A letter from Karen Moritz in the Czech Republic
November 10-19, 2011
A Gathering in Turkey
One thing I really enjoy about my current position as a PC(USA) mission co-worker is the opportunity to live abroad, which makes travelling to other countries quite easy. I have been grateful for the opportunities to visit other countries that are located much closer to the Czech Republic than to the United States. November provided another opportunity for travel. Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) mission co-workers from Europe and Central Asia gathered in Antalya, Turkey, for a retreat led by staff from the World Mission offices of the General Assembly Mission Council headquartered in Louisville, Kentucky, USA. Thirty people gathered for worship, fellowship, and presentations. The theme of the retreat was “Refresh, Renew, and Proclaim.”
Dr. Darrell Guder, Henry Winters Luce Professor of the Theology of Mission and Ecumenics and Dean of Academic Affairs at Princeton Theological Seminary, led four sessions entitled “Proclaiming the Gospel in Europe in a milieu of ethnic diversity, religious pluralism, and secularism.” The participants read three articles by Dr. Andrew F. Walls from The Cross-Cultural Process in Christian History: Studies in the Transmission and Appropriation of Faith prior to the event as a foundation for Dr. Guder’s presentations. Dr. Guder’s first presentation was “The Gospel and the Apostolic Strategy: The Community Jesus Intended.” In the second session Dr. Guder presented “The Establishment of European Christendom and Its Distinctive Legacy.” The third session focused on “The Modern Disintegration of Christendom.” Dr. Guder concluded with “Proclaiming the Gospel in Post-Christendom Europe.” His presentations were very thought-provoking and generated a lot of conversation. We talked a lot about the rise and decline of Christendom in Europe, and his presentations provided a good start for my reflections about why Europe, and particularly the Czech Republic, look the way they do. I would have appreciated an opportunity to reflect more on the influence of Communism in the decline of Christendom and the lingering influence it has in this part of the world. I suspect our reflections will provide food for thought for many of us as we continue to serve.
In addition to “reflecting” on Dr. Guder’s presentations, we had time for “renewal” through worship and fellowship. We had daily Bible studies and attended worship in local congregations on Sunday. Half of us attended an English service for expats living, working, and visiting Turkey. The other half of the group attended a Turkish service at which Dr. Guder preached, in German with translation.
I was privileged to plan and help in the leadership of our closing worship service, which included the Lord’s Supper. Worship leadership and leading the Lord’s Supper are two components of ministry I have really missed since my current position does not include them. It is my hope that as my Czech improves I will be able to help in worship leadership more. I have been blessed by the opportunity to preach in English at St. Clement’s Anglican congregation, but since we are not in full communion with them I am unable to preside at the Table. I really welcomed the opportunity to lead worship at our retreat. Nadia, another mission co-worker, who was ordained last fall, led the Communion liturgy with me. It was a moving experience for us both and I hope for the other retreat participants.
We also had some free time to enjoy the beauty of Antalya and the Mediterranean Sea—at least when it wasn’t raining. Our mission co-workers in Turkey, Ben and Verna, were gracious hosts and prepared a cultural day for us when we were able to visit many of the ancient sites of Turkey, including Perge. Sadly it rained all day, but it was a great experience led by a local guide. It was exciting to see some of the places visited by the Apostle Paul and his companions. As we began our day Ben read a couple of passages from Acts in which the author describes the first missionary journeys in what was then Asia Minor and is now present-day southern Turkey.
We also had time to attend to business matters related to our service with the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.). We went over our World Mission Strategic Directions, received training about our new process in funds development, and reviewed policies of the PC(USA) related to security, sexual misconduct and other areas. One of the most interesting components of our time together were presentations given by each mission co-worker regarding his or her ministry. Each individual had 8 minutes and couples had 12. It was a challenge to get our presentation into the allotted time; however, it was good practice for us in making brief presentations. It was really interesting to hear the diversity of our ministries and our various settings.
We packed a lot into a brief time. It was a great time of renewal and reflection that will enable us to be more effective in our proclamation. Following the retreat a few of us took the opportunity to explore Istanbul for a few days. It has been a long time since I had travelled in a predominantly Muslim country and it was a great experience. In addition to experiencing some of the wonders of the world, like the Blue Mosque, Hagia Sophia, and Topkapi Palace (home of many of the Sultans of the Ottoman Empire), I was reminded of the incredible diversity of our world both religiously and culturally. People often comment on how friendly the Turkish people are and I found it to be true. It was a great experience!
I invite you to continue to pray:
For our mission co-workers serving all over the world.
For our mission co-workers throughout Turkey.
For the partnership between the PC(USA) and the ECCB.
For all people of faith.
With hearty greetings,
The 2012 Presbyterian Mission Yearbook for Prayer & Study, p. 279