God is love (3)

God is love (3)

Toward maturity

22. December 2020In DevotionalBy Karsten Risseeuw8 Minutes

In the first part of this Series “God is love” the focus was on Gods love. The second part then spoke about Self love. In this third part we’ll have a look beyond ourselves, and see how Gods love, and the grace we received, can transform our interaction with others. This is about gaining maturity and to love others.

The Listening and the Doing

The apostle Paul, in many of his letters, presents two sides of faith. One side is the proclamation of the gospel itself. This is explanatory. You find teachings and prayers. The other side is about everyday life. For example, if you read the letter to the Ephesians, you will see teaching in the first three chapters. It is about what we have “in Christ” (Eph 1:3). Then the focus switches. In chapters four to six it is all about conduct. It starts like this: “Walk in a manner worthy of the calling to which you have been called” (Eph 4:1).

These two sides can be called the Listening and the Doing. They come in that order. First we receive from God. Then we can put that into practice. In his letter to the Galatians, he describes it as:

“Faith working through love.”
Gal 5:6

Faith is good, but if you don’t use it for anything, it’s not of much value. How then can faith become real in this world? It is a simple thing. It is through love, by looking to do good for the people you meet and greet. Not, because you want something in return, but because it is the right thing to do. Unconditional love.

Toward maturity

No one is born mature. Maturity is something we grow into. It has a lot to do with the decisions we make during our life. The expression of unconditional love is a sign of maturity. It is also the attitude by which we grow into maturity. This thought is prevalent in different ways throughout the letters of Paul. One passage explains this quite well:

“And he gave the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, the shepherds and teachers, to equip the saints for the work of ministry, for building up the body of Christ, until we all attain to the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to mature manhood, to the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ, so that we may no longer be children, tossed to and fro by the waves and carried about by every wind of doctrine, by human cunning, by craftiness in deceitful schemes.”
Eph 4:11-14

Paul speaks about the maturity of the people in the context of the Body of Christ (the Church). That is why there are apostles, prophets, evangelists, shepherds and teachers. There is a lot to say about these verses, but let’s just look at a few points. He contrasts maturity and childhood.

Two things he links to maturity, namely “unity of faith” and “knowledge of the Son of God”. Two things he links to childhood, namely being “tossed to and fro by the waves and carried about by every wind of doctrine and describes this further as “by human cunning, by craftiness in deceitful schemes”.

One of the things he obviously observed in the fellowships was widespread confusion by all kinds of doctrines. Distractions were the result. Maturity though has found a way “to cut through the crap”. That might have been Paul’s intention, to encourage the people to focus on the right things. Just one chapter earlier he had pointed out that the believers should become “rooted and grounded in love” (Eph 3:17). That would give stability amidst strange doctrines, deception, etc. It would help to focus on things of importance.

Maturity thus is one way to describe a goal of growth. But how does the apostle see that happening? That is what he describes in the next few verses:

“Rather, speaking the truth in love, we are to grow up in every way into him who is the head, into Christ, from whom the whole body, joined and held together by every joint with which it is equipped, when each part is working properly, makes the body grow so that it builds itself up in love.”
Eph 4:15-16

This text also carries many thoughts. The apostle speaks about how to attain maturity. Twice he mentions love and these occurrences belong together. The following translation has a slightly different focus:

“Now, being true, in love we should be making all grow into Him, Who is the Head – Christ.”
Eph 4:15-16 CNT*

If we are true, love is the way how we make everything grow into Him. That is Gods love put into practice. The result is a living organism, the Body of Christ, coming to maturity. Simply put: How do you nourish your fellowship? Start loving. How do you nourish your faith? Start practicing it through love.

Interesting enough, building a church is not about marketing strategies or branding. That all may have its place, but it is not the essence. If we capture the essence, maturity will follow. Pure transformation from childhood to maturity will happen. Church should be a fellowship run by love and lead to Christ, as Paul explained in this paragraph.

Is it that easy? Probably not. There are many limitations. We ourselves are quite limited. Our communities are limited as well. Not always things can be understood or handled properly. That is life. But here is the alternative: Away from childhood and moving toward maturity is a direction. We have to set a goal and start moving. Let’s encourage each other to move toward maturity, putting love into action.

