Report from Sibiu
I was the delegate for the Ecumenical Forum of European Christian Women, EFECW. I hadn’t been at the first EEA, in Basel in the summer of 1989, or even Graz in 1997, but I had met participants of these events. The sharing had been very important. It had included, in 1989, attending a parish ‘preparation for Basel’ group in Radeberg (Dresden, GDR). These personal reflections of mine should be supplemented by referring to http://www.cec-kek.org/
Sibiu, in Transylvania, is a beautiful city. This year it is European City of Culture. The predominant Church in Romania is Orthodox but in Sibiu there are many other denominations represented too.
Christ’s Light Shining over Europe was the theme and light shone, though it was cold and wet outside! There was even lightning when we arrived in Sibiu in the middle of the night, and fireworks on the last night when a festival of light was relayed on TV.
We met in the Tent each morning. It was a beautiful structure and I leave you to imagine the predominantly male Assembly of over 2000 delegates, half Roman Catholic (Council of European Bishops’ Conferences), half members of the Conference of European Churches. Black Cassocks and interesting hats abounded! Official languages were English, French, German, Italian and Romanian. The morning started with worship reflecting our diversity with Orthodox responses and catchy choruses, candles and drums. A Dominican nun spoke about her retreat at a Buddhist monastery. Hilary from the L’Arche community in Liverpool, and Tim, a student from Warwick University, gave testimonies.
Later Manuel Barroso, President of the European Commission, and Andrea Riccardi of the St Egidio Community gave inspiring talks. Mary Tanner and Ruth Conway (C of E) and Margot Kässmann (Bishop of Hannover) were among the women I recognised chairing sessions.
There were many opportunities for networking among new and old friends. I met Portuguese and Irish on the long bus journey from Bucharest (some travelled all the way from England by bus). Meals were always taken with different people: Hungarian Reformed from Romania and Hungary, Catholics from Scotland and Spain. An Agora, market place, enabled some of the churches and groups to display their work. I was pleased to learn about the Portuguese ecumenical pilgrimage and see the large candle lit that the delegation brought with them.
There were EFECW women from many countries. Elena, the Orthodox Co-President of EFECW, helped set up Café Ruth with help from Swiss women. It was an oasis for women and men to take a break and receive refreshment. Different groups of Romanian church women brought cakes and served coffee each day. I met Roman Catholic and Lutheran, Orthodox and Greek Catholic women. There were presentations by women in the Café about the Romanian Forum, about Gender Stereotyping, about Migration and about EFECW Projects in Germany and beyond. Elisabeth Bucking from Germany shared the Forum representation with me and we submitted a suggestion from the women for the official Message from the Assembly:
European Christian women are willing, able and prepared to take part at all levels of church life and church structures.
It didn’t appear in the final draft!
We were reminded at the final session that, though the written Message is important (http://www.cec-kek.org/), it is we who are the messengers who must share the experience with you!
Dorothy Knights is Co-President of the Ecumenical Forum of European Christian Women (http://www.efecw.net). She belongs to Great Malvern Priory and is a member of Worcester (C of E) Diocesan Synod. She serves on the British Kirchentag Committee and is Focal Person for Europe Mission Forum, Global Mission Network of Churches Together in Britain and Ireland.