Tuesday, 28 July 2009

More news from "le grand Kiff" - Youth Rap with Calvin

Youth rap with Calvin
A news feature from the World Alliance of Reformed Churches
John Calvin wore sun glasses and rapped his story to the tune of the popular music classic, "We will, we will rock you". Audience members, invited to write their own raps, produced comic songs about God's mission, Calvin's example and the singer's sense of calling.
There are voices which say that the church in Europe today is dying. But the energy and engagement on show at a recent youth event in Lyon, France - timed to coincide with the 13th Assembly of the Conference of European Churches (CEC) - exuded hope and expectation.
The eventdubbed Le Grand Kiff brought together some 1200 young people from France and abroad.(Kiffer means "to love something and find it cool.")
Organized by the Reformed Church of France, the youth programme (18-22 July) was designed as an introduction to the theme of the CEC Assembly: "Called to One Hope in Christ".
Five days packed with activities ranging from an exploration game in Lyon to rock concerts, film nights, group Bible studies and a wide variety of creative workshops, were geared to have this generation of 15-21 years express where they are vis-à-vis our planet, God, the church and themselves.
The programme included time for youth to explore opportunities to express solidarity with the world. Organizations like Scouting France, CIMADE, FAIR TRADE and OIKOCREDIT Lyon introduced themselves and their key themes through a range of simulation games and interactive workshops.
The World Alliance of Reformed Churches (WARC) used the occasion to share how the Alliance engages young people in its work. Marie-Line Demeuse from the United Protestant Church in Belgium spoke enthusiastically aboutthe Comrades, Artisans and Partners(CAP) youth work camps. Rooted in the missionary relationship between the United Protestant Church in Belgium and the Rwanda Presbyterian Church, the camps bring young people from several countries together to serve the needs of each church and build lasting relationships to overcome the legacies of colonialism.
Demuse told young people at the event, "In our camp we calculated our energy use and waste production per person per day. As you can imagine, this gave vastly different outcomes for the delegations from South Africa, Rwanda, The Netherlands or Belgium. We talked about alternatives and God's care for creation and the steps we can take together".
WARC is involved with the camps through the mission project "Making a Difference" in which churches in Rwanda, Southern Africa and Belgium share mission expertise.
Jet den Hollander, WARC's executive secretary for mission, linked Demeuse's CAP camp stories to the work of other youth networks in the Alliance as they think through the implications of WARC's "Accra Confession", a statement issued in 2004 calling on churches to resist negative economic models and preserve natural resources. See http://www.warc.ch/documents/ACCRA_Pamphlet.pdf
The same call for justice came through in the song "Violencia" performed by Belkys Teherán from Colombia who together with her compatriot Gustavo Quintero formed the Calvin rap choir.
As for Calvin himself, he developed new ecumenical dimensions at Le Grand Kiff as he was brought to life by Stefan Marculet, a Geneva-based student from the Romanian Orthodox Church. "Born in France", Marculet rapped, "A refugee to Geneva, I fought in my life for these ideas: Equality for all, especially the poor, equal education and respect for the earth. We can change the world!"
That conviction was clearly shared by the youth united at Le Grand Kiff.

Monday, 27 July 2009

After the applause...

I've just received the following contribution from Marloes Meijer, our YMCA-Europe delegated representative, from the Netherlands (Thank you Marloes!):

After the applause

Sibiu, September 2007, the third European Ecumenical Assembly was my First encounter with CEC (and the catholic bishop conference CCEE). Also my first encounter with the different issues, varying from dogmas en church issues, to hazy differences between personal and common matters. But everyone agreed on one thing: youth should be paid attention to and be present in the organizations. At a certain point there was the habit of applauding for every contributor who mentioned ‘youth’.


Lyon, July 2009, the thirteenth CEC Assembly, a good opportunity to see how things are with youth involvement, a few years after the applause. The problems are obvious. Questioning the delegates, why they had hardly any youth delegates instead of the intended 20%, they gave me answers like: ‘Young people should learn from us and not participate in the discussions’, ‘young people should enjoy going out and drinking bear’, ‘young people don’t understand this all’.


On the one hand shocking, on the other definitely not new. Ask your own local (church) community to have younger people in the board (of elders) and await their response.

As a YMCA delegate I was welcome at the meetings of those young delegates (the age limit of thirty is usually strictly maintained). Quotes: ‘CEC exists by the grace of their own structure’, ‘they do not dare to renew’ and ‘CEC has no visionary mission .’