Grace be with all who love our Lord Jesus Christ with love incorruptible.
Eph 6:24

*CNT = Concordant New Testament

God is love (2)

God is love (2)

Love yourself

15. December 2020In DevotionalBy Karsten Risseeuw13 Minutes

Can I ask you a straightforward question? Do you love yourself? You might be aware that many people do not love themselves. You might be one of them. It can be a heavy burden, leading to anxiety, a troubled mind, restlessness, and the inability to be like you are meant to be. You might even have developed strategies to avoid your anxiety and to survive your negativity. Much of this could be cured if you were truly loved by someone. This is where Christians can point to God as the only true source of reliable and unconditional love. Many Christians are saying that – but don’t apply it to themselves. That is a problem.

Love yourself

“Love yourself” is not a catchphrase, nor an advertising slogan. It is a necessity and the opposite of narcissism and egoism. We are the main actors in our lives. Every person should have the vision to love themselves. Just like Paul wrote: “for God gave us a spirit not of fear but of power and love and sound mind” (2Tim 1:7). If Gods spirit of power, love and sound mind doesn’t start with us, how should it be of value? By loving ourselves, we are freed to love others. It might all start with Gods love for us. That is what this article is about.

Unfortunately, it is often not that easy. Lack of self-love can be the reason for unspeakable suffering in relationships. It might be one of the reasons people project things on other people and thus avoid reality – both in good and bad ways. If you do not love yourself, you cannot love other people unconditionally. You are not free to love. You are bound to your limitations, of which only unconditional love sets free.

It is about self-acceptance, about courage and joy to live. It also defines if our faith is truly freeing and life-confirming. Is it for you? Or have you grown up in an environment where “loving yourself” was considered a sin? Unfortunately, it still happens that Christians are told that self-sacrifice is the way to go, which is not seldom interpreted as “do not love yourself”.

Loving others? No problem!

Sure, God loves us. That’s easy to say, and we point to the people we love: We love our children, our partners, maybe good friends, we love parents, all in a unique and special way. To love others – no problem! Many do so. But there is one who fades out: Yourself.

To be able to love others but not love yourself is not possible. It looks like it works, that one can love, but it is like a game of hide-and-seek with one’s own pains. That’s why people love, but anticipate redemption by the other person. It’s a deal: I love you, so I expect you to love me. Such love will exhaust itself. It does not have a transforming effect, but causes dependency. This kind of passion is what creates suffering. The partner is instrumentalized to fight pain, used as a source of soothing one’s own pain. This is not a fulfilling kind of relationship and it cannot ever become one.

The central question is: Can I love myself as I am, with all my shortcomings and merits, with all my fears and joys, with my failures and the failures of others towards me? Can I leave all pious platitudes behind me and honestly look at my life, myself, as well as my fears and hopes. Do I have the courage to address them and transform them through a loving confrontation?


Those who do not love themselves suffer. Others cannot eradicate this perceived gap, the pain, the perceived inferiority, the non-sufficiency, the painful imperfection of one’s own existence. Those who do not love themselves cannot enter into equal and fulfilling relationships, always choose the wrong relationships, repeat the old patterns, speak of “wasted effort of love” or withdraw themselves by avoiding relationships at all.

If we project our fears or hopes onto another person, then we merely trigger a deceptive maneuver. Relationships are lived in the hope that the other person will heal me, meet me, touch me, free me, save me. However, this does not work. I have to take responsibility for my life and feelings. Only when I am truly free can I, in this freedom, also perceive and respond to the fulfilling other. Only when I am truly free can I live out both my humanity and my faith in this world.

Am I willing to perceive myself, to have my personal journey, just with myself and without any deception? Dare I to pause and to attend my needs? Do I allow myself to be transformed, to gain a new perspective? Can I air my fears and mistakes in front of my partner, in front of my friends, if that is necessary and helpful? Am I able to distance myself? Am I noticeable, for myself, for others?

The way back to oneself is not a luxury, but a necessity. One can either stay on the run or look at oneself, meet oneself anew, look one’s own fears anew in the eyes, let oneself be transformed, start anew.

Love your neighbor as yourself

What helpful thoughts can be found in the Bible? As early as in the books of Moses it says “You shall love your neighbor as yourself” (Lev 19:18). But I cannot love my neighbor, including my partner, my children, my friends and anyone else, if I cannot love myself.

