Tuesday, 28 July 2009
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
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 .’
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 .
 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
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
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
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?
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
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
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
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.
I don't think we need to worry too much. The meetings may be a lot of business, but in between i have heard lots of interesting ecumenical discussions, lots of fun, laughter and friendship across denominational boundaries. And in the worship services we have seen a diverse group of people worshipping together in languages and styles that may be unfamiliar to them. Real ecumenism is happening in this conference. It's not as easy to quanitfy as a number of votes cast for a motion, or a percentage of delegates from a particular demographic group nominated for a committee. But the human dialogue and relationship and the prayerful encounters that are going on are at the heart of this assembly, and will have a much more lasting impact than any decision made on finance or policy.
Sunday, 19 July 2009
The Assembly theme is called “Called to one hope in Christ” with its major challenge: Yearning for unity – experiencing diversity
Throughout the documents and reports I read when I prepared for this meeting it is clear that CEC focusses on being one church in all its diversity and colourfulness. CEC has worked hard on inclusion of migrants and migrant churches in
As regional coordinator of EDAN this theme is very familiar. It is EDAN's major goal to establish a totally inclusive church with all and for all. A church where all children of God share, learn, give and receive.
Unfortunately one group of brothers and sisters is not named once.
When I was preparing for this Assembly I read a lot of papers, reports etc., but not once I found something about people with physical, mental, or psychological challenges.
People with disabilities live in the margin of the churches. Usually taken care of by diakonia. An other (large) group of people with disabilities left church. They do not feel at home in the church any more. This does not mean they do not long for a spiritual family as a church community can provide.
Listening to the testimony of Victoria Kamondji made me curious during the opening worship. She used words and expressed feelings that are so very familiar for us, members of EDAN. For people with a disability church is not inclusive or diverse enough. Even when physical access is provided a church is not necessarily accessible. This takes more.
It is also about theology, anthropology, culture. It is about willing to see the church through the eyes of the other person. In this case not a migrant but someone with a disability.
We ask for the possibility to be able to give and share instead of being given and taken care of.
Rev Younan from the Council of Churches of South America mentioned the difference between tolerance or acceptance and respect. In church people with a disability are accepted for sure but we do not often feel respect for who we are. Because that is what it is about: who we are; and not what our inability is.
In CEC I do miss this part of being one church in all its diversity. As regional coordinators Torill and I urge CEC to consider adopting a new theme: the accompagnement of people with a disability in the church to become a true inclusive church for all and with all and trough all.
I know this will be a real challenge for a lot of European churches, but we are offering to help because we know challenge. We are open for dialogue to understand each other better and find ways to respect one another. In September we organise an EDAN consultation in
“As everyone is in communication, we all have to consider the quality of communication”, Ingmar Lindqvist, former director of communication of the Church of Finland, explained. To communicate is to be in dialogue, being in dialogue can only occur under the condition of being willing to change. Simply telling the truth can not be communication.
One of the participants did not agree on the central position of communication. He underlined the fact that communication cannot be on an equal level with mission. “Communication lacks the values and ethics that mission includes.” Someone else reacted saying: ‘You are diminishing communication to a technical tool’. Another participant indicated that: “Communication is about God’s love for humanity, communication is central for the message.”
During the hearing a very critical remark was made about the decision of the Central Committee of CEC to freeze the vacancy for the position of the Executive Secretary for Communications and Information. By the end of the year the current Secretary will leave and the procedure to appoint a successor has already been done.
WACC supported a petition from the CEC Advisory Group on Communication to reconsider this decision with a letter signed by WACC Europe president, Juha Rajamäki, and WACC global vice-president, Praxedis Bouwman. The decision made by the central committee is a direct threat to the visibility of CEC and the collaboration with secular and church related media professionals around Europe. WACC, which has been working successfully with CEC in recent years, expressed its concern to the CEC president and general secretary. WACC is an advocate for strong communication, as it is stated in its principles for Christian communication: “Communication must be seen as central to the churches, as the process in which God's love is received and shared, thus establishing communion and community.”
The World Association for Christian Communication is a worldwide membership organisation for all people who are working in the broadest sense of Christian communication. WACC has a strong focus on communication rights, media and gender justice, communication and stigmatisation around HIV aids, communication for ecumenism, for peace, for ecumenism and communication and poverty.