Again: well.

Not too friendly either. But criticism is the result of commitment. So it is in this case. At the root of this criticism were observations made and questions asked to learn and to reflect on.

During the elections the results of those separate worlds showed. Despite positive words about youth involvement in the plenum, these words were not put into practice. There were only a few youth delegates present and even fewer in the committees.

Not really what we applauded for in Sibiu.

But fortunately there are energetic, committed people on both sides. People who do not just give up. People who like to work with transparency, efficiency, with a vision and a mission for CEC, paying attention to the many cures and cares needed in the ecumenical world. Carefulness is important. People and organizations in the wide surroundings of CEC have to be involved in the process of decision making. Experience, patience and maybe a measure of reflection are needed. But fresh ideas and renewal as well.
You can find out for yourself which feature belongs to which target group.

Youth involvement does not start in CEC. It begins in the local (church) organizations where youth can take its place (including responsibilities) and is carried forward by national (church) organizations which dare to delegate younger people.
Maybe we all need to let go the age differences and prejudices. When ‘elderly people’ and ‘young people’ really get to know and trust each other, there is still hope. Hope for ecumenism, young at heart and full of Spirit.

Lyon, July 2009, after the final applause: a very relaxed dinner where the Spirit blows. People meet, do ‘the wave’ and make plans. By the way, French wine may have played a part here.

Marloes Meijer, delegate representative on behalf of YMCA Europe[1] .

[1] For those who only know the song of the Village People: YMCA is a worldwide youth organization which is there where she can help children and youngsters to grow up, from the Christian holistic idea of ‘Body, Mind & Spirit’. Ecumenism in practice. YMCA Europe is involved in organizing, among others, the Young Delegates Program of CEC.

Sunday, 26 July 2009

The result of the assembly

I photographed a spectacular sunset on tuesday on the Baltic Sea, quite close to the area the very first CEC assemblies were held on a boat. I took a ferry from Germany to Denmark on my way to Finland. I returned home in the evening yesterday after a long journey feeling - as probably most of us - a little empty. Did our shared experience leave anything new to our lives? Well, new Facebook friends at least, but didn't we expect something more? At the end of the day, did we change the world?

We were sorry to see a weakened CEC. The absence of our orthodox brothers from the Russian Patriarchate, lack of contributions from member churches, and bridges hardly built to growing Christian communities, like the Pentecostal congregations; these facts give us an alerting sign of ecumenism being marginalized in Christ's church today. It is a challenge to continue working on a local level to make stronger connections between Christians from different backgrounds. It is not just churches moving apart from each other, but also people.

In Lyon we experienced the opposite. We got new friends, strengthened our unity and solved conflicts. We saw God taking care of those who pray and put their trust on Him. We heard witnesses that opened our eyes and expanded our worldview. We grasped that unity is something that exists regardless of our doings, on the mere basis of being Christians. Of course we keep longing for more visible unity, but we must not forget that we are one in Christ no matter what. We are never starting from nothing. Even with other religions, we have something common giving ground for our dialogue and cooperation.

I don't think we are able to see the most important results of the past assembly. But I do think we can feel it and cherish it in our churches, our communities and our personal lives. Indeed, we all gave a contribution to CEC and each other and were more or less grown by each other, by the assembly and by God. Let us keep growing in faith, hope and love.

Saturday, 25 July 2009

Part of Bishop Munib Younan's speech on YouTube

You can find part of Bishop Munib Younan's rousing speech to the CEC assembly here. You may need to scroll down to find it.

What is your favourite song in the assembly hymn book?

I really hope you have all taken copies of Gloria Deo, the CEC assembly hymnbook home with you. It's got great hymns, songs and chants from around the world and has things you can share with your church, youth group or prayer group. Hope you go on enjoying it long after the assembly.

I've just written on my own blog about two of the hymns. No 40 Tenemos esperanza and No 43 Toi qui gardes le silence. There's a short sermon about Tenemos esperanza on the CEC website by me too. If you ever get a chance to sing it with Latin Americans it is an amazing experience, a real anthem of hope and resistance.

So now a more open question, what is you favourite hymn or song in your own language? Fancy doing a recording of it for us here?

