Friday, November 1, 2013

A day in the life of the Assembly

What does an ordinary day at the Assembly look like?

  The rhythm of the Assembly is punctuated by two moments of prayer.  After we arrive the delegates go to the worship space where we have a morning prayer.  Each day has a theme that takes some aspect of the work of the day.

Based on the psalm 139: “You trace my journeys and my resting-places and you are acquainted with all my ways”.  This psalm gives the setting of the prayer experiences.  The Assembly is seen as a journey or pilgrimage that is expressed in the theme “lead us” to justice and peace.  All of the prayer experiences are designed as one more concrete step together toward the realization of our prayer to God for justice and peace.

  Pilgrimage is an ancient activity of all religions.  We can think of that first great pilgrimage where God called Abraham out of his home land to a new land.  The Old Testament is filled with the stories of how God was leading and forming a new people with a purpose to be carried out in God’s creation.  In the New Testament, Jesus is the great pilgrim leader, leading us as the Good Shepherd back home to the heart of God.  In fact he is, as John says in his Gospel, “the way, the truth, and the life”.
 Each day will use some symbol of this journey together.

Today the symbol was the tree of life.  This symbol may be understood from several different aspects.  In the creation story trees were made to sustain life-for clean air, to rest under the shade of their leaves and to eat of their fruit.  They also provide beauty as seen in these autumn days where colors abound and amaze the eye and uplift the spirit.  Nevertheless the tree is also a symbol from the first pages of Genesis.  It was placed in the center of the garden and called the tree of knowledge. Perhaps the harvest of its fruit was done without wisdom from the tree of life.  In the New Testament the cross of Jesus was identified by the apostles as the tree of life (Acts 5:30; 10:39; 13:29).

I can’t but think of good friends of mine who have made their life’s pilgrimage collecting examples of the tree of life in art, literature and song.

 We sang this refrain today: The righteous are like tress planted by living streams.  Today’s evening worship ended with this prayer:
Creator of all life,
you brought into being all that is, and pronounced it good.
We are careless with your gifts.
You invite us to be stewards of your creation.
We take much and return little.
You want us to live in unity,
yet we build boundaries between people and nations.
Heal our divisive, miserly ways.
Forgive out greed.
Create in us hearts of generosity and humility.

Bible studies
After the worship, the assembly breaks into bible studies by language.  This is a very imporatnt aspect of the gathering since it will break open the word of God around the theme of the Assembly.
Listen to the description of the studies from Fr. Lawrence.

Today’s study comes from the book of Genesis, the creation account.  It is a reflection on the nature of life and how to celebrate, sustain and affirm it in relation to the theme of the assembly. We used a contextual interpretation of the text where we heard the text in its context, and then tried to identify how our various cultures hears the text and how the text interprets us.  The group then shared how each identified with some aspect of the text and the group was enlightened by listening to how various cultures heard the text.  This process produced a very rich result.

Theme Plenary
The plenary session sets the tone for the conversations and programs of the WCC assembly for each day. In the plenary sessions the whole assembly gathers to hear reports or messages from various leaders or programs that have been sponsored by the churches in various parts of the world.
For example, Michel SidibĂ©, executive director of UNAIDS, the Joint United Nations Program on HIV/AIDS, encouraged the churches to “protect the vulnerable”.
Duleep de Chickera, Anglican Bishop of Colombo, Sri Lanka, spoke on the concept of “victim theology”. He noted that a theology disconnected from victims or in support of war in a violent world robbed of justice and peace amounts to the mutilation of the heart and mind of Jesus.
Dr Wedad Abbas Tawfik from the Coptic Orthodox Church of Alexandria in Egypt shared how the Egyptian people have born “witness to the God of life” by facing up to turbulences in their country. She called the WCC theme a universal prayer, directly relevant to the Egyptian Christians who, following events of the “Arab Spring”, have worked with their fellow Muslim citizens in pursuit of dignity, peace and social justice for their country.
These presentations were followed by a conversation in which the young theologian MĂ©lisande Schifter put some hard questions that youth ask to the presenters.  What young people want to see is action and not more discourses.  So the question put to the Assembly at the beginning is what will we concretely do about the issues.

Business Plenary
After lunch we are all back for the business meeting.  Here the delegates deal with the various programs, policies and structure.  Since this Assembly has adopted a politic of consensus there is no real “voting” going to take place on issues.  Instead the delegates will try to find a common solution or consensus.  They have two cards to raise: orange for favorable and blue for unfavorable.

  Delegates do have the possibility to speak to issues.  This first day everyone was on their good behavior and there were no real “hot” issues brought to the floor.  During these sessions there may also be a major input given which can be up to three minutes.  Delegates are eager to hear one of these tomorrow with Bishop Hilarion scheduled to speak.

Ecumenical conversations
Ecumenical conversations engage assembly participants in sustained, in-depth dialogue on critical issues that affect the unity, mission and witness of the church today – issues that require a response by the churches together.

There are 21 ecumenical conversations.  Some examples of these include:
• Called to be one – new ecumenical landscapes
• The Church: toward a common vision
• Transformed by renewal: biblical sources and ecumenical perspectives
• Moral discernment for life, justice and peace
•We must pray together if we are to stay together
• Developing effective leadership: contextual ecumenical formation and theological education
• Together towards Life: mission in changing contexts
• Evangelism today: new ways for authentic discipleship
• Exploring Christian self- identity in a world of many faiths

Regional groups or confessional meetings
In these meetings there is an opportunity for the delegates to gather as churches in the same region or by confessional identity.

   Even in Korea there are protests,  There are some Christians who are not happy with the WCC and so they had the right to protest outside of the convention center.  They were very respectful and for the most part silent.

The long day ends with prayer.  These prayers pick up the theme of the day again but are more simple than the opening worship.  By the end of the day most of us are pretty tired.  Curious as it may be even in Korea do they celebrate Halloween.  This is the restaurant where we are eating!

 So I will wish you all:
Happy Halloween
Peace and all good!