A new beginning

A new beginning

22. December 2019By Karsten Risseeuw8 Minutes

“In Christ God was reconciling the world to himself, not counting their trespasses against them, and entrusting to us the message of reconciliation.”
2 Corinthians 5:19

On the verge of a new year, what is it, that builds a community? What is it, that moves our heart? The church in general and also our own community has a lot to do with new beginnings. Reading the bible, one can recognize a cascading series of new beginnings.

Everything begins

Everything begins with God. That’s where the Bible starts. We can follow new beginnings for this world, with Abraham, with Israel, with nations and with single people. It goes on in the New Testament. His work in Christ is the firm foundation of His righteousness and grace. This is at the core of the gospel. If we respond, this message of grace will transform our lives, our outlook and attitude. When it becomes our experience, we ourselves can become transformative for other people as well. It is Gods grace cascading down to a never ending series of new beginnings.

The Jewish rabbi and author Chaim Potok started one of his books with the sentence: “All beginnings are hard”. It is the entrance to a compelling story of development within the challenges of life. Indeed, there might not be easy beginnings, when we are dealing with ourselves or our past. It might be that our outlook for a next year is full of uncertainties. New beginnings can be very hard.

The gospel marks a new beginning of exceptional importance. It is a remarkable account of God working in this world. It is a new message, that sounds like this: “In Christ God was reconciling the world to himself, not counting their trespasses against them”. That was a mind-blowing new message, as it did not start with my efforts, but with Gods efforts. While religious thinking is strongly linked to what people do, the gospel is about what God does. The starting point and outcome are dazzlingly different.

The gospel of Gods grace is both all-inclusive and conclusive. Everything has been done and no-one is left out. It is about you and me and everyone else. We can learn that God is for us, not against us. Embrace it with a thankful heart and let it become a new beginning for yourself.

We are all beginners

Benedict of Nursia (480–547) once created a set of rules for monastic life. It is called the Rule of Saint Benedict. St. Benedict’s Rule has been used by Benedictine monks for over 15 centuries. In the last chapter and closing words, he names it a rule for beginners. Actually it is the only rule they have. All monks stay beginners, so to say. There is no advanced course.

Probably this is very wise. If we dare to stay beginners, we can stay open-minded to what is happening around us and stay grateful for Gods message meant for us. Transformation is not just from one state into another state, not from one fixed point to another fixed point, but more from one attitude to another attitude. It forms our thinking and standing in this world, how we deal with eachother and ourselves.

When the apostle Paul writes to the community in Rome, he says: “Be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect” (Romans 12:1-2). Transformation is aiming at the renewal of our mind. The gospel aims at giving us the tools and renewed mindset to live a transformed life.

This manuscript is a copy of St. Benedict’s rule from the 8th century.

Other new beginnings

Picking up on the original bible verses, Paul wrote: “In Christ God was reconciling the world to himself, not counting their trespasses against them, and entrusting to us the message of reconciliation.”

Paul was not urging the fellowship to “become perfect”, now they trusted the gospel, but he was pointing in another direction. We, as imperfect beginners, were entrusted with a message of reconciliation. In other words: We can become a channel of reconciliation toward others. Speaking about reconciliation does not stop with us, but should flow through us to reach others in deeds and words. Reconciliation is something active. It has the power to transform and to create new beginnings.

Let’s start.


“Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come. All this is from God, who through Christ reconciled us to himself and gave us the ministry of reconciliation; that is, in Christ God was reconciling the world to himself, not counting their trespasses against them, and entrusting to us the message of reconciliation. Therefore, we are ambassadors for Christ, God making his appeal through us. We implore you on behalf of Christ, be reconciled to God.”
2Corinthians 5:17-20

Images: WikiMedia (public domain)

Slowing down in a fast paced world

Slowing down in a fast paced world

How going to church can help you unwind

28. October 2019By Karsten Risseeuw4 Minutes

No, you don’t need to go to church. Let’s put that straight. If the church is not for you, fine. If you have other priorities, fine. But some of us choose to come. For a reason. There is more of value here than you might think of at first glance.

