Staff & Officers Meeting 2013 Report

April 17th, 2013 8:59 am

Board and staff members of Student Christian Movements and WSCF Europe met from 21 to 24 February in Vienna for the annual Staff and Officers meeting. Hosted by the Austrian SCM (EHG) in their premises in the impressive Albert Schweitzer Haus, around 20 participants from Finland, Poland, Denmark, Armenia, Georgia, Austria, Romania, Italy, Bulgaria, the Netherlands, Slovakia and Germany gathered. A broad variety of denominations were presented: Methodist, Catholic, Orthodox and Lutheran.

The hospitality of our Austrian hosts made a big difference for our common experience of community and togetherness. We had two very dedicated volunteers cooking our meals for lunch and dinner, which, without an exception, were all very, very good. Further, we had strong organisational support from a very efficient host committee as well as from the local SCM pastor, Gerda Pfandl. Looking back we are very grateful for all the generosity and open-heartedness we enjoyed, which contributed a lot to making the meeting for everyone involved a very rich experience.

Regarding our programme we had four days were full of discussions and sharing experiences. The work began on Friday with the session on SCM Reporting. All participants shared with the others how is it going with their SCM and what they have been doing in the last year. We were amazed by the amount of work SCMs are doing and also by the variety of their activities!

The plenary session was really fruitful for everyone. Participants learned more about other SCMs and were inspired for their own work. A proof how enthusiastic the participants were on this discussion was that it lasted for 2 scheduled sessions. We are really grateful for these conversations! It was so good to see how much work our member movements are doing.

On Friday afternoon we visited a liberal Jewish community in Vienna. There we learned a lot about history of Judaism in Austria and about the life of the community, as well as about the specific context of liberal Judaism. The biggest surprise and the most exciting moment of the visit was when our guide took out the Holy Scripture scroll for everyone to see and presented the Tora explicitly. We could feel the mystery.

Saturday started out with a very special highlight, namely a morning prayer led by the Lutheran bishop of Austria, Dr. Michael Bünker, who then also joined us for our first workshop session and who was very interested and committed to get to know our group and our views. During the prayer he lead, Dr. Bünker found some profound words about the value of the witness of Christians in social contexts in which inclusive communities are more and more rare.

Our sessions on that day were also full of interesting and fruitful thoughts and discussions. It was really good to have the session on SCMs in crisis, since the majority of SCMs suffer from similar problems. Fundraising and attracting new people proved to be the biggest challenges for most of the movements. The participants were divided into working groups to discuss different challenges in more detail. Some nice ideas grew from this group work, one to mention is a concept of short videos promoting SCMs using personal stories of their active members.

On Saturday there was also the session on WSCF European Regional Assembly, which is going to be in October this year, and the SCM input and support for preparations for it. Participants were really interested in how WSCF structures work. Moreover, some SCMs expressed their wish to become affiliated members!

Another session full of food for thought was dealing with question ”What does it mean to be a Christian student today?” The topic inspired the participants to discuss a lot. Of course there is not only one single answer to this question. However, it is good to think about core questions like this to keep our minds fresh and our awareness of our common values as well as the diversity of our perspectives alive. In the evening, after the Orthodox worship, we had also an interesting short session about the meaning of icons in the tradition of Orthodox worship. We had an opportunity to learn more about the deepness of Orthodox spirituality.

On Sunday we were introduced to and updated about the work of WSCF Global and its Advocacy and Solidarity Committee. Since many participants did not have a clear image of the work which is done by WSCF on the global level, it was really useful to have this kind of introductory session. We all are members of a worldwide community of Student Christian movements and because of that it is really good to know what is happening elsewhere, what the successes and the challenges for the global Federation currently are.

However, the best session of Sunday was on the relationship between WSCF Europe and SCMs. We are aware of the fact that in the last time there was a gap between local and European levels of the Federation so in this regard the session was really important for everyone involved. And it went great! Now the WSCF office is even more aware of the importance of close contact to SCMs. It is good to know that our work is appreciated and to know what we can do better. Even better is that we shared the feeling of being a part of one European-wide family. Thank you all for that!

You can find a lot of photos from this marvelous meeting here.

 

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The work of WSCF-Europe is financially supported by the Erasmus+ Programme of the European Union and European Youth Foundation of the Council of Europe.

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