GEMN’s Conference Bogota Day 1
This year the Global Episcopal Mission Network Conference is being held in Bogota, Colombia. I along with The Rev Jeff Gill from Trinity Church Seattle, and Ken Hawkins of the Mission to Seafarers are representing the Diocese of Olympia. In addition Nina Boe, a YASC Missionary from our Diocese is attending before returning to her work in Brazil.
The conference began officially Sunday with worship at the Cathedral de San Pablo in Bogota with Bishop Francisco Duque-Gómez presiding. It was a beautiful service full of singing and lively preaching. After some time at coffee hour we returned to our conference facility which is in the Central Social de Agentes y Patrolles, which is a police training and meeting facility. We had a few welcoming remarks then broke into small groups from bible study and reflection. Our topic for Sunday was Acts 16:9-15. We will be in these small groups for study and prayer all week. Next we were off to dinner and bed to recover from travel and the altitude. Bogota is the third highest capital city in the world at 8,612 feet.
Today we began with two outstanding speakers. The first was Humberto Shikiya, an Argentinian economist and Director of CREAS, an ecumenical advisory and service nonprofit. He spoke to us about the importance of sustainability in our mission work. He helped us understand that we must correctly assess all of our resources and talents and use them to benefit others. Jesus first asks in the feeding of the 5000, “What do you have?” and we must do the same. He was one of the authors of the São Paulo Statement: International Financial Transformation for the Economy of Life. You can find a copy by clicking here. It is an incredible document that can help us as Christians see what a gospel economy might look like. His main focus in speaking today was to remind us that there can be no development without sustainability, that we must work in the present with our eyes on the future and we must be strategic in our work. Lastly that the economy begins with people.
One of the most entertaining parts of the day came when Humberto thought we were getting a little bored. So he asked one of the bishops in attendance to lead us in a song. It was the first time I have ever had a plenary speaker interrupt their own talk to ask people to sing, and it was beautiful.
Our second speaker of the morning was Paulo Ueti, a Brazilian Theologian and regional facilitator of the Anglican Alliance. You can find out more about Anglican Alliance by clicking here. I began Paulo’s talk with the intention of live tweeting some of the things he was saying. I was quickly overwhelmed and decided to sit back and take notes and listen. Paulo began by helping us understand that all theology starts with the feet not the head. Where you stand will tell you the type of God you will know and follow. He said that development work is mission work and that we need to take back three words that have been misused, 1.) to conspire- to breathe together the same desire, 2.) Eccentric- the act of being outside of ourselves and more than we are, and 3.) autonomy- the ability to be speak for ourselves but stay connected. He said that as Christians we are not called to flirt with Jesus, we are called to go away from him and be disciples. After this incredible introduction he led us through an amazing bible study of John 9. I will do it no justice trying to explain it here and am still trying to put it all together. I will try later to lay it out step by step but it is too late tonight to do that.
After lunch we had our small group time together focused on the calling of Samuel, 1 Samuel3:1-18. If you are thinking about becoming a missionary or have ever said “Here I am” to God this is a very powerful scripture. The afternoon was a combination of workshops and speakers. Workshops on development were presented by Virginia Theological Seminary students Grey Maggiano and Eileen O’Brien along with Ted Gaiser. In another concurrent session The Rev Antonis Calvo of the Trinity Episcopal Church Foundation in Colombia spoke about their micro-credit program and Bishop Julio Holguin of the Dominican Republic presented on their projects working on church infrastructure and social issues. Tonight we had our official welcome reception and dinner.
Tomorrow morning we begin our site visits around Bogota to programs started by the diocese and parishes. I am going to a farm on the outskirts of Bogota that helps the displaced and we leave at 8am. So it is off to bed for me and I will hopefully have more photos to post tomorrow. Peace, Jeremy