Have a break

Are you familiar with that commercial, saying “Have a break, have a KitKat“? Well, this is a commercial, aimed at selling you something. It’s a good thought (“have a break”) combined with something to sell (“have a KitKat”). In our commercialized world, where everything is about money, turnover and shareholder values, with countless ads in as many channels, having a break sounds really nice. In this case, it is just filled with another brick in the wall.

To have a break might be what you really want. A break from this fast-paced world, a place to breathe, to come to rest, to calibrate yourself, a place to connect.

A non-perfect world


Rather we occupy a place full of imperfections. A fast-paced universe, where cracks appear in windows, outlooks, hopes and dreams. We have to deal with it. That’s where the community comes into play.

A church or fellowship can be a place to breathe, to connect, to be, to silence, to recover, to share. It’s a place in a non-perfect world, where non-perfect people do non-perfect things. Yet they do so with hope and expectation. One could say it’s a place where a unique message carves out the image of God in our midst. The church can be a place where transformation happens, as true encounters take place. This does not happen because we are perfect, but because we are not.

Slowing down

At All Souls Protestant Church, we want to be a community where people can come as they are. Because we all need to slow down sometimes. Because we all need to connect.

Going to church does not mean we are stuck in churchy things. We just choose to be a community. We celebrate. We share. We want to be real. We want you to be real. Real-life questions are what we have, and really good answers from the Bible is what we look for. That is where we step out of a fast-paced world, into a place full of grace and peace.

Grace, mercy, and peace from God the Father and Christ Jesus our Lord.”

(Paul greeting Timothy, in his second letter. 2Tim 1:2)

How to focus fellowship

How to focus fellowship

Having the same mind and judgement

23. October 2019By Karsten Risseeuw13 Minutes

The big question for any pioneering church is: How can we create and maintain fellowship? Both Jesus and Paul had stressed the issue of unity. What did they have in mind?

Diverse, yet with the same mindset

Jesus explained His disciples they should be one, just as He and the Father are one (John 17:1-11). That is a high goal, but it sets the standard. Paul deals with the most chaotic fellowship in the Greek city of Corinth. He urges them to have “the same mind and judgement” (1Corinthians 1:10-17). That is valuable input we can explore.

“Becoming one” is not to be confused with “erasing personality”. The disciples were different persons, but they were attuned to the same thing. Each of us is unique, but we can have our hearts attuned to the same things of importance. While thinking differently, we can still have the same mindset.

Here is the idea: We are the community. It is never about the church. It’s about the people and what unites them. It’s about what gives hope and outlook, about what fills our hearts with joy and gratefulness and boundless curiosity. If we pursue a goal together, what is pushing us and what are we pushing for?

To become aware of what we’d like to be is an important process. Your voice is important. Your input adds up to the community. We might differ on certain topics, but we can nevertheless have the same outlook and vision, the same attitude and mindset. Mindset is a cool word. It explains something the German has no word for. One could probably think of «Denksinn». It is not just thinking, it’s what you and I have in mind. It is what our minds have been “set” to.

Sharing a vision and goal

Paul expressed his desire that the believers in Corinth should have “the same judgement”. He is not talking about being judgemental, but he is referring to the skill of thinking. We should know how to think. And even more, we should know how to love with a sound mind. In this regard, we should have “the same judgement” or understanding.

Pointing this out, it becomes clear that we no longer can look upon church as a place where we are being served, but as a place where we serve. Much of this is resulting from the values we have and share:

  • valuing people
  • valuing our shared calling by the grace of God
  • valuing what others can do what you yourself can’t
  • valuing fellowship and choosing to be part of it
  • valuing change, growth and learning.

You are not coming to church

Many of us are used to the idea that the churches are the building and traditions you come to. It is the place where you can come and sit and sing along. That is all wonderful, but it not the essence. The essence is: We are the church. It is about us, about those sharing the same calling, vision and outlook. We create, we thrive, we win or lose and nobody is doing this for us unless we do it ourselves.