In the New Testament this thought is taken up again. A Jew from the group of Pharisees once asked Jesus:

“Teacher, what is the great commandment in the Law?” But he answered him, “Love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind. This is the great and first commandment. But the second is like it: Love your neighbor as yourself! On these two commandments hang all the law and the prophets.”
Mt 22:36-40 cf. Deut 6:5 and Deut 19:18.

The Apostle Paul writes very similar:

“For the whole law is fulfilled in the one word: You shall love your neighbor as yourself!”
Gal 5:14

You shall… love others as yourself! Voila! There we have it, unequivocal and clear. It takes a healthy love of self. This does not mean narcissism or unfruitful ego-centeredness, but an acceptance of one’s own humanity. “Always remember that you are absolutely unique. Just like everyone else” (Margaret Mead).

Stay true to yourself

What can we think of? Perhaps things like this: Accepting yourself as you are. Becoming aware that you are not the only one on the road. Humility and a sense of reality will guide you. Being vulnerable is an asset and qualification for real-life. Taking responsibility for one’s own life, without distractions or games of hide-and-seek will give strength and focus. Can we be loving and gracious with ourselves? Living out truthfulness is the concern. To be fully human, but also to be able to stand in the grace of God. Not to be stuck in the past. Saying goodbye when something is not working. Work on something to solve it, if we can. Being true to oneself. To be able to differentiate things of importance (Phil 1:9), to be careful with oneself.

Loving oneself is not something that happens in a vacuum, but it means “loving your neighbor as yourself”. This is not only about yourself. There are two sides. It is you and me, but in connection to the world around us. Loving one’s neighbor is in line with loving oneself. There is an interaction as in “self-reflection”. Above all, it is not static, but alive. It is a choice. To love is an activity, an urging of the heart. Just as Paul may have written elsewhere “For the love of Christ urges us…” (2Cor 5:14). That’s where he acts and something happens. Everything is alive.

The wow-factor

In the letter to the Ephesians we can read several prayers of Paul. In chapter 3 he prays that God

“… grant you – according to the riches of His glory – to be made steadfast in the inner man through His Spirit in power, that Christ may dwell fully in your hearts through faith, and that you, being rooted and grounded in love, may be strengthened to grasp with all the saints what is the breadth and length and depth and height (to know also the love of the Christ that surpasses all knowledge), that you may be made complete for the entire perfection of God.”
Eph. 3:14-19

Paul is aiming at perfection. Not that we must be perfect, but he throws us back onto God: “that you may be made complete for the entire perfection of God”. That is quite an amazing saying.

We probably will lack perfection, always, but Paul prays (and we can pray) that we will be made complete for the entire perfection of God. It has to do with His perfection, not with mine. Instead of “perfection” it is closer to the original Greek by speaking of “complement”.

“That you may be completed for the entire complement of God.” (CNT*)
Eph 3:19

Completion is something else as perfection. Perfection doesn’t lead anywhere. Completion though is fulfillment. It is about our fulfillment just as much as it is about the entire complement of God. It is like coming to the source and goal of all. It is a place of rest where one is not only loved, but where love is possible and fulfilling. That is “wow!”.

The foundation has been laid. Now dare to do what God has been doing for a long time already: love yourself.

*Bible version: CNT is the Concordant New Testament.

Open Book feedback

Open Book feedback

Series "How to read the Bible?"

13. December 2020In EventsBy Karsten Risseeuw1 Minutes

This autumn we had an initiative called “Open Book”. In it, a series of talks and studies took place, around the question “How to read the Bible?”. This series has ended early December.

While these were just 6 evenings, the goal of such events is much larger. While bible study might not appeal to everyone, there is a need to talk about the Bible and about what and how we believe. We need to reflect on this and see how we can live together, how we can experience and share Gods grace and mercy. The vision behind this is to create a learning culture, in which everyone openly talks about what he or she thinks, while reflecting on Input from the Bible.

Here are some reactions:

  • «This series „How to read the Bible“ has given me many precious suggestions and new ideas about several topics concerning the Bible: Great! Thank you so much.»
  • «Very helpful, informative and inspirational. Recommendable for everyone.»
  • «Teaching brand new, comprehensive, and easy to grasp.»

The Open Book series has now come to an end. For 2021 nothing has been decided yet. If you have any questions or suggestions, make yourself heard to the elders.

