A Letter from Ryan and Alethia White, serving in the Iranian Presbyterian Church in Berlin
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As we greet the New Year, we join you in the hope that this year will restore some of the practices, relationships, habits and dreams that have been set aside or neglected since 2020. We are looking forward to getting to know new and old partners with whom we work within our local region (Germany) and the larger Middle East and Europe area. We are thankful that even though we are in the midst of a work travel ban, the virtual world allows us and other church partners to meet across borders and time zones. Many projects and congregations here in Germany and Europe are finding creative ways to continue their activities and move forward despite the challenges and limitations of the pandemic.
One example is the recent EINS Gebetstag, an annual prayer day hosted by the EINS (“ONE”) ecumenical group. The EINS Gebetstag is a project of the free churches and migrant/international churches whose goal is to bring together the diversity of the church, experience one another’s faith traditions and engage in projects that benefit congregations and society. Last year’s event was entirely online. This year’s event was a hybrid experience with about 150 people seated in person in the Berliner Dom, the city’s main Protestant cathedral. The Berliner Dom is located on Museum Island, part of the former palace grounds. Ryan is on the planning team for EINS, and this year he and another elder from the Iranian church hosted a virtual prayer group in Farsi after the main event in the Dom. The focus was on prayer for refugees and their families, the officials involved in the resettlement process, and the challenges they face. Besides those participating in person in the Dom, another 100 or so attended online, and in total, there were around 2,000 views of the event on Facebook.
In short, while we are all eager to return to life as we knew it, perhaps we should not simply just fall back into how things were but continue to explore new ways to communicate and work together. In other words, the last two years have been a time of forced inactivity and creativity. Hopefully, we will move forward with creativity, taking all the tools we have developed and learned as a result of the changing world around us.
While we are still not able to join you in person for a visit and conversation together, we would like to offer the next four months (February-May) to experiment further with the virtual possibilities. We invite you to join us for two mini-series we will host in the coming months. They will address the topics of “People on the Move” and “Congregational Vitality: Christian Education within the Middle East and Europe.” We will invite our mission coworker colleagues and partners from our region, the Middle East and Europe, to join us for each session as we hope to show the brevity of connections between our work together and implications for the region as well as how U.S. partner churches and individuals can join in support of our collective efforts.
We hope you have already received this information in various ways and we want to invite you to join us and invite others. We are looking forward to trying out this new (to us) format and welcome your feedback.
We also want to invite you to share the news from your community with us. In what ways is your church community rethinking life together? Or what things have you been able to start again that were missed in the last year or so? We always welcome your communication and the opportunity to learn from each other. Thank you as always for your support, for the Christmas cards we received over the holidays, for your emails, your financial support for the ministry in Berlin and the region, for your questions and enthusiasm, and your prayers. Together we look forward to the year ahead, the new things we can accomplish and celebrating the return of some elements we have missed.
Forward in hope,
Alethia and Ryan
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