The Regeneration of Christian Mission in Urban Context

Article excerpt

Statement of the Brasov, Romania, Conference on Urban Mission 29-31 October 1996

The World Council of Churches, Geneva, (Urban Rural Mission programme of Unit II, Churches in Mission: Health, Education, Witness) and the Orthodox Faculty of Theology Andrei Saguna, from Sibiu, jointly organized a workshop on Urban Mission in Brasov, Romania, in the meeting hall of the Orthodox Deanery, Holy Trinity, on 29-31 October 1996. The theme of the workshop was "The Contribution of the Orthodox Churches in the Regeneration of Romania's Cities and Communities."

The participants were ordained and lay people from Brasov and a number of other towns and cities in Romania. The participants had experience, knowledge or authority in different aspects of mission and pastoral concern in urban and industrial environments of these towns. They also included some theology students from Brasov and other cities.

The workshop also benefitted from the presence and contributions of the professors of the Faculty of Theology of Sibiu, as well as of representatives of the Lutheran Church and Reformed (Protestant) Church of Brasov. In attendance too were delegates from youth associations: the Association of Orthodox Christian Students (ASCOR), from Iasi and Brasov; the Young Mens' Christian Association (YMCA); and professional associations: Association of the Orthodox doctors and chemists (AMFOR), Iasi, as well as those who work in philanthropic Christian associations; The Association of St Stelian, working to protect street children in Bucharest; the lay missionary association, the Lord's Army; the ecumenical associations: the Ecumenical Association of the Romanian Churches (AID-ROM); and from the Focalare Movement in Romania.

The first day's papers set the theme in an ecumenical context; "Urban Mission in the Programme of the Ecumenical Movement," presented by John D. Garbutt; "Regeneration of Christian Mission in the Urban Context," presented by Pr. Prof. Dr Ion Bria; and "Missiology in Theological Education in Romania," by Pr. Prof. Jeremia Marga.

The discussion and debate on this theme were facilitated through the sharing of problems, programmes and models of a missiological, diaconal and pastoral nature, based on the direct practical experience of the participants. An important part of our workshop programme constituted visits to new deaneries and churches in the urban zones of Brasov (Valea Cetatii, Noua, Astra, Craiter, Triaj), where we held meetings and discussions with the local priests and people. To conclude the workshop, His Grace Casian Cradiun, the Bishop of Galati, spoke about "The symbolism of the worship dwelling in the urban environment."

Reflections, debates, exchanges of experiences were combined with the presentation of some specific cases and subjects, all of which took place under the protection of prayer, worship and biblical meditations during the three days of the workshop. The participants were encouraged to keep in mind the following "creed of urban mission": "God's intervention (incarnation) in history, in human form, explains His participation in human histories, in the changing of personal lives, and in the transformation of society and communities."

Our workshop conclusions were presented to the public of Brasov in the context of a conference and public lecture entitled "The Regeneration of Human Community in the Christian Vision," which took place at the Transylvania University of Brasov on 31 October 1996.

Description of the context

In examining the complexity of Christian mission in the urban environment of post-communist Romania, the participants in our workshop identified some distinctive aspects of this period:

1. The new political, economic, social and cultural reality inevitably has brought changes in piety, as well as an evolution of religious practices, especially in the urban environment.

2. Beginning with the new confessional geography in the cities, the Romanian Orthodox Church is called to re-define its mission in this new, pluri-confessional context. …