These were earlier posts on the topic:
Open Book: How to read the Bible
Open Book: Moving to Zoom

God is love (1)

God is love (1)

The basics

9. December 2020In DevotionalBy Karsten Risseeuw4 Minutes

John wrote: “God is love” (1 John 4:16). This is one of the central statements of the Bible. It is also written that God loves the world – and not just a few on it (John 3:16). Paul writes about the church that God “predestined us for himself in love” (Eph 1:4-5). Many more texts can be found, explaining the same thing with different words.

If we can know anything about God, it is that His essence is love. This message is stunning and liberating. It is this love (gr. agape) that loves selflessly, without reservation. It is neither a pious wish nor a service that we have to pay for with any kind of contribution, nor is it an empty claim. The love of God is given because it corresponds to His nature and essence.

This proclamation of love is not always understood. The bold saying is this: Whatever happens in our lives and in this world, with everything that is written about God’s actions, it is out of Gods love. And true: It doesn’t look like that. I understand that many are tempted to point to an extremely difficult situation they experienced or witnessed somewhere else. Be assured: I have had my share in difficult situations. Nevertheless, this love of God is worth contemplating. To do so, I sometimes need to take a few steps back and try to see things from a wider perspective. I cannot reason from my understanding or experience about God. Some things I understand. Other things I do not understand. At least I want to listen. It is the only way to possibly learn more and not be stuck in the past. This is not to deny my struggles, but to get me through.

Paul once wrote that God created the universe in the Son of His love and that He carries it through Him (Col 1:13-17). As this text shows: Love is the supporting element in this world, even if it is not always directly visible. The love of God has a goal in mind and works towards a goal. This love is not just a reason, or Gods essence, but also the way He achieves his goal.

Paul is confident of this love:

“What will separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus? … For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither messengers nor princes, neither present nor future, nor powers, neither height nor depth, nor any other creation will be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord.”
Rom 8:35-39

Nothing will be able to separate us from the love of God. That is a bold saying! Gods love is expressed “in Christ Jesus our Lord”. Paul was obviously convinced of this. We are invited to come to the same understanding.

In a next article, we will have a look at other aspects of love.

Characteristics of declining churches

Characteristics of declining churches

The new Characteristics of Churches that will be in decline five years from now, by Carey Nieuwhof

17. November 2020In VisionBy Karsten Risseeuw2 Minutes

As a community, we live in challenging and exciting times. We have a pandemic going on. We live in a post-christian society. Churches are declining in Europe. It is not an easy time we live in. People of all walks of life are challenged. We need to find ways to cope with changing realities.

This short article only wants to point out to another article, written by Carry Nieuwhof. He wrote a post with the title “The new characteristics of churches that will be In decline five years from now”. This is not an attempt to ignore change, or to sooth the effects of disruption. Rather it is a bold approach to a better understanding.

Carey Nieuwhof mentions 7 characteristics, which make it very likely a congregation or fellowship will experience decline in the near future. It might be all the more true from a viewpoint of the disruption by the current pandemic.

The 7 points of churches who will face decline:

  1. The leaders bet everything on a physical return to church
  2. The success is still measured by the number of people who attend physical locations
  3. Online ministry is seen as an afterthought or lesser form
  4. All feedback comes from their echo chamber
  5. They quickly went back to 3 songs and a message as their service formats
  6. The church building, not the home or community, was re-established as the sole locus of ministry
  7. The leaders excluded Generation Z from the inner leadership circle.

Read the article as linked below for more details.

Read the article

Just as Carey Nieuwhof jumps head-on into real-life issues, we can consider things as they present themselves. What do you think about this article? Should we evaluate these topics as a fellowship?

I can do all things through a verse taken out of context

I can do all things through a verse taken out of context

How to build a learning culture

13. November 2020In ReflectionsBy Karsten Risseeuw9 Minutes

One day, I was browsing social media and someone showed this picture of a mug with the text “I can do all things through a verse taken out of context”. Of course, the text refers to bible interpretations and people who abuse the bible for own purposes.

This mug hilariously points to a real-life problem in the Christian world, which is, that people abuse the Bible to let it say whatever they think. It is the opposite of letting the Bible speak for itself. The Bible has a story, but one has to listen to the story, to understand the verses in context. By just taking a line out of a context, it might easily get deformed and become misleading.

In the series of Open Book «How to read the Bible?», we try to read carefully and let the Bible speak for itself. This is not something which can be covered in a few evenings. Every evening though can be part of a learning process and thus become part of a learning culture. The goal of a learning culture is to learn together, to encourage each other to think and to become who we are meant to be – both in understanding and in attitude.

