Monday, 14 March 2011

Geneva - World Church Ecumenical Relations!

I wrote this a little while ago but it never got published!

I've spent the last few days in Geneva - famous for Jean Calvin and home of the Ecumenical Centre! This trip originally had two purposes - to meet with Rev Lala Rasendrahasina (President of the Church of Jesus Christ in Madagascar - Council for World Mission family member and Global Synod partner of the National Synod of Wales) and to plan a church leaders' visit in June.

A group from the United Reformed Church was due to visit Madagascar this week but Rev Lala Rasendrahasina informed us he would actually be in Geneva for the World Council of Churches Central Committee so could we postpone our visit (it will now take place in October). Linda Elliott (Convenor of the International Exchange Reference Group) and I decided to take advantage of this and come to Geneva to meet with him!

The Church Leaders programme was also postponed after tickets bought and hotels booked but we still felt it was right to visit the officers of the World Communion of Reformed Churches - a good decision I think!

We arrived on Wednesday and spent the afternoon talking about the aims of the visit and what we wanted to achieve. On Thursday we went to the Ecumenical Centre, the home of the World Council of Churches, World Communion of Reformed Churches and various other international ecumenical organisations.

Talk about small worlds...

We walked into Patricia Sheerattan's office (Pat is WCRC Officer for Justice and Partnership) and there sat Collin Cowan, the new General Secretary for CWM)! CWM is facing difficulties over visas and we were able to speak with him about potential solutions - a useful but unexpected meeting! Arranging to see Pat later in the day, we went back to reception for the coffee break of the WCC Central committee... This is where I realise how many people I have met with over the last 18th months! I was greeted with hugs by Ophelia Ortega from the Presbyterian Reformed Church in Cuba, and then Solomon Sule-Saa from the Presbyterian Church of Ghana, and then Setri Nyomi, General Secretary of the WCRC. We met Prince Dibeela, moderator of CWM and former Mission Partner of the URC. We also encountered David Thompson, Jane Stranz, Tony Coates and Lindsey Sanderson (who represents the URC on the WCC Central Committee) from the URC! And, of course we met Lala! We also visited the Chapel to see the Stitching Peace exhibition. 

We arranged to meet that night for supper so we could talk more!

After lunch we went to meet Setri Nyomi up in the WCRC offices. As we approached we bumped into Douwe Visser (Officer for Theology and Communion and friend!). He asked about two URC students who had taken part in the Global Institute of Theology last summer and told me that they were planning on a second school next year.

In our meeting with Setri Nyomi we heard how the new Communion was taking shape and over the joys and concerns in developing a new organisation with limited resources. We talked of how to involve young people and how we nurture potential leadership. These are exciting and nervous times in the life of the ecumenical movement and Setri is trying hard to offer leadership within the Reformed churches across the world. We left promising to keep in touch over developments and ideas!

Later that night we met with Lala and Lindsey, sharing food and stories and learning how the Church is struggling in the face of political turmoil. We made arrangements for a visit in October and shared how our churches could work together and renew the relationship with the Synod of Wales. We laughed and enjoyed each other's company.

On Friday Linda and I decided to go and seek out our Reformed roots by visiting the Cathedral de St. Pierre and the International Museum of the Reformation. The Cathedral offers amazing views across Geneva from its towers and also boasts 'Calvin's chair!

That evening we had supper with an old friend of mine Rev Terry Macarthur. I first met Terry when he was the worship consultant to the World Council of Churches and came to teach ecumenical worship and world church music at Tainan Theologicalcollege. I was a CWM student there at the time and so attended his classes! I must say that it was Terry who first instilled in me a passion for World Church Music and liturgy and opened up new horizons and possibilities! He also became my counsellor during the dark days following an earthquake, sitting with me for hours listening and comforting, bringing me chocolate icecream! I will never forget the love and concern he showed to me - he was a rock when all around was shaking.

I last visited Terry in Geneva about 6 years ago and so we had much to catch up on! We laughed (and anyone who has met Terry will know his 'distinct' laugh!), we remembered, we caught up on the news and we ate fondue! Another memorable evening where I am thankful for the life God has called me to!


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