LIVING LIGHT
Living Light
Welcome! You have found the site of the CreationKeepers team (Christ Church's Eco Church Committee), which shares ideas and experiences about how we can all lighten our environmental footprint. We do this because we see our planet and its resources at a breaking point and believe in the power of personal examples. Most weeks, we will reflect on some aspect of living, working, shopping, consuming, reading, learning, etc. These are all local experiences and can easily be adopted by others in our community. Our authors (Rosie and Monika) look forward to any comments or ideas that you may also have and want to share. Send us your ideas at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

Blog #20: Bee Careful!

May 27, 2021 
Monika Weber-Fahr & Charlotte Wiggins
World Bee Day was a week ago today, and so for this week’s LivingLight blog, we dug a little deeper into the lives of bees in Vienna, Austria, and the world, and into what they mean for people of faith. So, if you enjoy honey, like burning a candle, or are curious about what the little black-and-yellow fellows may mean for us as a congregation and for caring for God’s creation, check out the paragraphs below.

Honeybees are a busy lot - and when you look around, you can find them at work here in Vienna and in the surroundings. The bees on this picture belong to one of my own hives.  From what I know, we have at least two beekeepers in the Christ Church Community.   
Bees, the honey they produce, and the beekeepers that look after them, have long been part of religious lives. Bees even played a role in ancient mythologies, including in Hindu thinking and in Aegean and Near East Cultures, as a sacred insect and symbol of love and spring.  Already known as food for the Gods in ancient Egypt, honey has been harvested since about 10,000 BC and remained, certainly in Europe, the most significant sweetener for foods until the late medieval years when sugarcane was introduced from the East Indies in the 19th century, complemented at scale by sugar beets. The bible includes multiple references to bees, honey and related products, often in the context of longish walks in desert spaces. In the middle ages, monasteries across Europe became centres for beekeeping, mostly because bees helped generate highly prized wax that was necessary for the all-important candle. Across the Latin American Continent, bees were also a focus for priestly attention, documented through the Madrid Codex, a pre-Columbian Maya book dating back to the 15th century, meant to help Maya priests in their tasks; one of which must have been beekeeping, as reflected on 10 of the 112 pages of the Codex.
Beehives have long been a metaphor for Christian life. “The bee is the wisest and cleverest of all animals and the closest to man in intelligence; its work is truly divine and of the greatest use to mankind”, writes a 10th century byzantine author.  Also, St. Frances de Sales wrote beautifully and multiple times about the bees and their work, taking the bees’ way of working, coordinating and supporting each other as illustration for the quiet and pure work of God. And true to form, from what I can tell, bees and beekeepers have not one but several patron saints: St. AmbroseSt. Valentine, and my personal favorite, St. Gobnait (also known as St. Abigail or St. Deborah), an Irish nun of the 6th century, plus St. Bernard of Clairvaux (beekeepers, wax makers, candlemakers). Not forgetting St. Benedict whose order gave us the blessing of the bees prayer, St. Haralambos who is mainly celebrated in Bulgaria, St Bartholomew who is much associated with honey mead, as well as multiple other saints who were prominent beekeepers.
Faith-based beekeeping continues today. Here, close to Vienna, the Stift Heiligenkreuz and the Kleine Schwestern in Regelsbrunn portray looking after beehives as a way to slow down and focus life on the real essentials. In Regelsbrunn, two beekeepers (both Sisters, one of whom is in their 80s) look after about 40 hives. Visiting this small community of five sisters is a sure way to find both peace and inspiration in how their monastic life is in step with nature and how their faith and prayers reflect this harmony. Just sitting in front of a beehive and watching the bees come in and out, finding the right flowers, helping each other in cleaning and carrying pollen, information and food is enriching for the soul.

Honey from the Kleinen Schwestern Jesu, a local monastic group residing right outside Vienna, can be purchased at the Schottenstift Store in the 1st district.
If you want to support local beekeeping do purchase your honey not in the very large chains but in local stores.
 