Maturity as a goal

Usually, we are not aware of our assumptions about something. Only if we start looking at something carefully, or meet someone with a different view, we can discover that our assumptions probably need some readjustment. Adjustment is not a bad thing, as the Bible or Christian faith is not about being right or wrong, but more about understanding that Gods grace is meant for you and me personally. It also is about relationship, belonging and natural growth. It speaks of growth from childhood to maturity. The need to become mature is something mentioned multiple times (Hebrews 6:1, 1Corinthians 13:9-12, Ephesians 4:13-16).

A learning culture starts where we allow for questions and not pretend to know all the answers. A sure sign of a learning culture is, if we can reply to questions with more questions, thus keeping the talk open and maintain the learning process, while expanding our view and understanding. To learn means to add colors to life and faith.

Implementing a learning culture

Why would it be needed to build a learning culture? Well, being a church is not a purpose in itself. Having faith is great, but unless it leads somewhere, it is not of much value. The church is the vessel, not the content. We are the content. We are called by a unique message, as contained in the Bible. This message is meant to transform our lives, not just to turn us into church-goers.

A learning culture evolves from an understanding of the purpose of community. A learning culture appreciates that we can build together. As a culture it is transformative to everyone partaking in it, just as much as everyone adds to the process.

Join the blessing of shared learning.

How we build our faith is not a coincidence. It is always a choice. We can choose to build it carefully or carelessly abandon it. A learning culture transforms this experience into something alive, into something shared. Join the blessing of shared learning.

The adventurers

One of the effects of learning is, that you start to look beyond your current horizon. That can be quite a challenge. Not everyone likes to see new things. It even can be felt as a threat. A learning culture therefor can only be led by people who are willing to learn. I consider this a function of some people within a larger community. That might be just a small beginning. What I experienced over many years is, that people who see their thinking and hoping transformed, that these people will move on and inspire others. Let’s call them adventurers or travelers, artists or visionaries, or simply “the hungry ones”, the ones who see a need to learn. A learning culture is about planting seeds and letting them grow, watering the sprouts and caring for the larger plants, it’s about growing a crop and living from it.

Learning how to read the Bible

Learning about the Bible is one thing. Learning from the Bible is something else. Growing brains is not the goal, gathering knowledge is not the purpose. The message of God, through Jesus Christ, wants to speak to our hearts. That’s where it starts. Learning how to read the Bible is not a purpose, but a means to a purpose. The Bible can become a powerful tool to form our understanding, our hopes and expectations and thus shape our everyday life.

“For Christ’s love compels us.”
2Corinthians 5:14-21 (NIV)

“The only thing that counts is faith expressing itself through love.”
Galatians 5:6 (NIV)

Some tricky questions

Here are some questions to trigger curiosity. No answers are provided. To each Bible verse, write down what you think it means, then read the verse in its context. Does the text clearly say what you thought it would?

  • My Father’s house
    “My Father’s house has many rooms; if that were not so, would I have told you that I am going there to prepare a place for you?” (John 14:2). What does that refer to?
  • Saints
    “To all those in Rome who are loved by God and called to be saints” (Romans 1:7). Who are saints?
  • Where 2 or 3 are gathered in my name
    “For where two or three are gathered in my name, there am I among them” (Matthew 18:20). Is this verse about happy Christian fellowship or about something else? (Read 18:15-20).

Your first interpretation, which you write down before reading these verses in their context, has much to do with your background. That is your personal context, from which you see and interpret the world. Our understanding of faith, or our understanding of certain Bible passages, is frequently influenced by our background. To start looking at the Bible independently of your personal context might challenge the horizon you previously had.

A learning culture (in contrast to a teaching culture) will enable more views and a better differentiation. We possibly can learn that not all is about our personal context, but that the Bible has its own story and purpose. We also might recognize that there is no need to take any verse out of its context, as only the context itself is key to a better understanding and a wealth of meaning, for us to discover.

OpenBook series moves to Zoom

OpenBook series moves to Zoom

An online introduction to the bible

31. October 2020In News, EventsBy Karsten Risseeuw1 Minutes

About OpenBook

OpenBook is the name of a study group which tries to make the Bible more accessible. It is part of a learning culture, by which we want to enable each other to gain a better understanding of the Bible. It is not so much about teaching and to “learn how things are”, but more about discovering together and seeking relevancy for our daily lives. Each evening has a clear topic and input.

