To the Making of Many Books there is No End

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Recently I came across this conversation on Facebook (I blanked out names and pictures):

This led me to ponder my own attitude towards and relationship with books. 

My father had a huge private library of more than 2500 books on all sorts of subjects: non-fiction from politics (such as Mein Kampf and Das Kapital) to philosophy, history, medicine, etc., as well as fiction (i.e. the German classics like GoetheSchiller, etc., as well as German novelists of the interwar period and immediately after WW2 like Kraus, Kästner, Tucholsky, Grass, etc.). As I grew up I followed in his footsteps and began to assemble my own collection of books.

After my father died and we his children had to sell the house we had grown up in to a contractor, none of us was either interested in or had enough space to take over this massive library. So with a few exceptions the books stayed in the house which within a few days was demolished to make way for terraced houses. The books became part of the demolition rubble.

As a bibliophile and avid reader I was saddened by this. In the course of my own life I relocated several times, both within Austria and to the US and back, and for reasons of logistics I had to get rid of many of my books. Then I discovered eBooks and for the most part stopped buying printed books. With very few exceptions I now buy only eBooks, in KindleePub, and PDF formats. I have even purchased eBook versions of some of the books I used to own in paper.

Now my entire library fits on a USB stick, and when my time comes to depart this life my kids won’t have to worry about where to find room for hundreds of yellowed books; and if they are not interested in my library they can just reformat the stick.

As much as I love books (and particularly also fine examples of the arts of typography, printing, and bookbinding, which I mostly cannot afford anyway) I realize that just like money, my computers, etc., ultimately I cannot take my books with me, and that they can all to easily become a burden, if not for me then for those who come after me.

By the way, the title for this post is taken from Ecclesiastes 14:12:

To the making of many books there is no end, and much study wearies the body.

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Two Vienna Churches: Stadtlicht and New City Wien

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Having grown up in a fairly traditional Roman Catholic family, by the time I reached my mid-teens I was no longer really interested in God and church. Then I met a group of young people to whom God seemed to be a living reality, and after spending some time with them I decided to follow Jesus myself.

After a few very formative months in England I came back to Vienna during the summer of 1972 and found my way to an evangelical church in the process of formation. This church later became known as the Tulpengasse or TUGA church, and was the subject of a book by Canadian Mennonite author Margaret Epp. Some of the people I got to know there are still more or less close friends today, such as Johannes Fichtenbauer, who today is a Roman Catholic deacon; others have already passed away, such as the church’s founding pastor and his wife, Canadian Mennonite Brethren missionaries Abe and Irene Neufeld; many others I have lost touch with after moving on, for a variety of reasons, to other churches both in Austria and abroad.

Today, the TUGA church is part of the Federation of Evangelical Churches in Austria, and thus also part of the state-recognized Free Churches in Austria.

A few weeks ago the TUGA church moved from their longtime facilty in Tulpengasse in Vienna’s 8th district, to the novum venue in Wiedner Hauptstrasse 146, in Vienna’s 5th district, known as Margareten. Consequently they changed their name to Stadtlicht – Freikirche Margareten, i.e. Light For The City – Free Church Margareten.

The Stadtlicht church shares its space with the bi-lingual reformed New City Wien church, which also recently moved to the novum location from their old premises on the other side of Wiedner Hauptstraße, a few hundred meters towards the city center. My connection to New City Wien is the fact that my son Stephen and his wife are pretty intensively involved in this church, and that for this reason I have frequently attended their Sunday morning service in the past.

novum Wiedner Hauptstraße is a part of novum locations, a company started and owned by Christians which owns and operates multiple dual-use facilities across Austria: these are typically used by evangelical churches on the weekend, and rented out as conference and seminar facilities during the week. This business model is not without problems, and the co-existence of the two types of users  is not always friction-free, but it has made available affordable meeting spaces to evangelical churches who would otherwise have a hard time affording their own space.

Stadtlicht have their Sunday service in the morning, and New City Wien have theirs in the afternoon. Because of the restrictions imposed due to the Covid pandemic both churches are live streaming their services on YouTube, permitting me to follow both services despite my health-induced mobility challenges.

Here are the links to their respective YouTube channels, where the livestreams can be found each Sunday, as well with videos of past sermons:

My prayer and wish for these two churches is that together they can be an even brighter light and can even more effectively seek the welfare of the city whom their names reference (Jeremiah 29:7).

