Thomas Bucher hands over leadership of EEA to new General Secretaries

Thomas Bucher hands over leadership of EEA to new General Secretaries
 

On Wednesday evening, 5 October 2022, long-time EEA General Secretary Thomas Bucher (Switzerland) officially handed over the baton to the new leadership duo of Connie Main Duarte (Portugal) and Jan Wessels (Netherlands). At the handover ceremony, EEA President Frank Hinkelmann gave the ceremonial address for Thomas Bucher and thanked him for his commitment to the EEA and the Evangelical Movement in Europe.

The EEA staff thanking Thomas Bucher

 

The handover ceremony happened as part of the HOPE FOR EUROPE 2022 Experience, in Sarajevo, Bosnia-Herzegovina. The special gathering, which was hosted by the European Evangelical Alliance takes place every three years and convenes hundreds of evangelical leaders from across Europe to share strategies, best practices and valuable insights. The motto of HOPE 2022 was „Builders connecting – Celebrating the Kingdom of God”.

 

Below you can read the full speech given by Thomas Bucher at the handover ceremony.

 
All photos by Antun Balog
 

General Secretary, Thomas Bucher speech at handover ceremony

 

Dear Frank, dear EEA board, dear EEA staff, dear Gen Secs and Presidents of National EAs, dear Affiliate members, dear EEA HfE Networks Chairs, dear friends

 

When I address all of you, it shows something of the richness of relationships in the EEA. It makes my heart thankful and humbles me. So many people journeying together. Let me use my special picture once more: so many people coming to the dance floor and dancing together. So many united in the task to build God’s kingdom in Europe and beyond.

 

That makes me thank God. God, who made this all possible. God, the one who has begun this all and who is the end of it all.

Outgoing General Secretary, Thomas Bucher addressing the attendes at the HOPE 2022 Experience

 

This reminds me of a word which has been very important to me over the years. In the short Westminster Catechism it says: What is the chief end of man? Man’s chief end is to glorify God, and to enjoy him for ever! This has been on my heart and this has kept me going.

 

That’s why I introduced times of silence and reflection in meetings like this. Trying to take us out of the business, listen to God’s word and just be before him. Finding the right format has not always been easy as we come from so many different traditions. And believe it or not, it is a very needed exercise for me as well. I am a busybody and have to keep reminding myself that Jesus wants to give me rest. Something I want to remind you one more time: Jesus wants to give you rest. His yoke is easy and his burden is light. Very unlikely of what we often find among ourselves. So many of us run very hard as God’s work would depend on our efforts alone. But that is not so for This is what the Sovereign Lord, the Holy One of Israel, says: ‘In repentance and rest is your salvation, in quietness and trust is your strength.

 

A picture which has stuck with me was confirmed through a comment by a participant of a strategy meeting of the World EA. He exclaimed: You are sitting on a gold mine! Exploiting this gold mine has been an important part of my time with the EEA. I want to thank you that many of you have joined in this task willingly. You have helped to dig up gold that it was possible to put it to good use for others.

 

You ask, how one can see this? Compare the EEA newsletters 5-10 years ago with what you get these days. Rejoice in the many stories. Look at the resources on the EEA website and try finding out how many other National EAs have translated them and put the to good use. Check on good practice shared and listen to the stories where they have been replicated. All of this has surely not been thought up by the EEA staff. This has come from your national gold mines. You have generously shared with each other. You have brought this to the dance floor. And the EEA as the spider in the net has been able to put it into a helpful format, enrich and complement it and make it available for others.

 

This happens through many ways apart from the newsletter. Not just through various media channels but as well through digital and physical meetings.

 

One important effect of this have been the various interest groups springing up and through this friendships developing. I think for instance of the Balkan Regional

Incoming General Secretary, Connie Main Duarte, thanking Thomas Bucher

meeting, the DACH meeting (Germany, Austria and Switzerland), the meeting of 6 larger National EAs. They all happen at least once a year with physical presence. It is so touching when a representative of a the Cypriot EA prays for one of the Turkish EA, when you hear Turks and Greeks making plans for a joint youth outreach, the Bulgarian EA invites all the others to observe a teenager bible knowledge competition and Kosovars sit together with the Serbian EA. This is Evangelical Alliance as it should be. And there are many more examples. There are beginnings of Regional meetings in the Nordic countries, the Western and the Southern ones. Again, as EEA we just facilitate these meetings and you bring life and meaning into them.

 

Much of the drive and knowhow comes yet from another co rner, speak from the EEA Hope for Europe Networks. Some have become real heavy weights, meaning they have a great impact. They have been able to work on a topic which creates a lot of response. I think of the European Freedom Network, Refugee Highway Partnership and Arts+ who are global players as well. Others are faithfully doing their work and sometimes you wonder why they do not attract more traction on the European level despite representing a sizeable interest group. As an example I want to mention the Disability Network which represents 15% of the population.

 

One thing they do have in common: they are brining expertise to the dance floor. They have often quite some work going on nationally but they have not been able to pull this together as would be needed. Thank you to all of you who so diligently do your work. When I started there were 4 EEA Networks. Through the Hope for Europe Networks joining the EEA these grew to almost 20.

 

I could talk of the Affiliates who at times contribute or create synergy. I could mention expert groups relating to the socio political work. So many more have contributed for the benefit of the wider society. Thank you so much.

 

And all of this has happened and developed in the midst of quite some special opportunities, to say it positively. They certainly made us grow and reach new heights. I am referring to the refugee crisis which started in 2015. COVID had yet another huge impact on us and lately the war in the Ukraine has been demanding.

 

I want to thank all of you how you have faced all of this with creativity, diligence and with much sacrifice. At this point I want to especially thank the EEA staff who has faithfully served and made possible what has been perceived as benefit by many. Thank you Julia, Arie, the Bonn office with Matthias, Elisabeth, Tanja and others and Vitaly for bringing the Eastern perspective.

 

Thanks as well to the EEA board for all your support.

 

I could go on and on in mentioning people who have made my EEA journey possible. There is not enough time for it. But I want to thank one person especially. My wife Margrith. You have not only provided a much appreciated support. You have been a companion. You have encouraged me when I was disheartened, you were a listening ear when I struggled with challenges and you were patient and encouraging when it felt like mountains falling on me. Thank you for your love and for your prayers!

 

And now I wish all of you God’s richest blessings. It has been good journeying with you.

 

To my successors, Connie and Jan, I wish joy, wisdom and strength and the knowledge of the presence of our Almighty God. The one who gave the EEA a unique task, the one who has sustained us and who will open up new horizons.

 

To end this talk I would like to widen the picture of the dance floor. The dance floor is part of a bigger picture namely the invitation to the wedding which Jesus talks about in Matthew 22. A wedding with a huge banquet. There is a dance floor but the dominant picture is the table where all the guests sit and feast together. Dancing is a challenge for many but sitting at the table and enjoying the banquet put’s people at ease. So I suggest my to not only use this dancefloor picture but to invite people to the table as well.

 

Thanks again to all of you!

 

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