Saturday, 18 July 2009
Today: a new attempt. I go to the workshop on the position of KEK within the wider ecumenical movement which includes the World Alliance of Reformed Churches, the World Council of Churches, the Lutheran World Federation, to name a few. Quickly here to we also started talking about the future and even more about hopes and visions. What is the goal of KEK? What should the goal of KEK be? The earlier role to lead bilateral discussions was mentioned and the role of KEK to support churches with their goals, but also the lack of experience that church members have with the ecumenical movement. All of this was mentioned in our discussion. KEK does not manage to reach the grassroots and to motivate people in local churches for the work of KEK. Who in your church knows about KEK? But set against this are small steps like common prayers with other confessions - and that despite financial problems and without a helping organisation like KEK to organise it.
A lot can be done by the beating of a butterfly’s wings: the wind which is blowing us in the right direction, if we set the sail properly. But in what direction are we setting the sail? Saint-Exupèry, for whom the airport here in is named, said: we must give people the desire to go to sea, so that they build a ship. Perhaps KEK must also recognize that it cannot only resolve it current questions through clarity about structures and tasks but that people at the grassroots need to be remotivated for the ecumenical movement in their churches. Perhaps even beyond Christianity itself.
The approach of the stewards cannot so be “systematically categorized”. In observing the steward’s planning of morning's worship service one might be tempted to characterize it as "slightly chaotic". It was however not the sort of chaos from which tears, disagreements or resentment would “blossom”, but instead the end result was a fruitful and engaging one for all of us, I feel.
A group of 6-8 stewards with different or similar denominational background would come together to arrange the morning service. There was no moderators, no red tape, just intention. The steward services included typically, song, biblical readings, reflection, various symbolic gestures, silence and, here I get to my point, the Lord’s Prayer.
Vaterunser, Tatăl nostru, Isä meidän, Notre Père, Pater noster, Fadervor … and so on, or simply, in English, the Lord’s Prayer. This prayer, which was common to all of us, was a genuine example of a “unity in diversity”. Language separated us, but the prayer united us.
Never having prayed in this way it dawned on me the first time we prayed together that not only were we “simply” worshiping God, but in fact this was an “ecumenical activity”. It tied us together. I suppose I had imagined that “ecumenical progress” constituted officials meeting other officials, staff meetings, treaties, etc., that is that ecumenism is an activity enjoyed by the ecclesiastical authorities and the people just follow their church. Ecumenism is an activity enjoyed by all people, but the lay people especially, when they do get together, seem to achieve greater results at times than the ecclesiastical authorities, because the latter, at times, fancy doing “doctrinal border-patrolling” than actual ecumenical work…
Regardless there is plenty of hope for ecumenism if we look at the stewards of 2009 and for CEC. The stewards of today I hope will be the delegates of tomorrow.
I think things are going ok in the communication office, where I am working for the week. We've had some positive feedback about the website, which includes pictures, newsletters, press releases and so on. We've also got this blog which I think is going really well and I'm grateful that people are posting their thoughts. And then there is the twitter feed, which is rather fun too.
As far as the business is concerned, I'm still excited by the move to review CEC agreed yesterday, even though it did rather through the agenda off course.
Some of the plenary is excellent, other parts are a little lacking in umpf. I'm still waiting for something to really set the place alight. Maybe this will come tomorrow, when there will be a special event celebrating the 50th anniversary of CEC.
Are there any other pundits out there who have half-time views?
A special moment for some of the stewards: After the press conference yesterday the President of the Council of the Evangelical Church in Germany, his Excellence Dr. Dr. h.c. Wolfgang Huber, was glad about the opportunity so speak some minutes to stewards from Germany and the Czech Republic. He gave thanks to the young people for their work and motivated them to continue their engagement on an international ecumenical level. He also mentioned that two members of the German delegation started their "international careers" by being a steward 24 years ago. Now they have met again – as delegates in the 13th cec assembly.
On the picture you see (from right to left): Katrin Koelmann, Luisa Seelbach, Dr. Wolfgang Huber, Dora Pliskova and Daniel Lenski.
Friday, 17 July 2009
I have just attended one of the "language groups" - only as an observer, of course, since what you are reading now is the job of a steward. The working group included about 20 delegates and focused on what CEC is today, what it has been and what it was in the past... and no longer is.
