Last week we received this letter inviting us to an evening meeting for all newcomers to the Cramerstrasse SDA Church (informally known as “Crami Church”). The plan was for several hours meeting other new attendees and an opportunity to learn more about how the church and how its many committees function. So, on Monday evening, Martin and I headed off to church.
Upon arrival, we partnered up and discussed our backgrounds with other newcomers. In addition to two other Swiss-Americans (mother and daughter) we also were introduced to an Indian family, a Brazilian, an Austrian, a German, an Italian family, a Bulgarian, and several Swiss. We were the only lawyers, but the group also included a midwife, a teacher, and several physicists and engineers.
We both found it interesting to discover that the Crami Church is the largest of 5 SDA churches in Zürich (there are 55 in Switzerland) and home to 278 members from more than 35 nations. In addition, the church is fond of committee organization as 100 of the 278 members are also on one church committee or another. After a lengthy discussion of the church’s place in the world church and its internal leadership structure, several practices stood out to me as different from my SDA experience in America.
First, the Crami Church puts a high value on one’s membership residing with their church, and apparently limits most church volunteer involvement, Sabbath school or otherwise, to only baptized members of the Crami Church. For the first time in my life, I felt a bit like I had to show them my certificate before I could be in the club. We’ll see if my desire to volunteer in the future forces me to transfer my membership from Mt. Shasta. I think Greenlake Church had it right when they developed the “Friends of Greenlake” status for those regular attendees who didn’t have their membership at Greenlake, but were still active participants.
Secondly, only church members can request home visits from deacons. I have always thought that such requests for visits from deacons (or elders) are often a good outreach tool, so why would we restrict the opportunity to share prayer, discussion, or study to only our members if another community member specifically requests a visit? I really cannot think of one good reason.
After a brief break for snacks, and an opportunity to mingle with the church board, we also found out more about the church’s many study and discussion groups, and other activities. For now, we are sticking with church on Sabbath and, for me, a German class for beginners on Tuesday nights. And after one class this week, it seems that my strangely good grasp of pronunciation (?), general grammar rules, greetings, and numbers means that I can skip from beginners to advanced. I’m not convinced, so I’ll be back at Crami Church next Tuesday night to keep on learning.