How to read the Bible

The current series for OpenBook is “How to read the Bible?” (> Introduction). We are right in the middle of the series and due to the COVID-19 situation we decided to move the remaining 3 evenings online to Zoom.

Remaining evenings

The remaining evenings will be on Zoom and last only 40 minutes. We have to see if this works. It will be enough to provide the input, and WhatsApp will be the extension to exchange.
Tuesday, November 3rd, 2020, 19:00–19:40 (MET)
Tuesday, November 17th, 2020, 19:00–19:40 (MET)
Tuesday, December 1st, 2020, 19:00–19:40 (MET)


Each session is only 40 minutes, with the option to exchange questions and thoughts in a dedicated WhatsApp group. If you want to participate you can contact the > pastor or Karsten to be listed for the dedicated WhatsApp group.

The Word of the Day

The Word of the Day

The Word of the Day is a new part of the All Souls Website. Here you will find daily encouragements as we’ll plan on publishing one small thought every day, a text from the bible, a contemplation. You can find them on the All Souls website under Resources. A direct shortcut to the page is also provided from the Homepage.

«Therefore encourage one another and build one another up, just as you are doing.»
1Thessalonians 5:11

Word of the Day

Why an English-speaking community?

Why an English-speaking community?

It's not just about language

12. October 2020In Vision, SocietyBy Karsten Risseeuw8 Minutes

From the beginning All Souls has been established as an English-speaking community. That was five years ago. What kind of people make up the fabric of our community today? Are these the people that were originally envisioned? Looking back one can see what counts, who joins – and it is not just about language.

This is an insight based on personal observations. When I joined All Souls, it had started only weeks before. That is five years ago. At the time it was a project by the Evangelical Reformed Church of the Canton of St. Gallen, who started it as an English-speaking community, with native English speakers (expats) in mind. Three years later, the community was thriving and moved from the project phase to a more permanent “congregation” idea, even though it has not the status of a regular «Kirchgemeinde». That was two years ago.

People who join our community

Over the course of these past five years many people came, while others left. We adapted. If you look back you see that the expats once envisioned are almost absent. It was one of the assumptions of the beginning, which proved not to be true. St. Gallen probably has not enough expats looking for an English-speaking church. Nevertheless, there is a need for an English-speaking community and probably more than that. The reality is much more complex. Let me introduce you to that reality.

People attending our services come from all over the world. Even though they are not expats, they live here and have reasons to join All Souls. You will find native English-speakers, but also people whose native languages are not spoken here. English for them is the best available alternative. That might be true for people from Asia, Africa, the Middle East or South America. And while expats tend to live here just for a few years, we see foreigners with a permanent residence attending, as well as students, who are in St. Gallen just for a few months.

I am not a native English speaker. I am Dutch. I have a permanent residence permit and I am well integrated in Swiss society. I speak Swiss German fluently. Joining All Souls is not because I do not speak Swiss German, but because I choose to join this community. There are reasons beyond language.

Native Swiss people are joining as well. Sometimes they just love to hear another language, or they probably have been living outside Switzerland for some time, even found a way into Church while being abroad. They might feel more closely connected to an English-speaking church for that reason. Others married a Swiss spouse, thus found themselves being part of Swiss society, but enjoy hearing and speaking their native tongue.

I strongly believe that multilingual offerings are part of today’s society and form a valuable contribution to the well-being of many people.

Adding culture to the mix

Martin Buber, the famous Jewish philosopher, wrote that language is not in a person, it’s the person being in the language. Language is not just something you speak, but it is something you breathe and live in. Language is one of the most intimate expressions of culture. By switching a language, you switch the culture.

Culture is another important component of being a foreign-language-community. By speaking English, you enable people to switch the language and by that also to switch experience to another kind of culture. Swiss citizens actively participate to experience that. As an international community, it is not about one specific English or American culture in comparison to the local culture, but it is a welcoming home to many cultures, where people interact and thrive together. We are English-speaking, but we are also a melting pot.

As in any fellowship, the extent to which people integrate is always a personal choice. Those regularly attending enable others to simply join and celebrate with us. All Souls therefor is not just a fellowship for those within, but also for those loosely attached or outside the community. It is the culture of a community, the expression of openness towards people of all walks of life and understandings.

