The Annual Conference meeting in Austria had to be postponed in May – as in all other countries of Central and Southern Europe. Nevertheless, there are interesting things to report about how the Methodists are doing in Austria in the current situation. An online study day on October 10, 2020, provided an opportunity for joint discussion.
In view of the 150th anniversary in 2021, the Annual Conference 2019 wanted to include the three-step approach of Wesley's original questions for conference sessions. In May 2019, the main theme was therefore "What to teach?". In addition to the discussions at the Annual Conference session, other meetings were also intended to deepen the theme. Shortly before the lock-down in March 2020, all members of the conference met again for a study day. Four concerns in connection with the word “Love and…” emerged:
Love and relationship with God:
-> Loved by God, we practice a spiritual attitude
Love and community:
-> Our communities are places of faith and personal development
Love and relationship with one’s neighbor:
-> We want to share God's love with others. That is why we practice a Christian way of life and want to be capable to speak as Christians.
Love ... and what else is important to us:
-> We do this in an attitude of openness (open hearts, open doors, open minds). Music and good opportunities for further education are among our strengths.
On the occasion of the Annual Conference in May 2020, the theme "How to teach?” was intended to be the focus of the discussions. In Austria, as elsewhere, the UMC is characterized by a high appreciation of community. At the same time, the church should not reduce itself to the topic of community. For in the deepest sense it is about the orientation towards God, who strengthens us humans, awakens joy and wants to let us grow in love. But then the coronavirus came in spring. And with it came the question of how people and churches can live in community and maintain contact with one another in a time of social distancing. The question of how digital media make it possible to bridge distances suddenly came to the fore. How can digital media complement and expand the diverse ministry of the Church? A revision of the Internet presence is being planned. The Austrian Methodists will remain creatively on the move.
Next year, the Annual Conference session is planned for May 13-16, 2021, probably in Vienna.
Bishop Dr. Patrick Streiff, Zurich