Austria - December 2001
The Reverend Doctor James Wiberg
Vienna Community Church
Last night it was the Vienna Choir boys in the Great Hall of the Vienna Concerthaus. Six of us went including Dave and Jenn. The kids were great. I really ought to record some of these services at church and put them out over the internet. Last Sunday, Kristor Hustad sang "Comfort Ye" from the Messiah. What a wonderful service. His voice just fills the sanctuary---Doctorate in Music, trying to crack the big time solo jobs here; not much luck yet. This Sunday another opera singer will perform two anthems---not sure what yet, but its only Wednesday. We're going to do a "Messiah Sing-In" with Chamber Music Group and soloists on the 17th. Vienna is just alive with music and concerts at this time of the year.
Austria - March 2001
The Reverend Doctor James Wiberg
Its been hovering around freezing here. Most of the bad storms were over near the coast, but we had quite a bit of snow. We spent the New Year in Salzburg and it was delightful.
The GRABEN, just near our church became a Christmas Tree Market for Advent stretching from St. Stephen's past the fountain and the gigantic Advent Wreath right in the center of the Plaza to its end. ALL OF DOWNTOWN Vienna is for pedestrians; delivery vehicles are allowed only in the early morning.
Today I met with 7 congregational leaders ---- all PhDs in one field or another to discuss the creation of neighborhood groups throughout Vienna. What talent surrounds me! What a challenge to try to motivate them! Fortunately one of our team leaders from Christchurch, New Zealand has 13 years of experience in small groups and is a Bethel trained teacher. We will see how many will become neighborhood group leaders.
On the Sunday before Thanksgiving, Opera Singer Hannibal Means walked into church before the Service and offered to sing. we gave him the Offertory slot and he rocked the rafters with "Swing Lo, Sweet Chariot!" A continuous stream of tourists keeps the place jumping. I have 13 opera singers in the congregation, all of whom are willing to share their talents.
Annet Zaire called me from Los Angeles to tell me the name of the number she will sing on Christmas Eve; (O Holy Night and Jesus Joy). The most famous is Tenor, Johan Botha. He just returned from the opening dedication of the Opera House in Barcelona. Jane Chung, M.E., from Yale, -here on Fullbright, played her Violin for us on Thanksgiving Eve when the Ambassador delivered the President's Proclamation. She is studying with a world-class Russian Violinist whom I have not yet met. the students are great and I am hopeful that we will be able to reach many more. Each Wednesday we have opened the Manse to students for supper, netting on the computer, and study, worship and reflection and fellowship. One of the students even decided to do her term paper on the translations of "Ein Feste Burg". I put her in touch on the Webb with Gracia Grindal, and other ILCW Hymn text committee members. There are a variety of semester programs for -stateside students. I have three Lutherans coming in January. The departing students have already put me in touch with them.
We just returned from a New Year's trip to Salzkammergut. Our neighbor teaches Gregorian Chant to seminary students and so we had an apartment at the Roman Catholic Seminary in Salzburg for four days after Christmas. We drove to the WESTDACHSTEIN ski areas from there. Dave and Jenn came with us. Here's a picture of our gondola as an attachment, plus some Salzburg views which are on the website too.
Needless to say, life is full and the spirit gives us no shortage of challenges. Keep us in your prayers as we also keep you before Him. In lieu of printed pictures and all that good stuff, I offer you the following:
ENJOY YOUR TOUR OF VIENNA VIA THE WEB.
If you want to see some of our son David's activities in the mountains go to this site: http://www.iiasa.ac.at/-wiberg/photoalbum.html
The Reverend Doctor James Wiberg
YESTERDAY, WAS QUITE A DAY.
I participated in a Catholic-Protestant Wedding with the Abbot of Vorau, a delightful little town in Styria about 120 kilometers outside of Vienna, June 4, 2000 at 4:00 p.m.