And yet, bees are under threat. Most of you will be well aware of recent studies documenting dramatic declines in insect populations driven by deforestation, climate change, invasive species, industrialized agriculture, use of toxic pesticides and even light pollution, and bees are affected by the very same developments. In Austria alone, the honeybee population has shrunk by about 25 percent (around 100,000 beehives) between 1995 and 2015, and wild bees are just as much under threat. Across Europe, as well as in Austria and even in Vienna, there are a number of initiatives to support and protect bees, including but not limited to honey bees. Just a month ago, the use of pesticides was a major battleground. Just three weeks ago, the European Court of justice upheld a lower court’s ban on three insecticides linked to harming bees. It is amazing to note that Bayer went through three levels of courts to have this verdict confirmed, a court case that ran since 2013 and had the Austrian and the German Beekeeper Associations involved as major drivers.
So what can regular folks do to help? If you have a garden or a balcony: plant flowers liked by bees (nicely, most spices and herbs used for cooking fall into that category). Be a lazy lawn mower. Check out this little video - it shows quite specifically what you can do to help some of the hundreds of wild bees (in German, but very illustrative). Become a member or otherwise support organizations that support bees - there are too many to list here but you may want to focus on those that support beekeeping or are in the nature conservation space more broadly. Political lobbying really matters - not just against pesticides but also for more diversity in landscapes and agriculture. Think like a bee: Together, with many others, we can make a difference.
To get started, do go out and get to know the bees in your neighbourhood!  Vienna, self styled city of bees, offers amazing opportunities for this: About 700 beekeepers manage around 5000 hives within the city limits. A great place to start are the beehives on Vienna’s cemeteries, including the Marxer Friedhof (across from Mozart’s grave) or the Zentralfriedhof, but don’t forget the Botanical Garden, the top of the Kunsthistorische Museum, the Kunsthaus Wien, or the rooftops of various hotels, the chancellery, the city hall and the opera.  And do get yourself some local honey! A good address is the Schottenstift - where you can also find the very honey produced by the Kleinen Schwestern. Enjoy!

Urban Beekeeping is not only possible but also encouraged here in Vienna. These beehives can be found on the Marxer Friedhof in the 3rd district.
Picture taken from the FB site of Biezen, one of the local urban beekeepers. 
Want to be part of Christ Church Vienna's CreationKeepers? Got some ideas for us? Suggestions or questions? Please contact us at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.. We'd love to hear from you...!

Blog #19: A long long night at Christ Church - and across town ...

May 20, 2021 
Rosie Evans
A long Long Night at Christ Church is coming your way, no joke! You may want to mark Friday, May 28th, in your calendars …  The LivingLight Blog is bringing Christ Church’s participation in Vienna’s Lange Nacht der Kirchen (the Long Night of the Churches) to you because this year’s focus is all about Taking Care of Creation (Bewahrung der Schoepfung). Psalm 104:20  “.. and you made the darkness, so the animals in the forest could come out at night” provides the overall setting. And indeed, there is lots to check out all over town. Our very own Christ Church Vienna will be offering Animal Blessings on the Go, hoping to see visits by those that own and love animals, between 6pm and 9pm, to have their pets blessed and explore our church and what we are about. For those interested, a prayer service will be offered at 8:30 pm. Pet-less but curious? You are welcome, too, of course! Do drop by, with or without a pet ;-).

Next Friday, May 28, everyone is invited to come by for a Blessing on the Go for their pets, anytime between 6 and 9pm; the Church will remain open for visitors and informal chats until 10pm.
What is The Long Night of the Churches? Simply put, it's an initiative designed to give people the chance to explore neighbourhood churches, easy come easy go. It’s a chance to discover new things, meet new people, exchange ideas and, as the website says, to be surprised!
The programme here at Christ Church is designed to be fit for all the family, including your much beloved pets! If you want to join us straight away at 6pm, you can participate in an opening prayer. Then between 6.15pm and 8.30pm, the doors - either in the church or out in the church garden, weather-permitting - remain open for anyone to bring their animals to be blessed or to just come for a chat. There will also be an EcoChurch/CreationKeepers information stand throughout the evening, staffed by Rosie, Monika, and hopefully a few others. The event will close at 8.30pm with a short service. And, if that wasn’t enough, the church itself is open from 6pm until 10pm for anyone to come and visit and have a conversation with one of the team.
Across town, churches offer many different events and opportunities to get to know them, from singalongs to concerts and tours. Check out the programme for more information (mostly in German)! One great opportunity worth mentioning is the Hearonymus Audio Guide app. This audio guide will take you through a choice of three walks around the city of Vienna, prepared by art historian and Austrian guide Julia Strobl. You can view the details on the website. It does seem like a great way to spend your Friday evening!
 
