It is always a joy to visit the magnificent Austrian capital. Very few places combine such a commitment to innovation with so rich an inheritance of architecture, culture and music. Vienna is truly one of the world’s great cities. And it is also a strategic location for the establishment of a new church plant and fresh expression of Anglicanism. “Citykirche” meets just across the road from the splendid Vienna Concert House.
Citykirche began its life just a couple of years ago in rather humbler surroundings. Here is the Roman Catholic chaplaincy room where Citykirche’s worship began. The community still has its offices in the same building.
The Revd. Dr. Christian Hofreiter had the vision of a German-speaking Anglican community in Vienna that would complement the work of our existing English-speaking Christ Church, Vienna. He raised the very considerable funds needed via entrepreunerial networks of business people committed to church planting. He discussed the project with ecumenical colleagues. He formed the requisite Austrian charitable structure, developed a constitution that meets the needs of our diocese, and last year registered the community as a new chaplaincy within the Diocese in Europe. This is an admirable venture of faith, requiring some courage from Christian and his wife Helen – pictured here with us in the delightful Café Central enjoying a Wiener Schnitzel.
The community quite rapidly outgrew its initial home. Now it meets at this central high school, with the impossibly prestigious address of Number 1 Beethoven Platz. Like several of our chaplaincies, Citykirche has found that a school provides ideal premises for worship with an assembly hall, toilets and classrooms for Sunday School. This High School is also used as a school for Ukrainians at the weekend, so some of the usual issues around caretaking and opening up are made easier.
Though not all school halls are quite as beautiful as this one. Not only does the hall benefit from inspiring neo-gothic windows and splendid chandeliers, but the space is surrounded by gorgeous artwork depicting saints from Christian history.
Aside from being very keen to see this new church community, I was visiting to confirm four adult candidates: Dominik, Annika, Francesca and Sam. Each of these candidates had a fascinating story to tell about what had led them to Citykirche and why the liturgy and reformed theology of Anglicanism resonated with them. We assembled for a photo at the end of the service under the (I hope) approving gaze of St. Augustine and St. Jerome.
As the community grows and becomes established it will no doubt have lots of questions to settle about its identity and what it does and doesn’t stand for. Early decisions quickly become traditions! At the outset it embodies a commitment to Anglican teaching and liturgy and to a missional ethos. Christian himself brings a particular interest in apologetics – commending and defending the faith, and my observation is that the church is tending to attract some notably keen, thinking younger people.
At the present time, confidence in the relevance of the Christian gospel to our current world and a rising generation can feel shakier than it did. So I hope that like me you find the story of this new church plant at the centre of one of Europe’s major capital cities an encouraging story and something to celebrate.