To sum up some of what has been said: the delegates have stressed that member churches of CEC are no longer isolated and separate - this mostly had to do with the division that existed because of the Iron Curtain. Also due to its fall, CEC no longer has one clear, common aim, which up until then had been the perpetual effort to build bridges between the East and the West.
The delegates taking part also felt there is less mutual love, less risk-taking. These are statements that deserve attention.
Last but not least, the debaters mentioned the fact that there is no longer a "light structure" in CEC, that its structure has become very complicated.
This is, on one hand, natural, as CEC has, of course, undergone noticeable enlargements. On the other hand, several delegates have agreed there is excessive bureaucracy complicating the dynamics of CEC's activities.
One of the delegates has actually pointed out that the Conference seems to be more concerned with how many men and women are involved and how precisely a given task is to be organized than with trying to ensure there really is adequate action going on in the fields where it is needed.
And this is where the above mentioned blog discussion comes in, I cannot help recommending that the kind reader go through what has been said in and under the blog called "What's missing?".
Let me also emphasise what I felt after having witnessed this groupwork and what has been confirmed to me by one of the delegates in the foyer afterward: working in small groups, thinktanks that focus on one specific topic are the most effective way of arriving at some bright insights.
The assembly's purpose is bringing all those that are involved together in one place, not dividing them into groups - understandably.
However, groupwork remains a basis for achieving good results and should therefore be given more room, the outcomes of it must be given a fair hearing. Let us hope this year's Assembly proves the opinion true.
Over lunch it appears that the 'rival' groups - the EKD and the Nordic-Baltic alliance have got together and agreed a compromise motion.
It has taken a lot of time but I think that it has been worth it. Far better to have an agreement on what direction to go in. A hopeful sign, I think.
The vote (a secret ballot) will take place in 30 minutes time, but I've not heard any speeches against the idea of reform.
When the proposers of the resolution announced they had agreed a compromise there was applause in the plenary hall. I think the feeling is quite optimistic, despite the changes to the planned agenda.
Some Skandinavian churchs have made an amendment with a reform process, which lasts six years and is mainly organised by the Central Committee.
There are a lot of arguments in favour of both positions. All agree, that a reform is needed. The main point, as I see it, is the question of participation of the member churches in the future structure of CEC and the future of the three commissions (CSC, CiD, CCME). Some people fear that in a fast process in a small working group the big churches get too much influence. Also, they only may listen to the member churches and other interests, but they don't have to.
Important is also the question of money. CEC is not well funded, especially because of the economic crisis which has made it difficult for a lot of member churches to pay their member fee.
A very big number of delegates is willing to speak. So let's see, what happens, and what the Assembly will decide.
I am thankful for the contributions of the panelists yesterday as they reminded us that Europe is not isolated from what is happening in the world and they urged us not to isolate ourselves.
Yesterday, I was reminded how rich we are as European churches, not only materially, but also rich in diversity of age, gender, heritage, culture, worship, prayer, and structure...
Are we really living this richness? Often I think, we do not. What we as churches often fail to do is fully include all our richness not only in our daily lives, but also in our representative structures.
We see that at this assembly every time when we discuss balances and elect our representative bodies.
So, why do we often not have the courage to live our own richness???
Thursday, 16 July 2009
One floor further upstairs the same situation, no people at the Agora, Ragnhild and Lilla at the CCME-stand have time to eat, to discuss, to laugh;
Wladimir ist reading anything - nothing to do at the moment.
In the Plenary Hall at least I find Annie and Heinrich working.
Upstairs in the stewards room people are enjoying their break - with fresh fruits and chocolate cookies for the hard working stewards not getting ill. (normally we are working hard! ;) )
At the entrance hall Sonya is talking to one of the romanian delegates...
therefore we need breaks: to meet and talk (to) the important people!
Some of the comments made in the plenary hall this morning showed how young people can be seen as a separate group that thinks and acts in different ways. Of course there are differences that should be recognized, celebrated and accommodated, but as with any demographical group, the similarities are much more important. If young people are to be able to fully participate in and contribute to the work of CEC, they must be recognised as full and equal partners.
The article is now published online, at http://www.la-croix.com/article/index.jsp?docId=2383705&rubId=4078
If your French is not so good then perhaps try using the google translate tool to get the impression of what the young people said.