Wednesday, 22 July 2009

Danish blog about the assembly

You can visit a Danish blog about the assembly here. Two of the Danish delegates wrote it and it's hosted on the site of Kristeligt Dagblad a daily newspaper in Denmark. Heidi one of the two delegates tells me that the public issues statement has already beend translated into Danish and she's trying to get part of it published in a Danish paper.

So who else has news of articles published about the assembly? Did you know that one of France's radio stations broadcast an hour long show from the assembly on Friday morning?
Have you been translating the statements into your language? How are you going to translate the experience of being at the assembly into your local context?

The assembly message in three languages

Gradually today and tomorrow all of the final documents from the assembly will go online and over the next week the different language versions will be made available once the translations are begun and finished.
CEC staff are working hard to try and make sure this happens as quickly as possible, please bear with us. The English versions should be up very soon, the other langauges will take a bit of time. We'll be using the twitter feed and this blog to link to the documents, so why not use this space to discuss your reactions to reading the statements now you've returned home. Let's try and keep the conversation going for a little while.
In the meantime here are the links to the message in three languages:

Die Botschaft der KEK Vollversammlung ist hier auf Deutsch zu finden http://tinyurl.com/nh3l7z
Le message de l'assemblée est à trouver en français ici http://tinyurl.com/lsu3ng
Download the message of the CEC assembly from the website in English here http://tinyurl.com/n6kk2z

Le Grand Kiff brings more than 1200 young people to Lyon

Even as CEC assembly participants leave Lyon the Grand Kiff still continues bringing together young people from across Europe and further afield for an international youth camp.
They've been following our work at the assembly through the twitter feed and via Gérald Machabert's twitter.
More than 1200 young people will be leaving Lyon tomorrow.

Le grand KIFF a aussi un blog, un coin délires et d'autres infos à découvrir.

Tuesday, 21 July 2009

Thanks and please go on writing once you get home

This is just a brief thank you to all who took the time to write for the blog. It's really been good to get an exchange going here.
Please we would love to have a few posts even when you get home. This is important because you begin to see and understand things in a different way once you get a bit of distance from the event.
I really liked the way Alison Elliott asked teh Assembly to take a few moments of silence to think about what they had found good and beautiful at the assembly.
MAybe that is now what we could use these pages to do -what was stressful and difficult, what was good, enriching and beautiful?
It's important to do this because your assembly will have been different from mine.

Think too about what you are taking back to your church or organisation from this assembly and try to access the message which is now online in the three assembly languages. (well it will be online but the G drive went down last night just as we were trying to post it - tomorrow maybe!)
Travel home safely and try and write something - send it to me via email even if you don't have access other ways jane.stranz(at)gmail.com.
Thanks for everything and continue to pray for the work of CEC's new central committee.

Monday, 20 July 2009

Personal view on the elections

Today were the elections to Central Committee (CC) and the new Constition Working Group [an online list is still missing]. They went really fast, because there were only two challenges. Challenge means that there is a proposal to replace a person on the list of the nominations committee by another person. Both challenges failed.

I was supporting one of them very much, it was within the Czech Republic. I wished to have Milan Balahura, young delegate from the Church of Czech Brethren, instead of Katerina Dekanovska, young delegate from the Hussite Church. There is only one seat in the CC for the Czech Republic. The Hussites have this seat at least already 12 years - in my opinion it would have been necessary not to have a monopoly of one church, but a rotation that everyone of the churches with similar size gets the chance to take part in the executive body of CEC. Besides, I think that Milan would have been the better candidate:

1. He says, what he thinks. Unfortunately, this is not that common in the CC - even for the members elected on the youth quota.
2. His mother is Orthodox, and he knows Orthodoxy well.
3. Milan is male. Too often the young people are only women, because they have to improve the gender balance. For young men it's quite harder to get to the CC than for young women.

But the challenge wasn't succesful, the support of the Assembly for Milan was too weak. Why? I don't know. Some decisions of the Assembly seem to me very cryptic...

All in all, the balances within the new CC are not satisfying. The gender balance is okay (17 women, 23 men), but there are only 12 lay again 28 ordained and only 6 young people. 2 lay and 2 young persons will be replaced by delegates of the Russian Orthodox Church, so there will be 10 lay and 4 youngsters (that is 10% instead of 20% demanded by the Constitution).

I hope that, despite of this composition, the CC will do a good work and support the reform towards a functioning and democratic organised CEC.