Bible does not speak of itself, but of God. It is about Him. Christ does not speak of Himself, but He speaks of His God and Father and leads to Him. That is His task and that is why He came into the world. We should recognize Him. Paul prays again and again that the believers may know God. We should learn to check what is essential.

If I have the goal of a true encounter, a true relationship with God in mind, then it probably doesn’t matter what tradition I belong to, what church I am at home in, or what environment I once grew up in. Of course, I can distance myself from certain ideas, I can distance myself from opinions that I do not affirm. All this may be necessary. But it is not the core. It is not the kind of relationship we are designed for.

At All Souls, we can be welcoming to anyone wiling to participate in our services and celebrations because we do not depend on certain traditions – even if we gladly use them and learn from them. It is not about religiosity, but about God and about this high-quality relationship between “I and You”. God is not religious, but He is lovingly reaching out to each of us through Jesus Christ, as we are invited to enter and explore true relationships.


Original German text can be found > here.

The church we want to be

The church we want to be

The reality of expectations and decisions for our community

13. May 2020In VisionBy Karsten Risseeuw13 Minutes

We all have them: Expectations. We seldom speak about them. When we gather for church, this is no different. We all come with expectations. But something changed: Expectations are shattered in a crisis like we experience today. The very fabric of our community is affected. There is a need to reflect on who we are, and why we are gathering. We need to talk about our fellowship and about our expectations. What kind of church do we want to be?

What do you want?

There is no right or wrong in expectations. Nevertheless, what we think and expect does influence the kind of fellowship we can have. We need to realize – both personally and as a community – what we really want. This article is about you as much as it is about our fellowship.

Let’s assume several expectations we can have – just to play with thoughts. I try to make clear that we can (and will) have different expectations. However, only if we recognize these different settings, we can use them to move forward. As a community, it is all about us. So let’s have a look at some approaches and attitudes.

1. The social gathering

Social aspects are critical for any kind of meeting. For some though, the social part may be the only part of value. If that is the case, and as we cannot socialize today as we have done before, the value of the church is no longer there. Why interact, if “church” doesn’t happen? It appears there is a very loose connection, right?

2. A wellness package

Probably it’s nice to visit a church service on Sundays now and then. That feels good, and is probably the only thing you really want. If that is the case, you like to greet people, but there is no continuous interest to interact on a more personal level. If you feel that way, it’s not about fellowship or people, but about atmosphere, about being entertained, and probably to get a few good thoughts for the week to come. There is nothing wrong with that, but it will be really hard to create a stable fellowship among people from this kind of perception.

3. Let’s play Church

Some like churches because of the tradition. You have always visited a church and you value the rituals and liturgies and the way things go. The church, that is the reliability of an institution and that can give some consolation in ordinary times. “Let’s play church” describes how you might value the outward signs.

Again, there is nothing wrong with that, but during a crisis like today, there is a need to improvise and do things differently, as the previous “normal” vanished. Concepts of church which were valid yesterday, probably aren’t valid today and could be changed tomorrow. We cannot be stuck in the past. We have to ask ourselves many questions: How do we connect? Why do we connect? Is it important to connect? Do we have a common focus beyond the outer structures? What becomes the “new normal“? We have to confront uncertainties and probably learn to live with uncertainties. For some, this might be unsettling. For others, it’s to open a door into better ways of being a church.

4. An overwhelming situation

The COVID-19 pandemic has changed our personal situations tremendously. Challenges though are different for everyone. Often you need more energy and  time to do your daily tasks as before the pandemic. I get that, too. It might be cumbersome, but if that is the reality, you probably will not visit any online meetings nor participate in any kind of fellowship.

If 90% of the people would take this stance, the pastor runs out of work, and that’s what it is: Reality. How could we know if you don’t tell us? Your feedback is important for two reasons:

  1. Let people participate in your struggle. That’s what community also is for. This is easier if you already maintained personal relationships before. If not, take a first step towards real fellowship. We are all in the same situation, but we might be able > to let some light shine through the cracks.
  2. Let the community know that you cannot participate, and that it’s not disinterest from your side, but due to an overwhelming situation. This also helps the pastor and other elders to understand what the community needs.

5. Approve what is excellent

Churches have not been founded with social life in view. Originally we are not a social club. Churches were groups of single persons whose lives were touched by the grace of God. They then started to learn about this new perspective and to reflect on it. They loved to do this together and to share their lives as well. To believe means to trust. Communities are great places to learn how to trust. The church as a community has a central focus point in the gospel. People had life-changing experiences because of that message. The “church” was just the result. It was a development from within.

Abounding love, with knowledge and all discernment was the focus (Philippians 1:9-11). There are those who want to learn and share and approve what is excellent. That will not automatically happen. We are all tempted to put other things in focus, like our current needs, our situation, our troubles, the tradition, personal projections etc. Originally these things were not essential. Regardless of the outward troubles, it’s about people who not only want to meet, but also want to approve what is excellent – as an outflow of experienced and practiced love. They will find ways to do so.

If that doesn’t happen from your side, ask yourself why that is. Remember that there is no right or wrong here. Learn about yourself and share your findings.  The answers you get are worth considering, not only by yourself, but also by the community and with a view towards the future. Join the process. Be part of it.