Wednesday, 15 July 2009
Even if it's not a real important change - nobody says something about the fact that we haven't got the basic legal documents of the CEC in a printed version. This would be needed to compare the changes of the documents with the other paragraphs there.
I feel not really taken serious as delegate. And I'm wondering that no one of the other 305 delegates is asking, why this is! I didn't want to ask, because I have already said something in the plenary. And I don't want to annoy the Assembly again. :-(
PS: The printing problem cannot be an alibi for not providing the delegates all important and needed documents.
...Short, clear, concise. One message, one simple tune filling the room as the stewards of the 13th CEC Assembly stand up to praise the Lord at the evening prayer session.
The Assembly itself still lies ahead and the stewards are getting to know eachother, preparing for the upcoming busy days. Expectations, hopes, and also fears.
Laudate... the melody flows on and on. Whatever disagreements we may have had to face throughout the discussion that preceded, the voices have now all joined in one gentle chant. This moment, to me, is unity at its best.
The feeling of peace and understanding, however, is amplified just by the above mentioned: the different views that have come to light during the discussion.
Contemplating a Biblical text or quotations taken from famous philosophers and writers, one suddenly realizes that the word "tradition" bears quite different connotations for an orthodox and for a protestant. That the words one considers crucial for a text's message may indeed differ from the "key words" somebody else has underlined.
Listening and opening one's mind to these unexpected differences brings - an unexpected insight. And an unexpected pleasure when hearing the voices first collide in possible conflicts and then join in common praise.
The assembly has just begun.
Our expectations, hopes and fears are about to be fulfilled, turned into new experiences, or maybe prove totally wrong and inadequate.
In any case, one of the hopes of the steward currently sitting at the computer and writing up this blog has much to do with the paragraphs above. The feeling of unity, or if not, of a genuine attempt to reach it, only comes with true discussion: talks which do not only concern topics we all agree on. May the debates be lively, touch controversial topics, may they go deep and not try to avoid potential problems.
And may the evening prayers be filled with the spirit of the One common Hope, which remains One, however distant the various approaches may seem.
Apart from the wonderful Alison Elliot as moderator of the Assembly, all the keynote speakers were from middle aged or elderly white men. And Alison's role is confined to keeping order rather than sharing ideas.
Why is this? Why are so many church meetings seemingly incapable of thinking that a woman, a young person, a person from an ethnic minority might have anything interesting to say? Surely the organisers could it have been planned better?
Sarah, the Youth President from my church is here as a delegate. I'd have much rather heard her thoughts on the theme 'Called to One Hope'.
Let's hope that we can hear a diversity of voices throughout the assembly.
There was only 1 young person proposed (Teodor from Romania) - with 11 members within the nomination committees. In the Ecumenical movement and also in the standing orders of the Assembly is written that there should be at least 20% of all candidates younger than 30.
So Stephi asked the Assembly, why the proposed list was no youth balanced. Then a discussion started with Milan from the Czech Republic, supporting Stephi. But in the end we were not successful - there were only a few delegates supporting us. Even some young delegates didn't agree. I was a little bit disappointed about that.
Nevertheless, it was great that we as youth showed that we are there (at the whole only 40 out of 306 delegates, which is only 11%). Now the next task should be to make our contribution to the discussions about questions, not directly linked to youth matters - and at the same time to insist on the significance of real youth participation in all Ecumenical matters.
Nun bin ich gespannt, wie die Vollversammlung verlaufen wird, meine erste: Wird es konkrete Ergebnisse zur Strukturreform geben? Welche Rolle spielen die innerorthodoxen Konflikte? Wird die niedrige Zahl der Jungdelegierten zur Sprache kommen? Welchen Stellenwert nimmt das Fehlen der katholischen und freikirchlichen Seite ein? Gerne bin ich bereit, mich davon überzeugen zu lassen, dass auch die wohlklingenden Worte zu guten Ergebnissen führen können.
Here is some of the quotes from some of the people I spoke to.
Susanna, one of the stewards, has been working on the welcome desk and handing out food to the delegates. She says:
"I had so much fun waiting for all the important people to come! Even though I only got four hours sleep last night...@
Joshua is here representing one of the migrant churches in Germany. He says:
"I am excited to be here, and I have big expectations, for the migrant churches in particular. I want CEC to see that we are real, and that we need to be lived with and talked with. I'm waiting for the rest of the day to see how it goes."