The Vorau Stift (or Monastery) now a retreat house, educational center and school is also the village church. The interior of the sanctuary is ornately designed in bold baroque, rococo style, with gold leaf and marvelous paintings all over the place. Friends of the bride and groom picked us up and drove us up into the mountainous terrain of Styria for the wedding. I had already, of course, met with the couple some months ago to make the arrangements for a combination German-English wedding. The groom is from England and the bride's parents are polish, although they immigrated some years ago to Austria. Both parents of the bride are Doctors, Dad a Gynecologist, and Mom, and Anne the siologist---Pavel and Anna. What a delightful couple. Pavel with his broad shoulders, strong and husky build; Magda with her slim, well proportioned figure, blond hair, beautifully cut in "Lady Di" style were as much a sensation as the bride and groom. Pavel's brother emigrated with his wife ten years ago from Poland to northern Sweden, to the land of the mid-night sun to practice medicine and enjoy the delights of the another culture. The bride's brother also a young lanky blond, sang a solo during the ceremony; his clear voice, unchanged yet by adolescent hormones, thrilled guests with its remarkably pure quality and his Choir boy tones reverberated throughout the cathedral church with a clarity that surprised all the guests. The groom's family and friends were all from London and most did not know any German. Hence it was the Groom's family who were really behind my invitation to participate in the wedding ceremony. Gavin's family--particularly his Mom, Robin, is a very gracious woman. She took time to make us feel at home and visited with us before the ceremony and again during the reception. A descendant of Robin's family, a cousin, now 86 years of age had made the journey from Vancouver, Canada, and was leaving right aft wards to attend a grandson's wedding in California. Gavin's father has been a journalist and has lived in many places from Moscow to Dubai, but is now an administrator in the BBC Office in London. He confided to us that his first love is reporting and that it is much more fun being out on the frontlines reporting the news, than being stuck away in a BBC administrative office.
Luray and I arrived at the Cathedral Church in the Village of Vorau in Styria in time to enjoy an ice cream dish on the garden patio before the 4:00 p.m. wedding ceremony began. Vorau is nestled in the hilly terrain west of Vienna about two hours drive from the city. The day was beautiful with crystal clear skies and a bright sun. The wind sped through the hills but was reduced to only a gentle breeze through the main gate of the monastery courtyard, cooling us sufficiently as we sat at tables in the shade of the monastery walls. This was a wonderful wedding to perform. No sermon to preach, just some lessons to read in English; then to repeat the vows and exchange of rings again in English and give a final blessing after which we could enjoy a sumptuous feast. Not bad for a day's work, if you can call it work.
After ice cream in the garden courtyard, I met with the Abbot, Pastor Gerhad Rechberger. Since the Stift Vorau is a retreat center and also the parish church, Pastor Rechberger is more of an administrator than a Pastor. There are 18 employees including 8 priests who preside over the program and activities of the Catholic Educational Center which includes a high school and junior college for girls. Since it is also the Parish Church of Vorau, you can add to that burden all of the masses for a community of 5,000 members to their schedules as well. I asked him what the maximum number of weddings per day could be and he confided to me that the most they had ever performed on one Saturday was five. There were only two today, one at 2:00 p.m., ours at 4:00 p.m. and then, of course, mass at 7:00 p.m. Needless to say he didn't make it to the reception for supper until after 8:00 p.m. After a quick tour of the sacristy, the Abbot showed me a place in a huge sacristy as big as my whole apartment, where I could assemble my papers and store my robes and then I went off to meet other members of the family.
As the appointed hour approached, the Abbot and I donned our robes and went to meet the bride and her family and all of the wedding party at the doors of the church and with the acolytes at the head of the procession we journeyed the long corridor of the church to the Altar, an aisle which seemed to me to be just as long as the one in the Washington National Cathedral. There were two chairs placed right in front of the Altar and the Abbot invited me to sit with him there in the very front of the Church, just before the Altar, on its high platform elevated above the rest of the sanctuary. I commented to friends at lunch today, that I felt like a Regal Prince on his throne, sitting up there before all 200 guests in this great baroque sanctuary, listening to the strains of Pachelbel's music for violins wafting through the melodious spaces of the cathedral whose first cornerstone was consecrated in 1202 A.D. A string quartet from Vienna provided the processional music as family and friends formed an honor guard on either side of the main aisle. The bride with her Mom and Dad as escorts, followed by the rest of the family, then filed passed and took their seats in the "choir" area of the gothic cathedral.
The ceremony itself was typical for mixed marriages like this; no communion, just Scripture readings, the little brother's solo, the exchange of vows and rings, but with a blessing by Abbot and Pastor with our stoles draped over the couples joined hands. An addition of a reading of Poo Poetry by a family friend was a nice touch toward the close of the ceremony. As the wedding party made the great recessional another honor guard was formed by the family members extending long stemmed roses across the aisle for bride and groom to pass through. And from there we were led into another garden courtyard adjacent to the church where wine and cheese and other delicacies were served. From this courtyard at the far corner was a stair case which led us up into the great banquet rooms of the Stift or Monastery on the third floor. As guests found their seats by looking for their names immaculately engraved in calligraphic script a small band began to play quietly in one corner of the hall. Luray and I were seated next to the musicians whom we found to our delight were all from the States. Dardis McNamee is now a teacher at the Danube International School having been divorced from her husband a Philosophy and Business Professor at Rensalear, N.Y. We had a great time sharing our impressions of Vienna and Austria in general and secured a promise that she would be play for one of services in the future. Another young man, a friend of the groom was a singer, so we signed him up as well. The banquet rooms were situated on the north side of the Stift; two gigantic ceramic "ovens" or heating stoves were ornately positioned in two corners of the great hall. They stretched from floor to nearly the full 14' ceiling of the dining hall. Windows were opened revealing panoramic views of the valleys and hills and red roofed shops and homes of the village of Vorau below the high hill of the monastery building and grounds. Paintings adorned the walls of the banquet hall. In-laid wooden furniture of ancient fine quality were used for the storage of special crystal, glass and silver. Four different types of wine goblets were used for the various toasts and spirits served with the six course meal. Waiters and waitresses scurried to keep the beverages flowing and the glasses filled to the brim. Sect, and Riesling Wines, juices of every kind, mineral water, and the ubiquitous Coca Cola were all available.