Never heard about the Long Night of the Churches before? Don’t feel embarrassed, it is particular to the German-speaking parts of the world. Initiated in Germany in 1995, the first Austrian Lange Nacht der Kirchen was held in 2005, mainly in churches in the city of Vienna. Since then, more and more churches in Austria have become involved and even churches in neighbouring countries now offer a similar event! For obvious reasons, this year’s Long Night of the Churches will be slightly different to previous ones, with strict Corona Rules in place, but nevertheless there is still lots of fun to be had! And what’s more, for the first time since its founding, the organisers have put together a very fun and interesting magazine! From nature and plants, to church buildings, bells and organs, the magazine is available to read online (in German), has lots of great information and take-aways, and is very beautifully and thoughtfully put together.
Don’t miss out on checking out at least one or two amongst the vast array of events and activities available to you on Friday, May 28, at the Long Night of the Churches. It is well worth having a further look at the website, and seeing what you might like to visit that evening! Let us know if you end up visiting any of the places listed - we’d love to hear of your experiences! And don’t forget to pop into Christ Church and say hello to us! Bis bald!
Want to be part of Christ Church Vienna's CreationKeepers? Got some ideas for us? Suggestions or questions? Please contact us at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.. We'd love to hear from you...!

Blog #18: Eating in Season - White Asparagus

May 12 2021 
Monika Weber-Fahr & Miya Komori-Glatz
Want to make sustainable food choices? Seasonal eating is one of the best ways to start! The impact on your environmental footprint is immediate - eating seasonally helps say "no” to produce that is either transported from afar or produced here with higher energy or pesticide cost than would otherwise be needed. Here in Austria, the variety of choices of seasonal vegetables is greatest between May and October - although during the winter there are also many good options, including beets, kale, various sprouts, cauliflower, and so on. 
The LivingLight blog will occasionally offer a review of seasonal vegetable choices - in particular where they are particular to Austria and perhaps not as well known to our more international community. One such vegetable - visible on markets since late April and fully in season in May and June - is the White Asparagus (Spargel). Many of our readers will be more familiar with green asparagus - which can also be found freshly at the markets and in the shops right now. And yes, some of you may be aware of the big and very legitimate debates around imported (green) asparagus - in terms of the environmental cost of transport and water use, in particular from Peru. In this article, instead, we’ll focus on the much hyped white and local version.
 
Picture: Fresh from the Market - three types of Asparagus.
Considered a delicacy, few vegetables are celebrated as much in German-speaking countries as fresh White Asparagus:  If you keep an eye out for it - in particular now that restaurants are due to open up in a few weeks - you will find Spargelwochen (Asparagus Weeks) in shops as well as restaurants, and many restaurants have dedicated Spargelmenues (Asparagus Menus) with many options for eating the White Gold.  You might enjoy noting that asparagus is the focus of a dedicated Spargelmuseum in Southern Germany, and that  asparagus made it into the Arts and even into poetry and wisdom!
Right now, here in Vienna, Spargel comes to the markets fresh, daily, right from the Marchfeld - the area in Austria where most Spargel is grown. The EU has recognized Marchfeldspargel as a protected brand- noting that the particular climate and soil provide a distinct flavor.  Only those Spargel are grown here that really fit or belong to the area (who knew: there are about 300 different types, hailing from Siberia to South Africa).  The Marchfeld is the plain between Vienna and Bratislava - beautifully dotted with villages and farms - and it is easily reachable by bicycle (2 hours) or car; when you go there, you can also buy your own Spargel right at the farms themselves.
 
Austrians speak of the royal vegetable or the king amongst vegetables, and so it is not surprising that Spargel does not come cheap. Producing it takes enormous efforts: White Asparagus grows entirely under the surface and at harvest each is dug out, one by one, then cooled with ice water, sorted, and transported on the same day to shops across Austria. During harvest time, farmers mostly hire seasonal workers for this very intensive work, oftentimes for several months; it’s comparable only to harvest times on vineyards in many areas.
There are many many many recipes for preparing Spargel, even though the form most commonly found in Austria involves 4-7 Spargel and some boiled potatoes covered with a bit of melted butter or a bechamel sauce, typically accompanied by a few slices of cold-cut ham. The many vegetarian options can involve egg, pasta, or mushrooms, and then there are the varieties with fish and meats, as well as regional varieties. It's easy to prepare - but pay attention: White Spargel, in contrast to green Spargel, must be peeled. It also requires boiling (be careful that it does not break) right to the perfect moment when it is soft enough to be cut and eaten but not too mushy either (note: al dente White Spargel is poorly cooked Spargel).
And a final hint for the health-concerned amongst our readers: Spargel is super healthy, full of vitamin C, and great for weight loss also ;-).
So, if you have not tried White Asparagus yet (this season) - now is the time to go for it!

Asparagus peels and trunks, boiled in hot water, make a great stock for soup and sauces; very healthy, too.
Want to be part of Christ Church Vienna's CreationKeepers? Got some ideas for us? Suggestions or questions? Please contact us at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.. We'd love to hear from you!