European Church representatives meet in Belfast
The Presbyterian Church in Ireland has hosted the two-day annual meeting of the fifth Council of the World Communion of Reformed Churches in Europe (WCRC Europe) at Assembly Buildings in Belfast.
Church officials, representing 40 Churches from 27 nations across Europe, met to discuss a variety of issues and receive a number of reports of common interest. The WCRC’s last European Council met in the Polish capital Warsaw in March 2014.
Reflecting on the two-day meeting, the Moderator of the Presbyterian Church in Ireland, the Rt. Rev. Dr. Michael Barry explained that the World Communion of Reformed Churches is a valuable network of churches in the reformed tradition that share common roots in the 16th Century Reformation.
“I was delighted to be able to welcome so many church representatives from across Europe to Belfast. It was a privilege to fellowship with ministers and officials from churches as far away as the Uniting Church in Sweden to the north, the Spanish Evangelical Church in the south and the Transylvanian Reformed Church to the east.
“During our time together we were able to demonstrate the work of our own church in Ireland and hear about the work of our brothers and sisters in Christ in their nations. There were also opportunities to pray together, share Communion and provide our guests with hospitality,” Dr. Barry said.
Describing the Council as “very productive and informative” WCRC Europe president Rev. Jan-Gerd Heetderks of Holland’s Protestant Church in The Netherlands, explained that at each Council meeting members also discuss a specific theme that is relevant to the place in which it meets, but has a contemporary relevance across Europe.
“We decided that we would discuss nationalism in a European context. How it expressed itself across Europe and the relationship of churches to nationalism and nationalist movements from a theological point of view.
“We were very grateful to Rev. Doug Gay from Trinity College, Glasgow, who has researched and written extensively on this subject. He gave a key note address with insightful inputs from colleagues from Hungary, Switzerland and Italy,” Rev. Heetderks said.
Rev. Trevor Gribben, Clerk of the General Assembly of the Presbyterian Church in Ireland, gave an overview of the Church’s work across Ireland. Council members were also informed of initial plans to commemorate the 500th anniversary in 2017 of Martin Luther’s Ninety-Five Theses and discussed January’s ‘Solidarity Visit’ by WCRC Europe members to the Reformed Church of Transcarpathia in Ukraine.
The delegation visited Beregszász and Dercen in the southwest of the country close to the Hungarian border. “Part of our role is to encourage and support one another,” explained Martina Wasserloos of Germany’s Reformed Alliance and a vice president of WCRC Europe.
“Listening to the report we noted that though it is a vulnerable community facing immense difficulties and uncertainties, the Church has a vision and practice of a serving faith community,”
“The high level delegation learned about the challenges of being an ethnic and religious minority, both historically and currently, remembering the dozens of Reformed Hungarian pastors who were exiled, jailed or killed during the Soviet era. They also saw how the church is now working with local governments to plug the many gaps in the social support framework,” she said.
WCRC Europe’s next Council meeting will take place in March 2016 at a European city yet to be confirmed.
Representatives from 27 nations gather for the formal photo call to mark the end of the fifth Council of WCRC Europe that took place in Assembly Buildings in Belfast.
Also pictured in the second image above with the Moderator of the General Assembly of the Presbyterian Church in Ireland (right) the Rt. Rev. Dr. Michael Barry are (left to right) WCRC Europe vice presidents Rev. Balazs Ódor (Reformed Church in Hungary), Martina Wasserloos, (Reformed Alliance, Germany), WCRC Europe president Rev. Jan-Gerd Heetderks, (Protestant Church in the Netherlands), and WCRC general secretary Rev. Chris Ferguson (United Church of Canada).