After an appropriate period for visiting and the pouring of lots of spirits, juices and water, it was announced that the bride and grooms' table would begin the buffet dinner. Either my ears were plugged or I didn't hear the announcement, but the first round was just the appetizers. Three tables were filled with all kinds of exotic dishes, breads and meat and cheeses of every sort; fruit plates seemed to be in abundance everywhere, so I gorged myself with these exotic foods using a regular sized dinner plate. Then after another lengthy period of conversation and visitation, which this time Luray I spent with a London family, Mr. and Mrs. Robert Kerr, the bride and her table suddenly announced that the main meal would now be served. I couldn't believe this. I had been eating and gorging myself now for an hour and the meal was just starting. Thus I waited sometime, took a walk and went with one of the later tables to gather another plate full of delightfully cooked lamb, potatoes, vegetables, and a salad (on still another dinner sized plate); I skipped the soup line, figuring that I could bypass at least one course of the sumptuous feast. It was now past 9:00 p.m. and I was just starting to eat dinner.
After still more conversation and more musical chairs and conversation with other guests, the toasts began. Pavel, the father of the bride was first to his toast in Polish, in German and in English. His toast proved to be a sentimental recitation of many of his memories of "life with daughter Anna". It took about 15 minutes, delivered in three different languages, and sprinkled with humorous episodes which kept the guests in stitches. He finally closed with a wish for a happy life for the bride and groom. Then there was the groom's brother with family episodes, the groom's father and finally the Bestman who offered his toast in German and in English. To close off the toasts, Dardis McNamee read a selection of poetry from John Donne which again brought our attention to the themes of love and faithfulness in marriage. Soon thereafter the bride and groom danced the first waltz. They were then joined by parents and finally by the wedding party; by this time it was 10:30 p.m. and the cake had not even been cut. Since this was Saturday, and our chauffeurs for the return trip had two kids, it was time for us to bid farewell to the family and return from this "fairy tale like episode in an otherwise mundane life" to the realties of parish practice and the preparation for the worship of the Vienna Community Church on the next day. As we were gathering up robes and papers, the Bride's mother came rushing out with a bag full of Mozart Kugeln and told us that we needed to have some sweets since we could not stay for the cutting of the cake.
We arrived home shortly after midnight and managed to get about six hours of sleep before beginning the preparations for another day---worship, coffee hour, lunch at our favorite Maredo Restaurant across the Street from the Vienna Opera House and a visit with Father Chrysostrom at the Russian Orthodox church with about 10 of our members.
The bride's mother told me that they would try to send me a picture from the wedding, hopefully one of the interior of the church. Don't let the front of the church deceive you; it was one long, long church, once you were inside. The bride and groom told me that they attended Christmas Eve Services here last year and there were over 3,000 people in the church.
Vienna, Austria, December 2000
The Reverend Doctor James Wiberg
Our year has been filled with fascinating experiences with many people from all around the world. Most of all we continue to be thrilled by the music of our people at the Vienna Community Church. Many of them are professional singers in various groups here in this city of music and culture. When world-class tenor soloist and opera star, Johan Botha sings, our little church nearly trembles as his magnificent voice fills that little space with the notes of God's praise. Now the lights of the huge Advent Wreath on the main street in the old city of Vienna mark the approach of Christmas. The "Christkindlmarkt" at the City Hall and at Schoenbrunn Castle invite our curiosity as we marvel at the handcrafted decorations available for the Christmas Trees. The "punsch" and the "gluhwein" seem to be offered at some sidewalk kiosk in every block of the old city. The crowds of people in the "Christkindlmarkt" walk shoulder to shoulder. As we stroll the park in front of Vienna's marvelous city hall, the twinkle of thousands of lights cast their shadows upon the ornately carved stones and spires of this marvelous building.
THINK GLOBALLY - ACT LOCALLY - PRAY FOR WORLD PEACE