Actually, this is a pretty sober standpoint. There is nothing standing between us and reality. We are and “live” reality. We are part of the body of Christ, this worldwide community which exists since 2000 years. The question is, how we can be and become a living and thriving community in the best way possible?

Coming to church is something else as being the church.

Adjusting and enabling

“I appeal to you, brothers, by the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that all of you agree, and that there be no divisions among you, but that you be united in the same mind and the same judgment.”
1Corinthians 1:10 (English Standard Version)

When Paul writes “be united”, he is pointing to a process of change. The Greek word here is katartizo, which means “to adjust, attune or to make fit for a purpose”.

In Matthew 4:21 we read about Jesus, Who is walking along the shores of the Sea of Galilea, calling out his disciples. There he found John and James with their father Zebedee sitting along the waterfront, adjusting their nets, as they were fishers. The nets were made fit for fishing. Adjusting can be seen as adding what is missing to make fit for a purpose.

“And going on from there he saw two other brothers, James the son of Zebedee and John his brother, in the boat with Zebedee their father, mending (gr. katartizo) their nets, and he called them.

In 1Thessalonians 3:10 the apostle Paul expressed his hope to see the Thessalonians that he could help adjust the deficiencies of their faith. Paul wanted to enable the Thessalonians to fulfil their calling: to fulfil, to make complete, to fill out the gaps, to attune their minds and hopes and understanding.

“…as we pray most earnestly night and day that we may see you face to face and supply (gr. katartizo) what is lacking in your faith.”

To adjust and to make fit for a purpose is not meant to bend you to a breaking point, or to squeeze you into some strange form, but to help you realize your own god-given potential – within, with and for the community. Its goal is to strengthen everyone.

“A disciple is not above his teacher, yet everyone who is adjusted (gr. katartizo) will be as his teacher.”
Luke 6:40

Growth and true spiritual life

Growth and true spiritual life are in view. Paul writes to the community in Corinth in which disorder and chaos were rampant, yet he envisions a truly spiritual community. He envisioned people with a sound mind and a sound faith, expressing their faith not in strifes, but in a healthy focus on reality. The truth was: They already had received everything (1Corinthians 1:4-7). There was no deficiency.

How was Paul dealing with these issues? He trusted God. A few lines earlier he wrote:

“Faithful is God, through Whom you were called into the fellowship of His Son, Jesus Christ, our Lord.” (1Corinthians 1:9)

Central for any fellowship is Gods calling. Paul points that out clearly. It is not about denominations, not about special teachings or anything like that. These cause strifes. It is rather about the acknowledgement of grace, of the same calling, of the good things we all have received already. God is faithful in working this out in us. Trust Him, “be one” in that trust.

Attuned to the same mind and the same opinion

Another translation of the Greek katartizo is “to attune”. It expresses the same thing. We should be attuned to the same mind and the same opinion. While everyone plays its “own tune”, we nevertheless can be “in tune” with the overall musical composition. We can play our own tune in a way that is in harmony with a larger purpose.

“Now I am entreating you, brethren, through the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that all may be saying the same thing, and there may be no schisms among you, but you may be attuned to the same mind and to the same opinion.”
1Corinthians 1:10 (Concordant Literal New Testament)

That is as valid today as it was 2000 years ago. It is how a community works. The community, that is us. Spiritually we lack nothing. We can discover together, share the same outlook, be encouraged by the same God and Father, through Jesus Christ, our Lord. These are the basics of church.

How do we focus our fellowship? Encourage each other to have the same mindset and the same judgement. Talk about it. Share values.

This post is based on a sermon, held by Karsten Risseeuw at ASPC St. Gallen at october 20th, 2019.

