In May-June 2018 I happened to visit the General Assembly of the Conference of European Churches. It was held in the city of Novi Sad in Serbia. Many ministers from different denominations gathered. Women, men, groups and solitary representatives of Christian churches from all over Europe.
The Council has existed for a very long time. And every 5 years there is a general assembly where people can discuss issues that are important for Christians and Christianity in their churches, cities and countries.
It was joyful to see how people from different churches, serving in different rites, representing different historical branches of the Christian Church, tried to find a common language. Definitely, it was not easy. Of course, there are many questions, where there are different opinions. But what is important is that people tried to overcome their differences in order to hear and be understandable for each other. This is a very high level of awareness and responsibility. Everyone tried to respect each other — the history, rituals and forms of service.
Each day included three prayers: in the morning, in the middle of the day and in the evening. And every day these prayers were held in the tradition of one of the branches of the Church. It was very interesting to see and participate in prayer with brothers from the Serbian Orthodox Church, the Armenian Apostolic Church, the Anglican Church and Protestant churches. Indeed, these are different traditions, different songs and different forms of prayer. But the most important thing was that all these prayers were offered to Christ. And all sought to glorify and honor Jesus. This was more important than the differences — so the real unity was manifested.
Another important event that underscored the unity of the church was a common prayer near the Danube: the site of a monument to the victims of fascism, also near the bridge across the river, which was destroyed during the bombing that NATO forces carried out in the 90s. At this place, prayers were spoken about peace, consolation and restoration. The central theme of the assembly was the theme of building bridges. The bridges connecting cultures, people, traditions and overcoming divisions and hatred.
I managed to get to know and talk with a lot of interesting people. And every time I saw respect and a desire to understand and be understood by others.
A very strong testimony of God's action, which overcomes differences and disagreements.
On the first day of the assembly, a big concert took place in one of the central squares of the city of Novi Sad. Not far from the church was built a stage, where the choirs from different churches performed. The square was filled with both assembly members and ordinary people. Surely they were surprised by such an abundance of people in different priestly vestments. But when they saw different priests praying together, this was the evidence that Christ is higher and more than all our differences, and we can unite because of Him.
During the work of the assembly, which, by the way, lasted for 12 or more hours a day, common positions of the Christian community of Europe on important issues were developed: service for refugees and internally displaced persons; the Church's response to important public events; the fight against trafficking amd illigal trade; the continuation of inter-church dialogue and the strengthening of the voice of Christians at the level of the governments of the countries-representatives.
It was joyful to see how it is possible to build bridges between different churches and together serve people in the communities where we are. Thank God for everything.