Religious feelings

Fellowship is created by all people participating. Fellowship is not a structure, nor an institution, nor is it depending on people outside yourself. You are at the center of fellowship – if you let it happen. As Martin Buber describes it, relationship is neither in you nor in me, but it is like the electricity surging between the two.

The kind of participation might be different from person to person, but there is no fellowship possible, unless people want to have interaction. In view is not an “event-participation”, but a “life-participation”. Fellowship is not a concept, where very few people do all the work, and the rest come to shop some religious feelings on Sundays. That doesn’t work. Coming to church is not a deal, nor is a church service a consumer product.

Fellowship does not depend on the pastor, nor does it depend on the Elders. Fellowship is simply created by all those participating, sharing from their lives, expressing their interest in learning about the grace of God. In reality, fellowship is only about you. If you participate, you will be part of it. If you don’t, you won’t.

Maturity in faith

Traditional church members (which counts for members of free churches as well) frequently have their eyes on the pastor, who is supposed to lead the flock. That’s what he is paid for, right? I would call this an unhealthy dependency and the avoidance of maturity. If anything needs to change in today’s turmoils of the pandemic, it is this hierarchical thinking and the differentiation between professionals and laymen as an excuse for non-participation. The New Testament teaches something entirely different, where the apostle Paul writes that we all have to mature in faith, “that we may by no means still be minors, surging hither and thither and being carried about by every wind of teaching” (Eph 4:11-16).

Maturity in faith means, that we start to take responsibility for who we are, what we are and to take responsibility for our lives and actions. Simply put: If you want a fellowship worthy of the name, you decide. Each of us decides. This is not about an institution, but about the interaction, the fellowship, the community. It’s about you and me.

Here is the reality: The combined reactions (or: non-reactions) will create the kind of possible fellowship. May we help each other to become who we really are, and to show grace and thankfulness towards each other while doing so.

Simply put: If you want a fellowship worthy of the name, you decide.

He restores my soul

He restores my soul

A reflection on Psalm 23

9. May 2020In DevotionalBy Karsten Risseeuw5 Minutes

Psalm 23 is well-known, but still holds some treasures that can be discovered. I have recently made such a discovery when I took a closer look at a word from this Psalm. Here is what the psalmist says:

A Psalm of David.
The Lord is my shepherd; I shall not want.
He makes me lie down in green pastures.
He leads me beside still waters.
He restores my soul.
He leads me in paths of righteousness for his name’s sake.
Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death,
I will fear no evil, for you are with me;
your rod and your staff, they comfort me.
You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies;
you anoint my head with oil; my cup overflows.
Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me
all the days of my life,
and I shall dwell in the house of the Lord forever.

Psalm 23

A personal testimony

Some Bible passages you read over and over again. Maybe you even know them by heart. In spite of all familiarity, an aspect can shine out anew even after years or decades. Something becomes clear that has never been seen so clear before. I had this experience with a sentence from psalm 23: “He restores my soul”.

David wrote from his own experience. It may be a psalm, a song, but at the same time it is also something like a testimony of his own experience. It’s not a report from a journalistic perspective, but it’s relating to personal experience. Poetry is an apt way to describe this. David uses a visual language – He is my shepherd. And like a shepherd cares for his sheep, David experiences this safe care by God and reflects on it: “I shall not want” (ESV) or “I lack nothing” (NIV). David writes the psalm as a praise and with a thankful heart.

What stunned me was the statement: “He restores my soul”. The NIV has “refresh”. As I dove into the original meaning, I learned that both “restore” and “refresh” are derivations and interpretations of the original meaning “bringing back”. The Hebrew word (hb. shuv) indicates a restoration, a bringing back to an old and familiar place, to what is familiar.

Bringing back my soul

According to Jeff A. Benner (Ancient Hebrew Lexicon of the Bible, p. 271), the root of the word (hb. sh-v) is formed from two letters that unite the thought “(teeth) clench” and “tent”. It is the pressure, the determination with which one returns to the tent, to the home. From this original description more abstract terms emerged, such as return, turn around, bring back or restore.

David testifies that this happened to his soul. His life was often exhausting and dangerous. The psalm only hints on those circumstances. It describes how he was led to calm waters – suggesting that it was probably less calm before.

Challenges and persecutions made it necessary to go out. But he also found his way back. The Lord was his shepherd. He leads him “beside still waters”. The NIV has “He leads me beside quiet waters”. There, his soul is being restored. David regains his balance, finds harmony in his life.

In God’s presence we not only come back to Him but also return to ourselves and to peace, for these things go hand in hand. Here we enter into a true and revitalizing relationship.

The original German text can be found here: «Die Seele mir bringt er zurück».

What is Grace?

What is grace?

2. May 2020By Karsten Risseeuw1 MinuteIn Words of the Bible

Christians speak a lot about grace, but what exactly does that mean? In this video we will look at the basic meaning in the New Testament, exploring the Greek word «charis» as well as related words. With many examples of its usage throughout the New Testament, this will give us a basic understanding of what Grace means.