Podcast with Scotty Williams

Podcast talk with Scotty Williams

Sacred Collective, episode #47. Caleb Rowe speaks with Rev. Dr. Scotty Williams

The sacred collective is a regular podcast on religious themes. In this episode, Scotty Williams tells about his life experiences and about his visions for the church. Scotty Williams is currently pastor at the All Souls Protestant Church in St. Gallen, Switzerland, a pioneering community from the Swiss Evangelical Reformed Church.

A church planter's life and vision

You can play the podcast directly here from this browser. You also can find the same podcast on several other websites and services. Podcast apps can subscribe to the streams and can be used to listen to this episode as well.

Translation tools for writers

Translation tools for writers

Online tools to help you communicate across language borders

Communities live by communication. Multilingual communities need communication across language borders. Naturally, not everyone is as fluent as a native speaker. Even native speakers need not be fluent in their own language. Here are some internet tools to help you improve your communication across languages.

Improving your texts

At the All Souls Protestant Church, we want to improve our communication. Even though everyone speaks English, not everyone is confident enough to be an author. “My English is not good enough” is a much-heard answer. Luckily a lot can be done to improve your texts by using some clever tools.

Being flawless is not the goal. The real issue is the content (what you write). To encourage people to contribute and to lower thresholds for potential authors is the goal of this post. Communities are a result of communication, not a result of flawlessness. Just go ahead and write something. The value is in the writing.

Once you start writing, tools are here to help you polish your texts.

Translating with Deepl

The best translation engine out there today is Deepl. The Germany-based company uses artificial intelligence to create phenomenal translations. Deepl translates to and from many European languages and gives results which are way better as the more widely known Google Translate.

Deepl now also released translation apps for Mac and Windows which make it extremely simple to use it on your own computer (internet connection needed).


Other languages: Use translate.google.com.

Dive deeper into languages with Leo

Leo.org is another fabulous website for writers and anyone interested in languages. Leo is a fantastic tool to find proper translations and expressions. An active forum is a perfect way to ask questions and verify expressions in languages you are not very familiar with. The website leo.org always presents a list of found expressions, showing varieties (like British and US English), highlighting ambiguous terms, and adding posts from the forum about the search term.

Leo also has apps for Android and iOS as well as several other tools to work in web browsers.

Spellchecking with Grammarly

If you are writing English texts, Grammarly is a must. It interprets your texts, checks your grammar and syntax and offers great spellchecking. It will not auto-correct your texts, but rather present changes, that you can correct it yourself. For that reason, Grammarly is also a great learning tool.

Grammarly is everywhere. Find Grammarly online at the website, as a plug-in for Web browsers, or as native desktop applications and there even are apps for mobile devices.

Duden Mentor for German

Duden dictionaries are the leading dictionaries for the German language. The equivalent of the Grammarly website for German is mentor.duden.de. On this website as well, you can check your texts thoroughly. The basic functionality is free.

Duden Mentor has not yet any other native tools for this functionality.

Other Tools

There are numerous other (online) tools. For example languagetool.org offers text corrections in multiple languages, both as Add-ons for browsers or as standalone software for your desktop. It is helpful to be aware of these tools and use them wherever you feel it’s appropriate.

Strategies to follow

There are several strategies you can follow. For example, if you know your languages, simply write in English, but switch on Grammarly. This will give you a reliable spellchecking and much more. If your mother tongue is German, consider writing your text in German, correct it with Duden Mentor, then translate it with Deepl, followed by a thorough reading by yourself or someone else.

What else do you find helpful in writing? Let us know!

Change is inevitable

Change is inevitable

Charting unknown territory.

What’s in the box? If you ask what All Souls Protestant Church (ASPC) is about and what it has to offer, there is not a standard answer. The only correct answer is “change” or “adaption”. That is not a simple answer, unfortunately.


All Souls is a pioneering project. It was officially called a project for three years. Last year the status changed, an association («Verein») was founded, new elders were installed and we are now a parish. We are not a standard parish though. While a regular parish is always bound to a certain area, All Souls is not. We are called the All Souls Protestant Church in St. Gallen and eastern Switzerland. We are a regional community. Because of that, it is something new. There is no official status for this construction. We are a parish, yes. And we are a parish, no. We are an in-between-kind-of-fellowship.

