PYM General Secretary Christie Duncan-Tessmer is currently traveling as a member of a delegation of the National Council of Churches to the Middle East. This ten-day trip includes visits with diplomats, politicians, church leaders, and activists in Lebanon, Egypt, Israel, and Palestine. PYM will be posting periodic updates from Christie this week during her trip, to share what the NCC delegation is seeing and witnessing through our General Secretary’s eyes.
Sometimes, following multigenerational connecting activities at annual sessions we have “report-back worship.” In this style of worship, we settle into the love of God together and share out of the stillness our reflections on how the activity moved within us. As I sit in my room in Beirut and reflect back on this day so I can share it with you, I feel some of that same kind of deepening of experience in community.
There are five of us here in Beirut with a sixth expected tomorrow. Altogether, we come from two branches of the Baptist church, the Methodist church, and the Liberal Quaker tradition. Our conversation continually comes back to several broad topics: the comparison of the internal governance and external effect in the world of our denominations, the way we experience ourselves individually in our faith, both in our country and out of our country, and logistics like clothing and food.
One thing that is staying with me is a lesson from Jim Winkler, General Secretary of the National Council of Churches (NCC), who is a historian among many other things. Over dinner, as we talked about our meeting tomorrow morning with the Middle East Council of Churches, Jim shared a thread from the history of ecumenism, exploring some of the trends and factors that led to the overlap between mission work and colonization in parts of the world.
In my very visually-focused mind, I could imagine a line from those actions, weaving with many other actions, to arrive at the place where we are today, tangled in conflicts that repress individuals and faith communities. I am then faced with the question, how is our responsibility for resolution of conflict and empowerment of the oppressed to be manifested?
Lebanon is a very busy city and the neighborhood we are staying in is full of shops. Diane Randall, Executive Secretary for Friends Committee on National Legislation (FCNL) who is also part of this delegation as a result of the partnership between FCNL and NCC on many projects, reminded me of my commitment to saying yes to every opportunity that comes toward me in the next ten days – even if it’s as banal as my wardrobe choice.
Tomorrow we start bright and early with a meeting with the Middle East Council of Churches. I don’t know that I’ll be able to report back with so many words each day, but I do know that my roots in our community help keep me grounded through whatever I’m experiencing and I thank you for that.
PYM General Secretary