The second in a series of blogs where Georgina Copty, a representative of the Church of Ireland on the Irish Council of Churches, shares about her experience at the World Council of Churches earlier this year.
Perhaps you have never wondered what 4000 participants at the World Council of Churches look like. However, this was the challenge that the communication department at WCC gave to Wolf Nkole Helzle, a photographic artist. Helzle, was asked to run an onsite photo art project to present a visual image which captures the depth and breadth of the ecumenical family. Helzle took portraits of participants at the 11th Assembly and merged them together to form a single image. The completed work depicts one face to represent a unified global fellowship, but below the main portrait, each individual’s face is also presented in a smaller image. In other words, the face of the Assembly forms a visual representation of unity through diversity. In describing his work, Helzle said, “out of the many, the one face arises.” It was a fascinating and symbolic exercise to be involved in. I look nothing like the final image, and yet a part of me is there, merged with so many others to form an image where the whole is greater than the sum of its parts.
And what did this face of WCC have to say to the world? This is a good segue to something I wanted to talk about, the “message” of WCC. Every time the Assembly of the World Council of Churches meets, it releases a unique message to reflect the experience and atmosphere of the Assembly, and to inspire fellow churches in their work ahead. It is hoped that this message would travel far and wide, would be translated, discussed, dissected and used as a source of inspiration.
The process of getting 4000 participants to express and agree on the things that they viewed as most important to share, was fascinating.
“If 4000 people could agree on a single message to the world, then surely there is hope that Christ’s church can continue to increase its strength as a united front, to speak in a stronger voice, to usher change and advocate justice for a broken world.
Plenary Session discussing “the Message.”
The final message is two pages long but the overall sentiment is “a call to act together.” The main inspiration behind it comes from 2 Corinthians 5:14, which points out how the love of Christ compels us. This of course echoes the overall theme of the Assembly, that Christ’s love moves the world to reconciliation and unity. WCC states “we entrust this message now to you, asking you to hand it on to all Christians and people of goodwill, that together we might unite in discovering how Christ’s love moves the world to reconciliation and unity.”
One of the crucial aspects the message addresses is the climate crisis. The message states that people and countries face “catastrophes arising directly from an irresponsible and broken relationship with creation that has led to ecological injustice and climate crisis.” This is particularly important to amplify right now during COP27. The climate crisis was central to many of the conversations and plenary meetings. The youth delegates were particularly proactive on the issue and vocalised some of the most passionate arguments in favour of the Church playing a more pivotal role in the matter. The climate crisis is an issue that impacts the entire world. WCC entrusted the message to its member churches. Let us take our responsibilities seriously and play our role on the global stage as a unified strong voice to fight climate injustice.
Georgina at the entrance of the Assembly