Adding the religious background to the mix

Let’s get one step further. Language and culture are important, but there is more to consider. People joining All Souls have all kinds of religious backgrounds. Some are from the Roman Catholic Church, others from the Swiss Evangelical Reformed Church, again others have a free church background, some consider themselves as post-denominational or even to be atheist. To be a community means to be in a process together, where we embrace questions of faith just as questions about life or about society.

We are a church. There is no doubt about that. We have an Evangelical Reformed background. That is clearly wanted. We are a faith-based community and this is very much alive. Christ is at our center. Our culture though is not a monoculture, but a diverse culture, enabled through the English language and the diverse cultures, challenges and backgrounds of the people attending. It is a fertile soil to grow new perspectives, to evaluate what works best and to become the community we want to be.

An open mind

I started with the question: Why an English-speaking community? My personal answer is, that it is not just about the language, but about culture as well. Far from being a copy-and-paste kind of community, where we take old concepts as they are, we are dedicated to find out how church works, with an open mind toward both old and new concepts. The church, that’s you and me, everyone contributing something of value. In this unique constellation, English serves us well.

The percentage of foreigners in the Canton of St. Gallen is roughly 24% (2019), not including those who already became a Swiss citizen.
Source: https://www.sg.ch/ueber-den-kanton-st-gallen/statistik/themen/B01/wohnbevoelkerung.html

How to read the Bible?

How to read the Bible?

Open Book: A space to learn about the Bible together.

16. September 2020In EventsBy Karsten Risseeuw5 Minutes

Open Book is the name for a gathering of interested people, who want to explore the Bible. It is an idea and like a space created to meet and discuss things related to Christianity in general, and more specifically about the Bible. On a practical level, it has a simple structure: All are welcome who are interested. Each evening will have a topic. There will be room to discuss, and we want to benefit from the feedback of each participant. Just be who you are, as long as you are willing to listen and engage.

The intention to offer both an English and a German group did not work. No German-only speakers showed up on the first evening and this series will be in English only now. If you are interested in a German group, please let us know.

The last 3 meetings will be held on Zoom. These will be short 40 minute sessions each, with the possibility to exchange thoughts and questions through WhatsApp. If you are interested to join, please > ask the pastor to add you to the WhatsApp group for information.

A learning culture

Open Book tries to establish a learning culture. A learning culture is completely different from a teaching culture. This is not lecturing and it is not a dogmatic approach, but we try to include all interested people in a process gaining knowledge and understanding. It is more about participating as about consuming. You are expected to ask questions, not just to nod in agreement. Some people might have knowledge, others have questions, but we are all learning. To create a learning culture means, that we acknowledge that everyone is in a process of learning. In this process we want to support each other (something the apostle Paul wrote about in Ephesians 4:15-16).

Series: How to read the Bible?

The first series is an introduction to the Bible. The goal is not only to learn about the Bible, but also to learn directly from the Bible. We have to open the Book and read, ask questions, consider different views and learn to interpret. By doing this together you will quickly gain confidence to read the Bible yourself.

Only when you dive into the Bible itself, you will be able to learn and experience the richness of the book. It is not enough to get some knowledge presented, but we can start an adventure together. The adventure is not only in listening, but in participating, evaluating what you read together. We all need a listening heart.

It is surprising to discover that quite a lot of information is contained in the Bible itself. It is not that you need a lot of information before you can start reading. Simply start! However, there are some key topics and basic understandings that will greatly help you to get started yourself. A few of these topics are covered in the series “How to read the Bible?”.

Series of six evenings:

  • The purpose of the Bible
    What is it all about?
  • Inductive bible study
    How to gain confidence in reading and understanding.
  • Bible translations
    Why are there different translations and which should I use?
  • On Zoom: Everything is for us, but not everything is about us
    Understanding where we stand today.
  • On Zoom: Cultural differences
    Figurative language and other cultural issues.
  • On Zoom: It's an ongoing story
    Learning as a culture.


Dates: Between September 15, 2020 and December 1st, 2020. See the Calendar.
Time: 19:00–21:00h
Location: Kirchgemeindehaus Lachen, St. Gallen. The last 3 meetings will be held on Zoom. See the Calendar.
Speaker: Scotty Williams (first topic), Karsten Risseeuw (rest of the topics)
Language: English.

There is a WhatsApp group linked to this series. Latest updates or questions can be shared within the group. Contact Karsten to learn more.