Serbia is a geographical and historical crossroads for Europe. Its strategic location on the banks of the Danube has meant this region has been very significant for both churches and countries across the continent.
So it was very timely that participants at the recent CEC Assembly in Novi Sad should be in such a place to discuss the theme ‘You shall be my witnesses’ – with the underlying values of Witness, Justice and Hospitality.
In reality, we all need to read the signs of the times and respond in truth, and the subtext to the entire Assembly was how we grow in friendship with one another but also of needing to be open to sharing God’s love with others. In particular, we are called to be compassionate and care for those who face deep vulnerability – such as climate refugees, those fleeing violence and conflict, victims of modern slavery and captivity.
The powerful symbol of the gathering was a bridge – that which joins together, crosses divides, and offers the possibility of sharing resources. The potent message from the Assembly was to be bridge builders for the future through faith and unsurprisingly concluded with the ‘call on our member churches and all people to join us in shaping a Europe where we build bridges for the good of all in our continent and world.’
Personally, I feel we need to move with an unprecedented urgency in the coming few years if we are going to avoid some form of civil collapse, and I did not sense this urgency in the main dynamic of the Assembly, though it was present in workshops and other conversations. I have to say that the general emphasis seemed to be very anthropocentric, as if it is only humanity that matters to God.
Surely, we must do more to recognise that all human life is interconnected with the ecology of a sacred world? As Christians and as humans we must witness to this interwoven reality. At a time of immense and immediate threat to the wholeness of life on the planet, our churches should speak, act and live justly so the hospitality of God through the Earth may be sustained for the future of all...
Finally, I was touched by this short prayer by Hans Olav Moerk from Norway:
Go in haste!
Never stop walking out of the church room, out from peace and tranquillity, into the noise and discomfort, out, to laughter and tears.
Carry with you the living bread, as a treasure in your hands and your heart.
Share it over and over again.
It will always be enough - as long as you continue to break it.
Martyn Goss, 16th June 2018