Archive for September, 2011

Of the President and his tie

Saturday, September 24th, 2011

The EBF has a new President – the Revd Hans Guderian from Germany. He’ll be inducted today at the closing service of the EBF Council, replacing the Revd Valeriu Giletchi from Moldova who has served as the EBF President for the last two years.

I first encountered Hans as an avid postal stamps collector, but perhaps another collection might be surfacing at the present. You see, during much of this meeting he has been wearing a very fun tie – from India, he said – with bright elephants on green background. So in one of the coffee breaks, a discussion evolved about this (usually the only) major accessoir for men and the messages that it can bear. Perhaps we could add another level of communication  a la Madelein Albright (as the US Secretary of State, she used to wear brooches or pins to the official meetings to express a mood or to make a point: it was part of her “diplomatic arsenal,” as she had put it. A very interesting interview with Albright on her brooch collection can be found here.)

Could be fun?..

– Lina

P.S. And yes, we did discuss serious issues too!

Baptists in Nazareth

Thursday, September 22nd, 2011

So the European Baptist Federation meetings in Nazareth have started. We had a warm opening service yesterday night in Nazareth Baptist church. Apart from ‘O Lord my God, when I in awesome wonder,’ all other songs were of Arabic origin (including the one we sometimes sing at Šarka Valley Community Church – ‘Salam’ – which we sing with translation into English: ‘help us your peace to understand’…) – so a lovely flavour of the local church, which also included a sermon by one of our graduates, Azar Ajaj (Dean of Nazareth Evangelical Theological Seminary).

Baptist church in Nazareth (thanks to Daniel Trusiewitcz for the photo!)

The Baptist church is located in the Arabic part of the city, whereas our hotel is in Nazareth Illit – the Jewish quarter, with the mezuzahs on the doors, the Sabbath elevator (i.e., during Sabath it stops automatically on each floor so that an observant Jew would not have to push a button), and such. Being here, the news on Israel – such as on the Palestinian independence issue dominating the news this week – feel and sound even more acute…

Today we had a good session on the report from IBTS and its future this morning, led by Ruth and Jan of our Board of Trustees. Even though the future is still not clear and the report was on the options placed before us, lots of support was expressed from various people who have encountered IBTS in one way or another. Every time in the EBF meetings, I’m amazed by how many lives have been touched by IBTS. As Tony, our General Secretary, remarked this morning, it is indeed a crossing point and part of the glue which holds the EBF together.

The Council voted for the decision that each of the Unions contribute annually towards the work of the seminary. The amount for the minimum of the contribution was deliberately set at a small figure – this is so that even the smallest member bodies can feel they can offer their ‘widdow’s mite’, but  several union representatives immediatelly commented that the minimum should be understood as an invitation to give significantly above.

– Lina

“That’s why they prosper”

Wednesday, September 21st, 2011

Several of us who are connected to IBTS one way or another, have been making our way to Nazareth over the last few days and hours. I was one of the three making the journey yesterday night – as usual for the Middle Eastern countries, flying in the middle of the night (does anybody know why? Please tell if you do!). So, around five o’clock in the morning, we stumbled out from the plane into the bus, into the terminal of Ben Gurion airport (absolutely beautiful architectural space!) and to the imigration booths.

“What’s the purpose of your visit?” asked the officer in the booth I approached. “Business.” “What kind of?” “European Baptist Federation meetings,” I responded. “European WHAT?” I provided my short explanation of who Baptists were.

The officer didn’t seem to be much impressed: “Hmm.” “Lithuania,” he remarked, looking at my passport. “That’s the most secular country in Europe.” Well, that’s not true, so I gently suggested he probably meant Estonia, and also volunteered that the Czech Republic is very secular. But he wasn’t much into listening – or perhaps wanted to convince me that he knows everything that needs to be known about Lithuania. At that point, I decided it wasn’t worth carrying on with the gentle debate.

“Anyway, you say Estonia and Czech Republic,” he remarked, handing me back my stamped passport. “That’s why they prosper. Have a good stay in Israel, Ms Lina.”

I do know what he means. Surely, religion’s at the heart of so much trouble of this land. I kept sensing it especially accutely as we shot down the Yitzhak Rabin highway towards Nazareth.

And yet, I differ from this officer in that he does not think that religion of some sort – our ultimate loyalties, our affections, our heart-felt convictions – is always there, recognized or not, called religion or not, hidden behind loud phrases or lived out quietly.

– Lina

Commencement snapshots

Wednesday, September 7th, 2011

From our lovely Administrator, Katka:

On Tuesday 6th September, we attended a Commencement Service for the 63rd Academic year at IBTS. Let’s have a look at how different community members experienced it.

Members of Academic Team were welcoming this new start with open arms.

Some students were so overwhelmed they sought support leaning on each other.

Others allowed themselves to express their emotions freely

Some community members even tried to perform some magic

But overall, if you ask "Who is excited about the start of new academic year at IBTS?", this is what you get!

Good luck to all of you!

– Katka

Impressions from the Opera

Monday, September 5th, 2011

Dear Readers, meet a new blogger on our site: Gyorgy, a Magister student from Hungary. Here’s what he had to say about yesterday:

In ancient times, some Roman politicians provided free wheat for the people and financed expensive circus games for them in order to get their support. Hence the Latin phrase panem et circenses – give bread and circuses to the people and they will be happy to stand on your side.

Unlike those ancient Romans who lived in the great city during the decline of the empire and cared only to satisfy their shallow desires, citizens of contemporary Prague crave for more sophisticated pleasures. Instead of ’chléb a hry’ (bread and circuses), how does beer, sausages and opera sound?

Once every year, thousands of people gather to Šárka Valley to enjoy the outdoor performance of the Czech National Opera. The actors and actresses are dressed in artistically made colourful medieval costumes, some of them are riding on large muscular stallions, and the stage is the valley itself in full summer splendor – a lot of beauty for the eyes. The grand orchestra and all those highly trained baritone, bass, tenor and soprano voices echoed by the valley walls – a real enjoyment to the ears. Add some good beer and sausages for the tasting buds, and enjoy all these in a cheerful company of friends: could someone ask for more?

Well, actually, one could. All these pleasures could well be like empty and meaningless Roman ludi (public entertainment festivals against which the Church Fathers spoke) without the presence of the one who created nature and art and our senses. For those of us who know God intimately, our joy does not remain in the realms of the aesthetic but through gratitude for all these good things inevitably and spontaneously turns into worship.

I am convinced that the Lord is happy whenever his disciples are happy (as long as we are not sinning) and that our worship possibilities are not confined to formal occasions. But I also wonder about a similar gathering taking place at times in a setting like this valley, with us singing for our Father, breaking the bread and sharing the wine.

– Gyorgy

New Academic Year: Interest in IBTS continues to spread

Thursday, September 1st, 2011

We’re nearly done with the first week of Orientation! This weekend, our CAT students (well – a good portion of them… visa problems for others!) arrive, and on Tuesday we’ll be celebrating our Commencement with the usual service in the Chapel and a festive buffet to follow. The spread of the students, geographically, is varied as before: Russia, Hungary, Canada, Lithuania, Ukraine, USA, Northern Ireland, Turkey – and, in the coming days, hopefully, Croatia, Belgium, Georgia, Slovakia…

We’re also getting inquiries from the circles new for us. This one here, for example, seems to be so determined to be at IBTS that he’s taken residency in the garage where the goats’ food is stored. Vladko, our campus steward, decided to let him stay after some discussions.

We still don’t know, however, which programme he is best to be enrolled. Probably not CAT.

– Lina