Academic journal article International Review of Mission

A Theological Perspective: The Common Missionary Vocation of Mainline and Migrant Churches

Academic journal article International Review of Mission

A Theological Perspective: The Common Missionary Vocation of Mainline and Migrant Churches

Article excerpt

Introduction: cross-cultural experiences within Christianity

When I visited Germany from Ghana some time in the past, I asked my wife, who is a Ghanaian Methodist, where she went to church in Bonn, the city where she had just settled. She told me enthusiastically of an Evangelische Kirchengemeinde (Protestant parish) where people from all over the world, including Germans, worship-together on Sundays. I could not believe that I had not heard of this wonderful parish before, since I had been deeply involved in the formation of African church councils in Germany, in order to promote encounters between Christians of various ethnic and cultural origins within my own church, the Evangelische Kirche im Rheinland. So I happily concluded that things must have moved forward while I was abroad.

When we went to that church the following Sunday, I must admit that I was taken aback by the signboard in front of the church, which announced its name: Evangelisch-Freikirchliche Gemeinde! It was a free church! I was disappointed at first. In fact, for a moment I considered going back home, but I did not want to spoil that Sunday and quickly my curiosity prevailed over my disappointment. It appeared that the church was packed with people, young and old, from every comer of the world, and from all walks of life. About half of the congregation was German, with most of them in the 20 to 50 age group, i.e. exactly that part of the population missing in the national churches. The atmosphere was inviting, open and friendly. The agile, middle aged male pastor, a German, made it very clear to newcomers like me that we should not feel compelled to join in any ritual we are not used to but should feel completely free. Of course, I listened very carefully to his sermon, and I could not subscribe to everything he said. His style of preaching also alienated me at times. But then I do not remember when I agreed fully with the preaching of any pastor of my own church. The boring mode of preaching among my colleagues I also certainly find quite disturbing. A male African pastor assisted the German cleric, and I could sense a deep running friendship and understanding between the two. It was most obvious that the people present, including myself, felt completely at home. After the service, I asked one older lady from Ghana, who is a co-worker with my wife at the Ghanaian embassy in Bonn, what it is about this church that makes her attend. Her reaction came promptly: "They do not discriminate here!"

In this church one of the fundamental insights of early Christianity has become manifest and is to be experienced, viz. through Christ every single human being, regardless of origin or status, has been declared a beloved child of God, and everybody who shares this belief is a full and equal member of the worldwide people of God (cf. Gal 3:28) (1).

Recently, upon my return from Ghana, I went to an ecumenical service to mark the beginning of the winter semester in a German university city. The service took place in a huge church. I first thought I had missed the occasion since the only group of people I met there consisted of about 25 individuals, about half of whom originated from Asia and Africa. We sat in a circle, and it was so cold in the building that we all kept our coats on. The abilities of the guitar-player, who thankfully replaced the organ, were far below standard. The selected hymns were unknown to most of us, and were difficult to sing. A professional musician presented some avant-garde compositions on "swinging stones" which physically hurt the ear and left most of us wishing for a quick end to the painful experience. In an attempt to escape, at least mentally, my mind went back to my university in Ghana. For such an occasion as this, several thousand students and lecturers from the whole range of denominations would have gathered for a jo yful and participatory service of celebration. Now, however, there was no doubt about it; I was back in Germany. …

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