November 7, started with a foggy morning but a nice scenic drive to Nürnberg. The appointment was to get to know about the work of the Amt für Gemeindedienst (Department for Parish Ministry).
I was delighted to hear from Rev. Markus on the work of Kirche Mit Kindern. I love the logo. It’s very inclusive for children, and I like the idea of the cross and the boat. what was encouraging was a value which I personally feel is important, i.e. Children are part and parcel of the church. They are members of the church. So, often we adults see ourselves creating programs “for” the children, and unconsciously they become the “objects” of our ministry. But it’s so cruicial in all age groups especially with children we learn to be church “with” them.
Markus and I talked about the theology of children and what are their contributions to the church. Yes! They have much to contribute and also challenge our so called more “refined” ideas. This of course naturally connected to couples, and families, as well as parenthood and Markus’ female colleague (sorry can’t remember the name right now) shared about the courses they provide for pre-marital sessions, marriage enrichements and parenting seminars. There’s a whole lot of resources this department offers to the congregations and churches here in Bavaria.
One thing I noticed, in comparison to Malaysia … we in Malaysia tend to tap on the resources of parachurches or independent organizations for support like the above. But here at least in my contacts with the Evangelical Lutheran Church in Bavaria all aspects related to church life from children to adults, from social work to missions work has specific institutions or departments to support the work.
It was also in conversation with them that I begin to “feel” and “see” the importance of the support of local church pastors, or their district deans in letting people know about the resources available. Of course, the challenge is often mentioned that many pastors in Germany are bogged down by administration.
It was fun to show them some of the videos I brought with me on how we try to integrate the children in our worship. And I managed to share some of the values we are trying to embody with our experiments whether in corporate worship or “sunday school”. We had a good time of learning from each other. I couldn’t help but sense the strong “resonance” and agreement in the direction churches need to go towards the future – starting from children right to families. But the challenge before us is equally daunting … internally, we as Christians and especially leaders need to “put our own house in order” as well as rework our priorities. Externally, we are confronted with weakening marriages and family ties in this fast busy changing world.
A delightful surprise was when Markus and I could speak in Banasa Malaysia (or Indonesia). Markus spent some years teaching theology at a seminary in Sulaweisi. And I was delighted to hear of the contextual theology arising from Indonesia. He gave me a book TEOLOGI BENCANA – Pergumulan Iman dalam Konteks Bencana Alam dan Bencana Sosial (which I skimmed through this morning and looks promising). Oaseonline.org is a wonderful website with resources that I’ll be looking at later.
One of the challenges I think we face in Malaysia, Indonesia or Asia as a whole is the encouragement towards development contextual theology and praxis which is needed from the church leadership. It would be tragic if all these efforts are confined to the seminary or a few individuals. I believe local church pastors and people in the grass-roots can contribute and work together with those in the academia and theological education for a more complete representative theology which touches on the realities and questions from the location we are in.
after a good morning meeting, Gerhad Stahl took me to Nürnberg city center and we spent some time there visiting ancient churches which we rebuilt. I had a deeper insight to Nürnberg this 2nd time as Gerhad told me how the whole city went through world war II and the tragedies resulting from that.
This time I had the chance to climb up towards the fortress area and had a wonderful view of the whole of Nürnberg. The Nürnberg sausages was a nice climax for lunch.
The afternoon pastors meeting was short and swift as far as my part was concerned. They had lots on their agenda and was kind to give me a slot to share and to have a short Q & A. This is where I began to understand more on what many have been telling me about .. the “administrative workload” which often shadows the more “people-oriented” ministry that many pastors would see as important. In a time of open conversations, it was interesting to hear from one of the pastors (there were at least 15 present) that planting a church or having a focused church ministry (minus the administrative overload) would be a “dream”! I’m not sure whether he meant that as what they would want or he meant it was a distant dream where near to impossible to achieve.
Anyway, I was happy to have this chance to share with fellow pastors. The other questions usually ranged from Christianity in Malaysia, Christian-Muslim relations, why people want to become Christians in Asia, etc. It was good to clarify and clear some misconceptions as well as honestly share on the real challenges we face as a minority population.
Gerhad told me later he felt the “energy” in my presentation and also interaction with the pastors. I smiled because these pastors are important for the local churches to flourish wherever they are. And I know how easy it is for a pastor to feel discouraged due to busyness, or little results, or forces beyond their control. We as pastors need to be challenged, and we need encouragement at all times. No one can truly understand what a pastor feels and thinks unless he is one himself. Thank God for those who are supportive. But I believe mutual encouragement from fellow colleague is needed today more than ever. Forget about competition. We need to find ways to re-work administrative tasks. My prayer is that pastors will arise to take our calling seriously by focusing on areas god has empowered us and equipped us to do. More on this another day. ðŸ™‚