Friday, October 16, 2015

Third Full Day in Paris -- at the Convention of the Convocation

It is rainy out today, not as cold as yesterday. I woke up not feeling quite like myself -- under the weather a bit. 

Determined not to miss the day, Steve and I took the Metro (I love the French Metro system!) over to the Cathedral. Actually we took it to one stop where we walked for 12 minute to the Cathedral -- a nice early morning walk.

We were greeted warmly by the women serving coffee (the convention was on coffee break) -- I was poured a cup of coffee as I entered the door: "You look cold!" I was. And feeling under the weather.

I found Pierre at up at the dais and was able to hug him and talk with him a bit.

We were honored by the presence of Professor Grace Davie who talked about changes in the religious structures in Europe. Among the snippets I captured on my eyephone as she was talking were:
We are dealing with reactions -- 
Militant atheism 
What draws people in?
Shift to consumption -- 
Decline is generational 
Evangelical churches and cathedrals are growing because they offer something that is uplifting and experiential 
What makes it worthwhile for someone to come to your congregation?

We then were sent off to our small groups with two questions -- the first of which was -- How do you locate your congregations in this analysis?

The conversation was interesting and enlightening.  People shared about their individual contexts. The monies from expats coming over to live isn't what it used to be -- people don't seek out church as they have in the past. This is actually a common story to many of our own congregations -- not the expat part, but the attendance and giving part. One priest is actually paid by the government of the country in which she serves (there is a church tax collected from each person in the country) so that the congregation does not bear the burden of paying the priest. That's certainly different -- and obviously has an impact on people's giving. One man shared that in his small village in Austria they are preparing a place for Syrian refugees to live -- and view as a life-giving experience for the community as well as for the Syrians. I was very moved to hear about this ministry -- it directly addressed what Dr. Davie was speaking about with us.

I was asked to share about the situation in Los Angeles and as part of my sharing I talked about the walkabouts we've done in my geographical area of ministry. I didn't take much time to explain them fully, just a quick overview. What was interesting to me is that the woman who was the leader of our group explained to me quickly that walkabouts wouldn't work in her situation or in many others in Europe because "people have to bike at least 5 minutes to get to our church". I was sad to think that she didn't ask a clarifying question nor did she think there was any application at all in her context -- where they may be some application. Hmmm. I kept thinking about connections when the members of the group were talking. 

We enjoyed lunch together -- sandwiches on baguettes. 

We came back together and continued on the work of convention. One of the resolutions that was passed was in regards to broadening ministry to refugees. I have written, of course, about the Joel Nafuma Center in Rome -- an amazing work of St. Paul's Within-the-Walls. Congregations already involved in this work (and there are many!) came to the microphone to share what they are doing, or what they are planning to do. Among those (besides the Joel Nafuma Center in Rome) we heard about:
8 refugees living in a home in a small village in  Austria-- 
Munich providing basic needs to camp set up for refugees 
Participating in Ecumenical efforts in Wiesbaden --
Florence -- dignity through art 

The joy of this convention was hearing about mission and ministry focused holistically on a specific need but in various forms, as each congregation feels called and as the needs are expressed in their context -- beautiful. That's living the Gospel. That's the way to be church.

We then heard a presentation on General Convention -- it was great to hear their perspectives -- I loved the fact that they wore the moose "hats" received at General Convention. There was great sharing and our own Lester MacKenzie was honored with Austin Rios playing him (and getting the people of the Convention in Paris) to sing and pray the way Lester did at General Convention. Beautiful!  

A true joy was seeing old friend Tony Jewiss! Tony was so helpful to me when I was a seminarian -- and he is just so kind.

Well, the Bishop's dinner is tonight. I'm too weary to attend, but I will be praying for them all.

Off to rest!