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David Clark

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Consultation on Urban Mission

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 Last week I participated in an interesting consultation on urban mission in Cluj, Romania. It was organized by PLACE: Partners Learning and Acting in Cities of Europe and the Agnus Media Foundation.

One of the organizers, Robert Calvert, is a minister in the Church of Scotland in Rotterdam. I met him at a similar consultation in Iasi, Romania and at the Lausanne Congress in Cape Town. Another one of the organizers, David Clark, is a minister at the Steeple Church in Dundee, Scotland – a friend and supporter, who has visited us a couple of times in Galati.

IMG_2657On the first day of the consultation, we did a walking tour of the major churches in Cluj. Because I there were many places on the tour in which I could not see a communist block building, I felt like I was in western Europe, not Romania. I also was surprised by the ecclesial diversity. There is a long history of the Roman Catholic Church going back to the Hapsburg Empire. Through this tradition, the Franciscans and the Jesuits built churches and schools. Cluj was also affected by the Reformation. Lutherans and later Reformed (Calvinists) turned the Roman churches into Protestant ones. Cluj was also one of the places in which the Unitarian church began. It seemed that every decade another one of these groups came to power and changed the churches’ names and evicted everyone else. Of course, the Orthodox Church was also present through the Romanian citizens, though a minority. In order to form a political constituency, Orthodox leaders recognized the authority of the Roman Pope, while keeping their Byzantine liturgy. This church was called Greek Catholic – although it is neither Greek, nor Catholic. In Cluj, the Germans, Hungarians, Romanians and their respective church traditions intersect.

For the rest of the consultation, we sat in a circle and discussed. Sometimes we ate, and then we discussed some more. There were representatives from the Hungarian Reformed Church, the Romanian Orthodox Church, the Greek Catholic Church, the Brethren church, the Pentecostal church, the Baptist church, as well as other independent churches. Most of the participants did not know each other previously. Many of them had not been inside churches other than their own particular tradition. I was delighted to see that there was cordiality and more understanding in the room than disagreements.

The conversations revolved around the place of the church in the city and the way the church interacts with the city. This exercise forced everyone to think beyond the walls of their own churches and their own programs. Each was able to see their particular congregation in light of the city – its dynamism, its problems, and its needs.

We all left knowing that we need to invest in relationships beyond those of our particular tradition and with eyes to envision interaction with and for the urban situation in which we are all ministering.

On the last afternoon of the consultation, we visited a garbage dump where thousands of Roma have made their homes. Many of them pick through the dump to find recyclables that they can sell. A Christian NGO has helped them build simple, but sturdy homes as well as communal toilets, showers and a kindergarten. We met Salome, a young Swiss girl, who felt God’s call to live among the Roma. So, she got on a train and went. She lives in a simple shelter on the garbage dump and teaches the children in the kindergarten. This was not only inspiring and faith-building, but it was also a great example of the church responding to the city.

Creative Protests in the City (part 2)

A few weeks back, we were led through a series of reflections on Creative Protests in the City by our friend David Clark, the pastor of the Steeple Church in Dundee, Scotland.

A CRITIQUE THROUGH ART

Robert Montgomerie

READING: Psalm 115:8

Those who make them (idols) will be like them, and so will all who trust in them.

 READING: John 2:13-20

When it was almost time for the Jewish Passover, Jesus went up to Jerusalem. In the temple courts he found people selling cattle, sheep and doves, and others sitting at tables exchanging money. So he made a whip out of cords, and drove all from the temple courts, both sheep and cattle; he scattered the coins of the money changers and overturned their tables. To those who sold doves he said, “Get these out of here! Stop turning my Father’s house into a market!” His disciples remembered that it is written: “Zeal for your house will consume me.”

The Jews then responded to him, “What sign can you show us to prove your authority to do all this?”

Jesus answered them, “Destroy this temple, and I will raise it again in three days.”

They replied, “It has taken forty-six years to build this temple, and you are going to raise it in three days?” But the temple he had spoken of was his body.

“Dislocated” Rafael Barrios

TIME TO REFLECT

What do you discern as the impact of consumerist idolatry on people’s lives in Galati?

Are there ‘dislocated sections of society’ within Galati’s city community? Who are they? What characterises their lives?

Can you identify any obstacles that prevent you (as a community) being more effective in responding to Jeremiah’s command – “seek the peace and prosperity of the city”? (Jeremiah 29:7)

Creative Protest in the City (part 1)

A few weeks back, we were led through a series of reflections on Creative Protests in the City by our friend David Clark, the pastor of the Steeple Church in Dundee, Scotland.

He began by talking about the Occupy Movement and how it touched his city of Dundee. Rather than ignoring or bad-talking the movement – which sadly has been the response of many Christians – David Clark went out and spoke with them and asked them about their concerns. This wasn’t very difficult as they were camping next to the church property. He was able to identify the concerns that they shared and discussed ways in which they could respond together.

This really challenged our community to start to think about our participation in the city and the church’s task of prophetic engagement.

READING: ISAIAH 65:19-25

I will rejoice over Jerusalem
and take delight in my people;
the sound of weeping and of crying
will be heard in it no more.

“Never again will there be in it
an infant who lives but a few days,
or an old man who does not live out his years;
the one who dies at a hundred
will be thought a mere child;
the one who fails to reach a hundred
will be considered accursed.
They will build houses and dwell in them;
They will plant vineyards and eat their fruit.
No longer will they build houses and others live in them,
or plant and others eat.
For as the days of a tree,
so will be the days of my people;
my chosen ones will long enjoy
the work of their hands.
They will not labour in vain,
nor will they bear children doomed to misfortune;
for they will be a people blessed by the LORD,
they and their descendants with them.

Before they call I will answer;
while they are still speaking I will hear.

The wolf and the lamb will feed together,
and the lion will eat straw like the ox,
and dust will be the serpent’s food.
They will neither harm nor destroy
on all my holy mountain,”
says the LORD.

“The three big problems in Dundee are homelessness, disaffected youth, and economic instability.”  Alessandro (Leader of Occupy Dundee).

TIME TO REFLECT

What would the citizens of Galati say are the top three problems in their city?

What do we mean by ‘presence of God’? How should Christian communities (churches +) make more visible the ‘presence of God’ in the city?

What do you observe are the consequences of the present recession in Galati?

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