Archive for September, 2008

Grass tales

Tuesday, September 30th, 2008

Footworn, almost grassless, spot in the middle of a meadow… Does it bring about any associations?

A drought, another consequence of global warming… Or irresponsible, unlimited collection of wild flowers… Or, though unlikely but not impossible, the IBTS goats have finally started to ‘mown’ grass and simply overdid that particular spot?

Believe it or not, but such seemingly sad image of dying grass can also have a positive meaning. Today I was looking at this slowly widening footworn spot while standing under the net on the volleyball court next to the meadow on the top of IBTS hill, and I had a very good feeling about it.

It has been less than five weeks since the beginning of a new academic year. Less than five weeks since a lot of people, students and staff of IBTS, all coming from different countries, cultures and languages have met for the first time. This fading grass was a simple witness of how much of their spare time these people choose to spend together. They are learning to communicate. They are learning to play volleyball. They are learning to live together, as a Christian community, as a witness of how Christianity can and indeed does overcome all the possible barriers that divide the world today.

Language, ethnic identity, social background, financial prosperity or the lack of it – it disappears when we are in Christ. And that little worn out spot is a good reminder of Christ’s uniting power, once again displayed to me here, at IBTS.

– Tima

Running Prague half-marathon

Sunday, September 28th, 2008

Since July, IBTS has been buzzing about this year being monumental because as a seminary we are celebrating our 60th Anniversary! It’s an opportune year to highlight so many things about this seminary’s work in Christian communities not only in Central Eastern Europe, but around the world!

During this Diamond Jubilee, IBTS is looking for friends to donate towards special birthday gifts which will help the seminary continue educate students for ministry.

This made me think, what can I do? I love IBTS. I love what it stands for and what it does. I love the people who sit around our worship circle every morning. I love the guests who visit and come back again and again because the place is ‘enchanting’.

So I’m running! Not running away, mind you! But running in the Prague Half Marathon and asking you to support me! The marathon is 28 March taking place here in this magnificent city. I’m looking for sponsors who love IBTS and love to give towards a good cause! Well, you found it! You can follow the pains of my training and the fun of running in Prague and add your name to my list of sponsors in my new Jubilee Jog Through Prague web-log:

Also, there are rumours a few residents of the IBTS community may join me in this endeavour, so keep tuned in!!!

– Vanessa

Peace and Reconciliation at the EBF Council in Lisboa

Saturday, September 27th, 2008

Though the theme of the EBF Council was “Creation Care and Environment”, perhaps the most notable moment came on the Friday night when Archbishop Malkhaz (Georgia Baptists) invited us to a celebration of the Eucharist and prayers for peace in the troubled region of Ossetia and Georgia. Using a “shortened” version of the eucharistic liturgy of John Chrysostom he co-celebrated with Karin Wiborn (Swedish Baptist Union). The small lecture room assigned for the purpose was soon overcrowded as EBF Baptists, of every liturgical persuasion and non, gathered around the table and joined in the liturgy. We prayed fervently for peace and reconcilation in the region, we shared the one cup of rich Georgian wine offered to us with delicate Swedish tones offering us the “blood of Christ”.  And there it was – an ancient liturgy of the one Church of Christ shared by Baptists from many nations led by Georgians and Swedes. Powerfully, again, the conviction was re-inforced in me that the eucharist is a meal which unites, overcomes, heals and sustains. I leave the sun of Portugal more determined than ever to develop at IBTS a eucharistic community!

– Keith

Baptists, silence, and meat

Saturday, September 27th, 2008
Cathedral wears Esprit
Cathedral wears Esprit

I’m having quite a good time in the ECEN Assembly. A few people were curious to learn I’m a Baptist, with a hint of “we thought Baptists didn’t care about things like environment.” Hmmm…. I’m also glad to report that Italian Baptists have been quite instrumental in helping to organise this meeting.

As is often the case with ecumenical gatherings, things can be quite slow at times, so some sessions required some patience, but as usual the breaks with their conversations and contacts have been meaningful and useful in various ways. Yesterday afternoon provided another highlight, when, organised by an Italian Baptist, we held an ‘Hour of Silence’ behind the Milano Cathedral, wearing signs which were aimed at drawing attention to the issue of climate change and our concern about it.

