"We have been expecting you for a thousand years," said Bishop Finn Wagle, Bishop of Nidaros and Presiding Bishop of the Church in Norway, at the opening service of the Conference of European Churches' twelfth assembly which took place in Nidaros Cathedral in Trondheim on 26 June in the presence of King Harald of Norway. Welcoming the assembly participants as pilgrims Bishop Finn claimed 'We Christians from the whole of Europe, can at last be united in giving thanks to God for the progress of the Gospel from Jerusalem to the ends of the earth.' The eight-day CEC Assembly, held every six years, brought together 800 people, including more than 40 British and Irish Christians, to Trondheim, Norway. At the same service the preacher, His All Holiness Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew told the pilgrims: "Our task is not an easy one...Let us be practical and silent. It is not enough to formulate theories; we must resolve on concrete action... Christ is looking at us through the eyes of all who suffer. Is that not frightening?" The delegates must have often reflected on this as they struggled with masses of paper and long plenary sessions, a babble of languages and endless points of order arising from different cultures and procedures reflecting the diversity of Europe. Yet out of it all came some signs of hope, some aspirations for Europe and some programme guidelines for CEC itself. The Ecumenical Charter has been agreed and its progress was reviewed. "The Charta Oecumenica is not Church dogma nor is it canon law . It has to do with building community among the Churches. We know hope and joy in this undertaking, yet there is much more to do," said Orthodox theologian Grigorios Larentzakis. Young people at the Assembly criticized the traditional ways of the churches but suggested that there remained within the churches a possibility of encounter with the Holy Spirit. The Assembly agreed that the Christian voice must be strengthened in Europe, especially on such issues as ethical questions and the environment. Healing of memories is also essential for Europe. On Kosovo, the Assembly expressed their 'deep concern' over the continuing suffering in that community. On the subject of the Middle East, the Assembly regretted the deteriorating economy and social crisis in that area but saw a glimmer of hope in the re launch of the Middle East peace process. In this 'international year of water' the CEC Assembly issued a reminder that 'economic justice depends on sustainable management of our environment'. Future work of CEC as proposed by the Policy Reference Committee includes work on Living Together in Europe; Facing global problems in a European perspective; CEC as part of an ecumenical world; Dialogue with Islam in cooperation with the Roman Catholics. Alongside business, there was the daily Torg, a lively mixture of music and dancing, speakers, discussions and stalls bringing the issues of the assembly to life. During one such gathering former and founder President of Zambia, Kenneth Kaunda, spoke of the death of his son from AIDS. "The wall of silence around AIDS is something we must fight. Many millions have died and all of us at this conference must go out and talk about this," he said. The closing service of the assembly was held near to the River Niderholm. A silver bowl of water collected from the pilgrims during the opening service was carried from the cathedral to the river in a procession, led by a cross. Part way through the service it was poured back into the river to flow out to the world. The waters of the river were then blessed by Archbishop Anastasios of Albania, and Holy Myron (holy oil made from forty flowers) was poured into the river by Archbishop Kalpakian of the Armenian Church. The Archbishop of Canterbury, the Most Revd Dr Rowan Williams preached the sermon taking as his text the story of the woman at the well. He said: "true communion begins when someone acknowledges need. In a global economy there has to be some way of the prosperous world saying to the poor. We are hungry and thirsty for your welfare; we are not ourselves, not fully human without you." At the end of the service the General Secretary of CEC, the Revd Dr Keith Clements commissioned the members to "Go forth in faith and witness to the truth of God in our continent."
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St John Boste
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