Traditional views do not apply to pioneering projects. No one puts new wine into old wineskins (Matthew 9:17). Someone told me that All Souls should be moving more quickly. Upon my question what that means, the immediate reaction was, that ASPC should quickly have a thousand members or so. With other words: All Souls should become just like all other parishes, facing the same problems. Frankly said that is not an attractive thought. It was a question about money, not about a community. These were remarks about numbers, not about people. The expectation referred to the current situation of the Evangelical Reformed Church in the Canton St. Gallen. We should adapt. We should become like the others. The expectation expressed was about conformity, not about reformation, much less about innovation.

This will never happen. It simply can’t. It’s not how it works.

Levels of change

We are a group of people who want to share. We are a thriving community, where people actively engage with each other. We care. All Souls might have started as a project, but today it is a community. The focus has shifted. All Souls no longer is an abstract idea, but a reality we live.

As a community, we embrace change. We try to figure out what works best. If something doesn’t work, we need to adapt. There are practical questions involved, like the set-up for church services or how to move on with our table-talk-sessions. We also share our vision. In Kreuzlingen a first English church service was held and a new English speaking community is in the making. We are glad to be part of that journey, to provide knowledge, experience and ideas. We realize that these engagements have an immediate impact on ourselves as well because time and resources are limited. We have to find ways to deal with this, while new projects appear on the horizon.

Change therefor is also resulting from the limitations we have. People participate passionately, they feel at home and contribute their thoughts and dreams. The question to all activities will be: Who is responsible for something to become a reality? Which tasks should be prioritized? Church “the All Souls way” is not about providing services, but about being the service – to each other. This requires flexibility to change at every level, all the time.


We are a small team. Funding covers just 50% (or two-and-a-half days of work per week) for Scotty Williams, our pastor. The elders have regular jobs and are limited in time as well. These are real-life challenges. How can we balance the needs of our community with our personal and healthy limitations? How can we develop visionary thoughts, encourage new projects and support new communities simultaneously? Indeed, these combined tasks would require several full-time jobs, which are not available.

Teamwork, therefore, is active participation in a process of change. We must ask ourselves many questions to create the community we want. How can we adapt to the limitations? How can we strengthen our fellowship in St. Gallen? In what way can we support new communities?

It is extremely rewarding to be part of a community like All Souls. The community, that’s us. We rethink the way we can be a church. We test it. We engage with new ideas. That will not change. That’s who we are.

Change is inevitable, and that’s a good thing.

Listen to Sermons

Listen to sermons

Find sermons and other recordings on SoundCloud

In the top navigation of this website, you find the “Sermons” page. On this page you will find the latest audio recordings from our SoundCloud account. This includes sermons, table talks and any other audio files.

Find audio recordings here

Summer Break 2019

Summer Break 2019

Enjoy some quiet days and we see you by the end of july.

Summer is here! All Souls Protestant Church is having a summer break. There will be no sunday service on two dates: july 14th and 21st.

  • July 7th: Last sunday service before the summer break (with a baptism)
  • July 28th: First sunday service after the summer break (Swiss Day celebration)

During the summer break, Scotty Williams will be on vacation. For urgent matters only (!) he can be reached on the regular phone number as listed > here.

Check the special events just before and right after the summer break. All is listed in the events list.

Everyone a healthy, great, restful summer!

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What is Rally Day?

What is Rally Day?

Rally Day is a social event commonly celebrated among English speaking protestant churches worldwide. It is a day of renewal and fellowship. Rally Day is focussed on the joys of being in a community.

As a church we celebrate during the church service and follow-up with an afternoon barbecue. We are asking ourselves what it means to be a church member, how we can view eachother.

The bible text for this day will be:

And let us consider how to stir up one another to love and good works, not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another, and all the more as you see the Day drawing near.
Hebrews 10:24-25

Rally Day will be celebrated on June 30th, 2019. Be part of it.