Another Methodist from Britain called David said:
"I'm knackered, and the church was hot. The translation of the service into different languages made it nearly incomprehensible. But I'd love to have a go on the organ, which sounds like a raspberry!"
Birgitta from Sweden said:
"This is my first time. I'm trying to learn things, as I am running a world conference for the International Prison Chaplains' Association in the near future. I think having a joint church service is a sign of unity."
"From the service I remember many words of hope, and I am thinking about an anchor. CEC needs to find the policies to anchor us and to deal with issues in the future."
Excitement and anticipation is building, and I am told that the photocopiers are now up and running (well, walking) again. Still no sign of the paper though...
I have just been talking with the lovely Elodie Maurot, a journalist from La Croix, a national daily Catholic newspaper here in France, who is covering the Assembly.
She was speaking to me as a young person taking part in the Assembly - I'm 26 by the way. She asked me a number of questions about what I thought about the Assembly, the future of ecumenism, and a bit about the church scene in my home in Britain, and the Methodist Church in particular.
I guess the article might be posted on La Croix website in the next day or two - I'll keep an eye out for it and will let you know. But I'd be keen to here what your thoughts and reflections are.
I said that I think that many young people are now more excited by celebrating our faith through non-traditional, institutional events. I mentioned Greenbelt and MAKEPOVERTYHISTORY as two examples. I think there is still a place for institutions such as CEC, but it needs to be clear about how its work relates to the mission of the church.
As Elodie was writing for a Catholic paper, I also said that I think it is important that there is an ongoing conversation between CEC and CCEE (the Catholic Bishops' Conference in Europe) about future work together. Churches Together in England is the national ecumenical organisation where I live, and it includes Anglican, Catholic, Orthodox, Free Churches and Pentecostal Churches.
What do you think?
That is one of the statements that has marked the stewards’ preparations for the 13th CeC General Assembly 14-21 juli 2009 in Lyon. I am participating as a steward together with 48 other young Europeans. We are volunteers, and do the practical, technical and administrative work. Our common drive is to make Unity in Diversity. We are from different cultural backgrounds and belong to many different churches, so we are a living proof of ecumenism and the future of Europe. Through workshops, theme nights, role playing, bible studies, and teambuilding we have discussed and reflected upon the theme of the Assembly: “Called to One Hope in Christ.”
Hope is a word that will be repeated throughout the Assembly. Hope for the Churches, hope for Europe, hope for ecumenism. We are all excited to find out what will be said at the Assembly and what decisions will be made in the following days.
Tuesday, 14 July 2009
These are some results:
Beth (United Kingdom): "It's good to see, how ecumenism works from behind the scenes."
Stas (Belarus): "There are a lot of good things: A lot of interesting persons, a lot of interesting discussions. We share experiences and have a lot of fun."
Paul (Germany): " It's good to see the multicoloured world of christianity; to get to know other traditions, people from other denominations; to share ideas with people who habe a similar understanding of the world."
Michal (Slovakia) [about the stewards' group]: "I really like our common prayers, and also the the friendly discussions about controversial topics."
Wonder what innovations we may hear at the CEC assembly.
What do you think ecumenism and unity need to move forwards with new energy?
The conference was good overall and I am excited for a revival of a global student's movement. Students can be so powerful, if we just get our act together!This reminds me to link to the UNESCO Courier online. It always has really great articles from an international perspective and is published in several languages too. The most recent issue is called Diversity, a synonym for culture it includes an article about calligraphy - the art that makes words sing and a subject close to my heart.
I suppse this makes me realise that I often draw hope from the things I feel passionate about, things that give me energy and interest me.
Anyway if you have a blog let us know about it and we will try to link to it here, another way of networking and staying in touch.
Monday, 13 July 2009
But how to decide on content and design of an artwork with 60 people, if it shall be based on the decisions of the stewards? We discussed really long. Only one or some connected to each other artworks? Is it about hope, about youth, about stewardship, about something else? Should it be critical, or should politics not be mentioned at all? Should it be interactive? Where to place it?
In the end we ended with an interesting work of art. It will be presented at the assembly. What I can say: It is a little bit ironic (about swimming), but nevertheless not simple. And there will be an interactive part.