There are two things in this story which are not without pain to me:

On the one hand the fact that some of those I got to know and respect in the TUGA church (and of course also in various other churches since then) have somehow and for a variety of reasons drifted  away from biblical Christianity, towards some other ideology or philosophy. While I do not feel called or qualified to speculate on the eternal fate of other people (I am much to busy to work out my own salvation with fear and trembling — Philippians 2:12),  when I hear about someone’s passing, and the report is cloaked in the unbiblical language of New Age or other eastern esoteric religion, then, while I commit this person to the boundless love, mercy and grace of God, I cannot help but have some slight doubt as to their fate.

And on the other hand there is the sad fact that it was apparently not possible to preserve the Tulpengasse venue as a space for Christian ministry, and so an important piece of Vienna’s evangelical history is lost forever.

 

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Alyssa and her family need our help

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Bear one another’s burdens, and so fulfill the law of Christ. (Gal. 6:2)

Don & Nancy Prokop came to Austria as Vineyard missionaries, and together with Dave & Lisa Boyd the planted and nurtured the Vienna Vinyard. Their children Amy, Alyssa, and Matthew grew up near Vienna and attended Vienna Christian School (now International Christian School of Vienna). In recent years Don Prokop is part of the Mercy House of Prayer in Vienna, as well as part of the intercession team for the Austrian Roundtable, a grassroots Christian reconciliation initiative.

Their three children are married, Amy in California, Alyssa in Germany, and Matthew here in Austria.

In April of 2020 Alyssa’s husband David Kogler found her unresponsive in her bed. She was rushed to the hospital, and the initial diagnosis was an unspecified infection which had gone septic and caused swelling on the brain (cerebral edema). Alyssa almost died, and a short time later doctors diagnosed a rare condition: Addison’s Disease or hypocortisolism.

All of this has left Alyssa in a minimally conscious state, unable to walk, talk, care for herself or feed herself. At 46, the once vibrant caring wife, mother, daughter, sister, and friend to many, a talented singer, has been silenced.

Because of Covid restrictions, initially visits were severely restricted; in fact, Alyssa’s children saw their mother for the first time in a full year in April 2021.

Since last summer Alyssa has been in a nursing home; she needs round the clock care and intensive therapies to hopefully regain some of her abilities. All this is expensive; in God’s providence much of it is covered by insurance and government aid. Nevertheless, Alyssa’s husband David faces a monthly shortfall of $1800 (€1500).

This is why Alyssa’s sister Amy has started a GoFundMe campaign to financially support Alyssa and her family.

In the spirit of “bearing one another’s burdens” I ask all my readers to consider participating, according to their means and abilities.

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A Christmas Childhood Memory

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(Hier gibt es eine deutsche Version dieses Beitrags)

Growing up we had a large print of a Madonna with Child hanging in our living room which has left a lasting impression.

The picture on our wall looked like the left half of the picture at the top of this page, “Four Shepherds”, and I think what impressed me was its simplicity when compared to the usual statues and pictures of the  mother of Christ in Roman Catholic Austria. Neither mother nor Child have a halo, for example.1 To me, the color scheme communicates serenity, calm, and security.

I chose to post the picture “Four Shepherds” here, instead of just the Madonna with Child, because it fits very well with the Christmas season.

The artist, Albin Egger-Lienz, was born in 1868 and died in 1926, and worked mostly in Munich, Vienna, and the Tyrol. His reputation and reception post-World War II suffered from the fact that several high-ranking Nazis had praised his work — but so had Leo Trotsky.

  1. The artist painted several versions of this Madonna and Child motif, some in different colors, and some with halos.
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My Views on the Eucharist, or Lord’s Supper

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As an Evangelical Christian, currently attending a Baptist church in Vienna, Austria, I have for quite a while been bothered by the prevailing view of the Eucharist, or Lord’s Supper, in our circles. Continue reading My Views on the Eucharist, or Lord’s Supper

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Our New Home

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Later this year we (Wolf & Geraldine Paul) will be moving from Vienna to our new home in Gross-Schweinbarth in the “Weinviertel” region of Lower Austria, about 30 km northeast of Vienna. Here is a map which shows the area: Continue reading Our New Home

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