During his ministry as pastor and Bishop, Heinrich Bolleter has left many traces of blessing. This is also underlined by the testimonies of some women and men who shared a piece of the path with him.
For example, Ana Palik-Kuncak, former superintendent of the UMC in Serbia, says: “Under Bishop Bolleter's supervision, we as the UMC in Serbia experienced some beautiful things. During this time, the church has grown – and this despite the fact that these were difficult years for our society. But Bishop Bolleter understood the political and social circumstances well and stood by our side to help us in Serbia. His time includes the (re)construction of the churches in Šid, Pivnice, Kisač and Vrbas. For this we are very grateful. At the same time, the spiritual essence of the church was also built. Seminars were organized, young people were supported on their way towards the ordained ministry, personal conversations were held. With his cordiality, he was able to empathize well with our circumstances and seek and find solutions.”
Josef Cervenak, former superintendent of the UMC in the Czech Republic, also underlines Bishop Bolleter's empathy: “As an extremely kind and patient person, Heinrich was able to empathize with the complicated situations that concerned not only the episcopal area, but also the individual countries and the families of church employees. In professional and personal matters, he understood me and our common ministry not only in language but also in heart. The following story may serve as an example of his character, love, patience and empathy. There was an important conversation at a pastors' meeting where there was such a lively exchange of views that we could not keep up with translation. When I managed to calm the situation down, I wanted to summarize in detail the content and meaning of the debate for the bishop. Smiling and firm, he said, 'You don't have to tell me anything, I understand what's going on.' And he offered a solution!”
Urs Eschbach completed his theological training in Frankfurt am Main at the same time as Heinrich Bolleter and has had personal and professional ties with him for 60 years. “He was my bishop when I was district superintendent in Basel. I was especially helped by his understanding, empathetic and encouraging companionship during my wife Käthi's illness and after her death. When I married Elsbeth on December 19, 1998, he arranged the service for the wedding ceremony and preached the sermon on Colossians 3:12-15. Put on compassion and kindness for your common journey through life. Put on the garment of humility and meekness. Bear with one another and forgive one another. Become people who can give thanks. These are lasting thoughts from the sermon. Thank you very much for them.”
Hanna Wilhelm has experienced Bishop Heinrich Bolleter, especially in her work as district superintendent, as a warm, open, humorous and constructively critical personality. “To witness his far-sightedness and high professionalism in his service as bishop, also in the different countries, was very instructive and impressive for me. I am grateful to him for that.” And she adds: “An essential characteristic, among many others, is his appreciative personality, how he met and still meets people and walked with them a way in the work, encouraged them and also challenged them - and this in good and difficult times. With his deep faith in a loving God, Heinrich led the church. With his good news he was with the people, planted many seeds in the hearts, and these have matured, could grow and were harvested and go on as traces of blessing!”
For Pavel Prochazka, former superintendent of the UMC in Slovakia, Bishop Heinrich Bolleter is a man who brought a free dimension of Methodist solidarity and mutual responsibility for spreading the Gospel. “We perceived Bishop Heinrich Bolleter, God's envoy of faith, love and hope. I have always admired his down-to-earth attitude and values. Bishop Bolleter supported the expansion of the church in Slovakia. The blessing was that he trusted his co-workers, (...) and after years of distrust, we learned from him to trust again counting on the honesty of other people.”
Roland Wehrli particularly associates a distinctive social, technical and methodological competence. “I am grateful for his loving, attentive, open, but not constricting manner in the many encounters since 1962 until today. Particularly noteworthy are the first years of his episcopacy, when from 1990/91 the GDR, the Soviet Union and Yugoslavia fell. For the UMC congregations and annual conferences, as well as for society in the Eastern European countries, this was not an easy process, but a great challenge, which Bishop Bolleter also had to deal with. With joint efforts, those responsible for church and society succeeded in finding a good way forward.”
Finally, Istvan Csernak, former superintendent of the UMC in Hungary, gratefully remembers with what patience and helpfulness Bishop Heinrich Bolleter led through the challenges of political changes in the early years of his episcopal ministry. “He did his best for reclaiming former church properties, e.g. in Budakeszi (today Martha-Maria Home for the Elderly) or in Carpathian Ukraine (church building in Uzhgorod). He did a lot for involving the pastors and lay leaders of the UMC in Hungary into the global life and mission of the church. (...) It was a blessing that he trusted me/us.” István Csernák also mentions a great concern of the bishop: “Ministry among the Roma people was always on the heart of the Bishop. He visited several Roma congregations in Hungary and he supported this ministry very strongly.”
The former Hungarian superintendent probably speaks for many when he concludes: “My wife and I are grateful for all the years of service together for the Kingdom of God, for the love and friendship of Heinrich and Marta. May God bless them with many more years in good health to be a blessing in their family and in the church.”
Part 1 with some information on life and ministry of retired Bishop Heinrich Bolleter can be found HERE.
Compilation: Urs Schweizer, Assistant to the Bishop, Zurich/Switzerland