The session (start: 15.00, end: 19.00, painting at 22.30) impressed me very much , because what we did, was a very good experience of democracy: Decision-making needs a lot of time and strength, if there are a lot of different ideas and point of views: 50 people, 50 positions. More than the decision itself is finding the adequate alternatives, on which you can decide. That's, what I learned today anew.
Here are a couple of photos of the Danish youth choir. They arrived today and sang for staff and central committee members at the end of the evening meal. It was a beautiful moment at the end of a long day of final preparations and set up. It lifted everyone's spirits and really helped remind us that the assembly is about encounter and listening to witnesses of hope from all over Europe and beyond.
So what is your favourite song to give you hope at the end of a long day?
Maybe you have a favourite cartoonist from your country or culture?
(Just to explain ASBO means Anti-Social Behaviour Order in Britain)
Giulia from Italy: "In Italian hope means speranza." The answer of Nikola from Albania: "In Albanian hope is sprese. But we also have speranza, which means anchor."
I think, this was really interesting. Languages and their words really can be full of meanings, symbols and ideas. Here, the anchor is a great symbol of hope. Even if there is a situation without any way out of it - hope is the anchor, which you have in the storms of life.
Sunday, 12 July 2009
Lyon turned out to be quite the interesting acquaintance. Steep streets, beautiful buildings, pleasant people, and of course roaring rivers made the perfect setting for a treasure hunt. Among the things we had to find were a building named after God, a church with mismatching towers, Lyonnais specialities, and places commemorating different things. As the competitive person I am, I forced my team on a walk through all of central Lyon – back and forth. As all hope seemed lost Lady Luck looked on us with grace and let us find the sites we were the most desperate about. We had a good but tireing time trying to find everything and in the end we succeeded in finding everything and every answer to the questions.
Sadly we didn’t have time for much else than walking and taking pictures during the trip, but as it was Sunday most of the stores were closed anyway so we ‘only’ missed out on taking closer looks at the innumerable interesting buildings. Lyon is definitely worth a visit as tourist some day. We passed lots of cosy sidewalk cafés, saw tons of beautifully arranged stones (read: interesting architecture) and pretty parks. Should you at some point grow tired of the city there is always the possibility of a quick retreat to the comforting flow and hypnotizing, emerald colour of the Rhone. Like a fluid jewel it runs along the entire centre of the city and offers a soothing break in the man-made city.
Lyon is a definite must-see!
This CEC Assembly has a twitter feed. On it you can read headlines and links to press releases from the assembly press room. We've now set it up so that every time someone writes a post on the blog this will also generate a "tweet" and link to the blog.
If you go to the assembly website and look on the right hand side you can read the twitter feed there and get an idea of what it's all about - you can even read some of our mistakes as we learnt about how to get the system working!
At the time of writing we already have "29 followers" and we're keen to have more by the end of the assembly - if your church or organisation is on twitter then encourage them to follow the assembly this week and of course if you are already on twitter then we want to know and we hope you will follow @cecassembly too.
From the press room we will try to give you a twitter theme each day for you to write your tweets about. But you're welcome too to tweet about any aspect of the assembly and its work. As
not all of you have access to the password to post to the CEC twitter feed we will also have some special twitter sheets for you to write your tweets on, then you just bring them to the press room and when we have a moment we'll post them for you.
Anyway twitter is a useful newsfeed but it can also be good fun - reducing what you're doing to 140 keystrokes - and it's way to stay in touch with friends. Give it a try and here's your first twitter theme.
For the next couple of days while things are getting set up and people are arriving and getting to know one another you're invited to think and tweet about what "waiting in hope" means for you.
Greetings from Northern Finland light nights and bugful marshlands. I’m preparing for acting in the assembly as a young delegate sent by the Evangelic-Lutheran Church of Finland. Early tomorrow morning I will start my journey across Europe (mostly by train) to get to Lyon on Wednesday. I’m expecting to see work of the Holy Spirit, common hope in Christ and a colourful sample of God’s creation, which we all are beatiful parts of.
When I was an anxious teenager – not so long ago – I used to think that assemblies with much talk and not much action are useless. Moreover, I would see them harmful, as dozens of people fly to the venue, each producing more greenhouse gases than their parents or grandparents in a lifetime. I couldn’t believe such gatherings might change anything or anyone, at least not the way I thought was necessary for getting our lifestyle on sustainable tracks.
