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Tribute to Reverend Norman Tendis at the memorial service

Message of Prof. Dr Isabel Apawo Phiri, WCC Deputy General Secretary at the Reverend Norman Tendis memorial service in St. Ruprecht Church, Landskron, Carinthia, Austria on Saturday, 27th April.

29 April 2019

Reverend Norman  Tendis memorial service
Saturday, 27th April at 3 p.m.
St. Ruprecht Church, Landskron, Carinthia, Austria

Dear Astrid, the children and other family members,
Dear Dr Bishop Michael Bünker and all the Bishops’ and church leaders present,
Dear congregation,
Dear sisters and brothers in the Lord,


11th March 2019 will never be forgotten by the current staff of the World Council of Churches in Geneva. It is the day when the WCC General Secretary Rev. Dr Olav Fykse Tveit gathered all staff in the chapel and announced the shocking news that on Sunday, 10th March 2019, our colleague Reverend Norman Tendis, was booked on Ethiopian Airlines which had crashed shortly after take-off from Addis Ababa heading towards Nairobi, and that none of the 157 on board had survived. We were all saddened by the shocking news.


With very heavy hearts and with many questions in our minds, tears in our eyes the general secretary helped us to turn to God in prayer for comfort and to intercede on behalf of those who lost their loved ones. As we remembered Reverend Norman Tendis, together we prayed, sung, observed silence, listened to the Word of God to strengthen one another on our pilgrimage of justice and peace, responding together to God’s call to serve God’s church in God’s world, to support our fellow human beings and all of God’s creation. On behalf of the World Council of Churches I feel honoured together with my colleague Rev Henrik Grape, to be among you and honour Norman in the same way we did on the 11th March.

The general secretary also assisted us to turn the occasion to remember the kind of person Norman was to us in the WCC. We remembered that Norman was on that flight as WCC staff seconded by the Evangelical Church of the Augsburg Confession in Austria, to work 50% for the WCC. We are still very grateful to your church for sharing Norman with us. As senior staff responsible for giving direction to the work of Public Witness and Diakonia of the WCC, I was one of the staff who interviewed him for the position he occupied in the economic and ecological justice project. What I remember most about that interview was his engaging capacity and his enthusiasm for economic and ecological justice that is rooted in a congregation. He was convinced that the whole Ecumenical movement should know about it and do the same in their congregations. In the team he joined, he met like-minded colleagues. It did not take long for his vision to be shared with his colleagues in economic and ecological justice and for the team to work together to produce the roadmap for congregations and communities for economic and ecological justice. He was not in the Ecumenical Centre all the time, but when he was here, we could sense his strong spiritual integrity and his care for all of God’s creation. To us Norman was a wise man bringing many gifts to the Ecumenical family.

On this fateful day, Reverend Norman Tendis was on his way to the UN Environment Assembly in Nairobi to present the “Roadmap for Congregations, Communities and Churches for an Economy of Life and Ecological Justice”. This had been his compassion and vision for years.  He was particularly inspired to do this as a local Lutheran pastor in Austria.

His work was shorter than we hoped for, but it has not been in vain. On the 13th March we launched the Roadmap for Congregations, Communities and Churches for an Economy of Life and Ecological Justice”. Since then many churches have requested for copies. Wherever this document will go, Norman is remembered.

The General Secretary of the World Council of Churches,Rev Dr Olav Fykse Tveit invites Dr Bishop Michael Bünker, Astrid  and the children to come to Geneva to participate in a memorial service organized by the WCC for Reverend  Norman Tendis and Reverend Robina Winbush during the meeting of the Executive Committee ‪on Friday May 24, 2019

Our condolences, thoughts and prayers are with the family of Norman, all those who have lost their dear ones in this terrible accident.
We pray for the family of Norman, his wife and three daughters who have lost their dear husband and father.
We pray for his congregation who has lost their caring and enthusiastic pastor, and for his church.

We say with the Apostle Paul, Romans 14:7-8: “We do not live to ourselves, and we do not die to ourselves. If we live, we live to the Lord, and if we die, we die to the Lord; so then, whether we live or we die, we are the Lord’s.”


May he rest in peace, may his memory be eternal and may his prophetic passion for the love of Christ live and reign in our hearts now and forever.

Geneva 27th of April, 2019

Yours in Christ,
Prof. Dr Isabel Apawo Phiri
WCC Deputy General Secretary