Preserving the story

May 13, 2013

Live blog from Dublin by VOX magazine’s editor Ruth Garvey-Williams, Friday 10 May: Delegates from 20 countries across Europe have gathered at Croke Park Conference centre in Dublin today for the annual ‘State of Europe Forum’. Inspired by Robert Schuman’s vision for a ‘community of peoples deeply rooted in Christian values’, the forum explores economic, political, social, religious and environmental issues in Europe from a broadly Christian perspective.

08.36 Good morning!  The sun is (almost) shining in Dublin as delegates leave their hotel on the Drumcondra Road and head for Croke Park Conference centre.  There is a buzz of anticipation from the faith leaders, academics, politicians, organisation leaders, journalists, economists, lobbyists, counsellors and consultants prepare for a day of discussion and challenge.
09.01 Croke Park Conference Centre – just getting started now with convenor Jeff Fountain!
09.14 First up – Soul Food with Gerard Kelly.
09.21 Inspired by words and images to start. "Because he is risen… spring is possible
…my future is an epic novel where once it was a mere short story
…every disability will bow before the endless dance of his ability
…this frail and fragile body will not be the final word on my condition
…hunger will go begging in the streets for want of a home and selfishness will have a shortened shelf-life
…poverty will be history
…a fire burns in my bones and my eyes see possibilities and my heart hears hope like a whisper on the wind and the song that rises in me will not be silenced as life disrupts this shadowed place of death

09.21 We gather as relatively powerless people of faith but we deeply believe that this story we hold has some power of its own.  Can we be a creative minority from the fringes holding together a story…? The future is birthed in the stories we pass on.
09.27 The Hebrew understanding of storytelling is not veiled conservatism… you don’t tell stories to your children so that they will be like you but so they will NOT be like you. The story gives to the next generation the capacity, right and invitation to engage with God. We are preserving the story in order to liberate Europe into its future, not keep it in the past.  We are future-oriented. Our desire for our grandchildren is that they should be themselves in this story.
09.32 Karma says, “If you do bad stuff someone has to pay.” Jesus takes Karma, eats it up and spits it out. It is no longer necessary for you to pay because it has been paid.  Do not lose the radical nature of a story that tells people they will not have to live with the eternal consequences of what they have done. Grace frees us from the cycle of Karma. We need to re-discover the poetry of our story.  There is a beautiful narrative in the story.  There is nothing about your brokenness that contradicts the fundamental beauty that God has placed in your life.
09.44 How can a story about the cancellation of debt not be relevant to Europe today?
That was just the opening salvo of a day-long barrage of contributions from Christian observers literally from the far corners of Europe–Finland, Greece, Ireland and many other nations in between. You can read Ruth’s full blog here.
Former Irish PM John Bruton kicked off the forum in Christ Church Cathedral the evening before, reminding his audience how the Christian faith had provided the cement of European civilisation, including the development of democracy. Os Guinness followed with a clear challenge to followers of Jesus to engage in the task of ‘winning back the West’ by being ‘in’ the world but not ‘of’ it.  
These keynote talks and others by Jim Memory, Margriet Krijtenburg, Tomas Sedlacek and Michael Schluter can be followed on video. A photo gallery captures the variety and intensity of the day with panels, interviews, workgroups, meal discussions and plenaries.
Fotis Romeos and two other Greek colleagues reminded us of the ‘tsunami’ impact of the economic collapse on individuals, families and communities in their homeland. Yet in the midst of crisis, they reported, lives were being dramatically changed.
Greece, where next year’s forum will be held, was a lesson that man’s extremities can be God’s opportunities.
Next week we’ll take a closer look at the relational snapshot of Europe presented by Jonathan Tame and prepared by colleagues of the Jubilee Centre.
Till then,
 Jeff Fountain

Till next week,

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