I have had a gradual change of heart on that. We need more human encounters of all types, from casual chats with our neighbours to worldwide assemblies of political leaders. The worst-case scenario is not a world of many useless meetings but a world of no meeting. I don’t think we could get anything done without sharing our views with each other and encouraging each other to thrive for common goals. The key point for me is that where two or three come together, there is always something more present, something that can transform our lives.
What we need is openness and eagerness to take our talk into action. Even when it seems impossible and hopeless from an individual perspective.
Saturday, 11 July 2009
She applied for a Schengen visa at the French embassy in Ukraine, and they refused her to give one. When CEC asked, what's the reason, the answer was:
"We don't know, if she will return to Ukraine. Besides, this conference is not important."
I'm really angry about: what kind of ridiculous answer is that? Young people want to travel through Europe, get to know each other, learn about other countries and cultures - but the borders cannot be crossed? And why a meeting of all important churches within Europe (except the Roman Catholic Church) is not important?
This case shows that visa regimes have to be changed - even if most Europeans can travel in Europe freely, some of them may not. And the perception of CEC also should be improved. It shouldn't be possible that some state administrators doesn't consider Ecumenism as important!
If you want a sneak preview you can download it here.
However, what we really want to know is have the stewards all arrived yet? What are you guys up to? We need you to post to the blog folk, at this stage it doesn't need to be profound - though of course we would like to know your thoughts on hope for Europe and Ecumenism.
Also try to sign up both yourselves and get your member churches to sign up for our twitter feed http://twitter.com@cecassembly - I'm thinking about the press room issuing a daily blog and twitter challenge - a resumé of your day at the assembly in 140 keystrokes. More about that soon!
Who are the stewards? They are young people between the age of 18 and 30, who help the Assembly be run. There are a lot of organisational questions, which the original CEC-staff cannot solve itself: Registrating participants, serving the plenary, inform delegates and guests about the ways in the Congress Centre and through the city, supporting the press office and so on. But that’s only one aspect of their presence here. The other aspect is that in this way young people learn a lot about ecumenism and about the variety of Christian churches all over Europe.
Organising the stewards programm as part of the facilitators team, I personally do have three expectations:
1. I wish that the stewards learn, how great it is to have the differences: The variety enriches the Christian life in Europe.
2. I hope that they are aware of the critical questions and differences, which divide our churches. If in the end all would think that everything is fine with ecumenism and we all do unterstand each other, than it would be a much too easy picture. There are a lot of challenges, we must not forget about it.
3. I hope that at this time all young people, present at the Assembly, will work together and understand itself as one group, even if we have different tasks: There are the stewards, there are the (young) delegates, sent here by their churches, and there or other young people, attending the Assembly as represantatives of their youth organisations. In my opinion, all we should have a common aim: The voice of young people should be heard in the Ecumenic movement, and this voice should make a difference.
And last, but not least: I hope that all of us will have a lot of fun here!
Friday, 10 July 2009
Thursday, 9 July 2009
As we all know the assembly is about hope ... today the main hope is that it will all go well!
In the offices in Geneva the spirit is good, the corridors are filling up with boxes to be shipped and the CEC assembly has started tweeting find us here twitter.com@cecassembly
maybe you could start tweeting too, that would be good and you can even do it from your mobile phones!
Annie will be the first CEC member of staff to arrive in Lyon. Stewards will start to meet tomorrow. Anyway folks, we're nearly there and it's going to be hard work but good fun too!
Keep hoping ;-)
Saturday, 30 May 2009
From my side, I am quite disappointed with the number of young delegates being nominated - only 32 out of nearly 450 delegates (9,4%). Of course, present delegates also raise the concern that youth voice will not be really heard at the Assembly, but still they are quite optimistic. What I would say - every time the same story with young delegates, but the situation is not hopeless. During the couple of days the young delegates will develop some ideas for youth statement, youth witness at the Assembly as well as practice some "procedure" issues - how to make participation not only meanfull, but effective.
We just started reflections on the Assembly theme - "Hope" - and I hope :-) that the delegates which are not present here can share some ideas and reflections on the topic.
Saturday, 23 May 2009
I hope on your interest and participation in the blog. Don’t hesitate to give your comments and your ideas! Hopefully the blog will contribute one little piece to the discussion about the churches as a vibrant part of Europe.