Page 5 - Moravian Messenger November 2019
P. 5

Moravian Mission Council
2nd-4th September 2019
Basel/Berne, Switzerland
It's hard to believe that it is nearly a year since our last Moravian Mission Council in Zeist, but sure enough delegates gathered from both sides of the Atlantic for this year's meeting in Basel. We met at the headquarters of Mission 21, which is situated appropriately enough at 21 Missionstrasse in that beautiful city. This was also the place where we stayed overnight because there is also a hotel in the same building. We were greeted by Rev Jochen Kirsch, the new Director of Mission 21, who explained to us some of the work that the organisation carries out around the world. This included news about their work with refugees fleeing the ravages of the Islamist group Boca Aram in northern Nigeria and how they are working with the many displaced peoples there.
Jochen also explained that Mission 21 is part of a wider group called Action of Churches Together (ACT), an ecumenical partnership that operates in places like Cameroon, more trusted by local people than the Red Cross because they do not have links to the national government there. The Mission Council also considered the possibility of Moravian Church as a whole joining ACT and the Unity will be formally approached to pursue this idea. The extra time given to the sharing of information about Mission 21 was very enlightening and was a fascinating addition to the reports given by the other Mission Agencies present. Other highlights included the report given by Sr Erdmute Frank of the Unity Women's Desk (UWD) and her successor Sr Julie Tomberlin, who, amongst other things, shared with us a special inclusive Credo that had been created for and published by the UWD.
Another interesting publication was presented to us by the Zeist Mission Board (ZZG) entitled 'Caribbean Conversation' that reflected theological discussions that took place recently in that region. We were also joined by Br Hugo Fernades Mendes of the Moravian Church Foundation (MCF), who brought us up to date with the MCF. He also told us of the concerns about the recent fluctuations in the financial performance of the MCF over the last couple of years. He also explained the way that provinces can claim for grants for theological education throughout the Unity. During the conference there was also a discussion about the level of theological education throughout the Unity. It was generally accepted that it was impossible to set the same standard throughout the Unity because of the differing expectations and facilities in each province.
Sadly, a lot of our discussions revolved around areas of conflict
in various parts of the Unity, from Alaska to Cuba, from Nicaragua to Tanzania. It is very difficult to know how to react to these conflicts as Mission Agencies, especially as certain acts could be seen as smacking of interference or colonialism. It was also noted that the Unity Book of Order, COUF, is not currently translated into Spanish or Swahili. This is clearly not a satisfactory situation as it means that the vast majority of Moravians cannot read the basic rules of our denomination in their own language. It is hoped that moves will be made towards rectifying this situation and that this, in turn, might foster a better understanding of what it is to be a Moravian and therefore help to reduce the causes of conflict throughout the Unity.
On the second day of the conference we travelled by car to Berne so that we could continue our discussions at The House of Religions on the outskirts of the city. The House of Religions is a fascinating place, and a wonderful surprise for most of the delegates for it is the home of various denominations and religions. Alevites, Buddhists, Christians, Jews, Hindus and Muslims all worship at the House of Religions and as far as we know this is an almost unique situation anywhere in the world. The project was pioneered and championed by the Moravians in Berne and would not have happened without their support. We were privileged to worship in a room that sported a Moravian Advent Star and a wall adorned with Ethiopian Orthodox Iconography, as both denominations share the same worship space
The conference ended with a service in the 'Quiet Room' which included the induction of Katherina Gfeller as new head of international relations at Mission 21. In order to illustrate the idea of different people and different groups working together we were all given pieces of an IKEA (other furniture stores are available) table, which we proceeded to put together during the course of the service, after reading the manual, of course. If you are ever short of something to fill up parts of a church service then I highly recommend this as an activity - it took us a whole half an hour! It was once again a privilege for me to represent our province at the Mission
Conference and I hope that the discussions we had, the friendships that we developed and the plans that we made will help us all to carry out the will and the purpose of the Lord, wherever we are in the Unity.
Br Paul M Holdsworth
British Mission Board
© Br Johannes Klemm

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