Preparing for the Hour of Silence
Preparing for the Hour of Silence

Standing in this ‘bubble of silence’ was easier than I thought – perhaps because the Milanese provided plenty of sight for eyes as they were passing by on foot or on their bicycles, a number of them stopping to read the signs and to ask more about our purpose. Standing there together as a group of Christians consisting of scientists, theologians, and members of various churches felt very meaningful and it was a good respite from words. I wonder if the church would do better if it was using the gift of silence more often and more intentionally?

The other thing I began to wonder about, on a personal level, is whether it’s time for me to make a more deliberate commitment about limiting my meat consumption in order to do my part in reducing methane emissions (which contribute to nearly a fifth of global greenhouse gas emissions and may be more detrimental than transport). The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change recommends one meat-free day per week, which I already do, but could do more, and especially avoid beef, lamb and other meat of animals who burp and, ehm, produce gases otherwise. I’m interested to know of any church or organisation that is working in this area – if you do, or if you’ve already lowered your own meat consumption, please let me know!..

– Lina

Environment at top of the EBF agenda

Thursday, September 25th, 2008

Whilst ECEN meet near Milan, EBF are meeting at Lisboa (Lisbon) and also reflecting on the theology of creation care. Helle Liht (Estonia) led a devotional on the theme looking at the created order in Genesis. Then the keynote address – “Why we should care from a Biblical perspective” – was delivered in full and handsome manor by scientist turned OT scholar, Dr Ernest Lucas (Bristol, England). However, as Lina blogged earlier, it seems a mountainous journey to awake many in Europe to the concern. I tried to judge the impact of what Ernest was saying on the folk from eastern Europe sat around me, but engaging with the detailed Biblical work in a second language proved understandably difficult – so soon the Palm pilots and mobile phones were getting on with the life of sending emails, answering text messages etc to churches and people “back home” and I realised some in European Baptist leadership had higher priorities.

– Keith

The True Challenge of Climate Change

Thursday, September 25th, 2008

This is the theme of the 7th Assembly of the European Christian Environmental Network (ECEN), currently taking place in a lovely Villa Sacro Cuore near Milano. I’m taking part as a representative of IBTS. There are nearly 100 participants from different churches and organisations in Europe, though most of them are from the ‘West’. Thus for me the most pressing part of the challenge of our theology of creation care remains this: how our talk about ecological theology can, and should, be rendered in the language meaningful to an Eastern European believer. I’m thinking particularly of some of our students, coming from Central Asia, who are glad to have 12 hours of electricity per day; or many others, who live in societies which quickly learned the new consumerist ways but also still carry the implicit legacy of Soviet times when natural resources, when available, were ‘cheaper than mushrooms,’ as we say in Lithuanian, and all for your use if only you could get to them. Hopefully, there will be opportunities to discuss the Eastern European situation and perspectives during this meeting.

But in the meantime, we are concentrating on the topic of Climate Change and this morning have been hearing a scientific perspective on this issue by Prof Jean Pascal van Ypersele, Vice Chair of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, Nobel Prize winner 2007). Scary!..

– Lina

In the footsteps of Martin Luther

Tuesday, September 23rd, 2008

Luther's room where he was translating the ΒibleSunday and Monday, a group of students, led by Peter Penner, held a special session of their Bible, Community and Context module: a field trip to see Wartburg, Wittenberg and the Augustinian Monastery in Erfurt, with the purpose of engaging with the life and work of Luther. Jenny (Kazakhstan) and Radostina (Bulgaria) share this picture and their impressions:

It was really special to be able to see where Luther lived when he was translating the Bible. Being in Wartburg castle felt like seeing and touching the time when he lived. We actually expected to see a place with no electricity or water but were impressed to discover it was a very nice castle! This was a wonderful experience, and we were very grateful for this opportunity.

Suffering for the Gospel in Portugal

Tuesday, September 23rd, 2008

This week about 120 European Baptist leaders are descending on an Atlantic coast hotel just north of Lisbon. Your advance guard reporter can inform you the sky is blue, the sun is hot, the swimming pool is just below my balcony (no Baptist leaders in at present, but then it is only 07.30am) and the sea and beach just metres beyond!
This is the annual Council of the EBF, full of Presidents, General Secretaries, National Directors, Seminary Rectors and all. With great flourish our Russian Baptist leaders proposed a reconciliation meeting with Archbishop Malkhaz and his Baptist bishops from Georgia. The Georgians are coming, but latest rumour is that at the last minute Russian President Sipko has pulled out. We hope even now Yuri Sipko will change his mind and follow the Christ-like way of seeking reconciliation.

– Keith