‘Hope’ seems to be bubbling up all over Europe this year as a theme for national strategies, city-wide evangelism and inspirational events.
Young evangelical leaders in Poland, for example, are spearheading an initiative they pray will gain momentum across denominations under the banner, Realna Nadzieja (Real Hope). Their vision embraces the whole Christian community across the whole nation impacting the whole of society. They aim to recruit 1000 young workers to converge this summer on a town south of Warsaw renowned for its social problems, for a pilot project.
Rafal Piekarski wrote to me that enthusiastic city officials had proposed a number of practical projects, from cleaning river banks to renovating people’s homes. The focus of the project will be August 4-10. Rafal [piekarski at proem dot pl] invites teams from churches, schools and missions across Europe to come and join them this summer.
Realna Nadzieja has also produced attractive literature in Polish on the Hope theme. Rafal offers these to any of us to use among the several million proverbial ‘Polish plumbers’ working elsewhere in the European Union. While their website is only in Polish at this stage [www.realnanadzieja.pl], Rafal points to the website of the Merseyfest centred around Liverpool as a model for Realna Nadzieja.
Projects of kindness
‘Merseyfest’-according to www.merseyfest.com-‘is an initiative of churches of the region to work with people of goodwill who want to make a positive difference in their locality.’ Since the project started four years ago, it has initiated ‘hundreds of projects of kindness bringing positive changes throughout the region.’
“We have helped scores of communities work together to improve their environment, hold concerts and kids events and we even put together a massive festival attended by 75,000 people!” explains project director Mike Kerry.
A ten-day Festival of Hope will crown Liverpool’s status as European Capital of Culture this year, climaxing on Saturday June 14, with a huge gospel arts street party in-where else?-Hope Street, Liverpool.
Staff of Hope University, also based in Liverpool, expect over 1000 young adults, including many internationals, to attend a Global Youth Congress, The Big Hope, June 4-11. Delegates will discuss issues such as international development, law and human rights, business, the environment and sustainable development, education and culture, as well as engage in practical Merseyfest projects.
Yet even this broad summer agenda of events and activities in Liverpool is a mere microcosm of what is stirring all across Britain under the banner of HOPE2008.
Well over one thousand British towns, villages and cities so far have registered their interest in special HOPE initiatives in their community this year. HOPE2008 is an ‘intensified, united, focused prayer and a year of activities, communicating the Gospel through words and actions, creating a lasting legacy of both physical and spiritual change in the lives of communities and individuals.’
An excellent website [www.hope08.com] offers a huge variety of creative possibilities for local communiities to adopt. Also, it offers a downloadable HOPE Resource book (32MB!) which sold over 20,000 copies in the first three months-the fastest selling Christian book in England for many years. By the way, most of these ideas are usable anywhere.
HOPE2008 features five ‘high points’ or seasons of action, starting with the New Year (‘Fresh Hope‘), followed by Easter (The Big Hope), then community action in cooperation with police and social agencies (Hope where you live), and study group programmes such as Alpha and Christianity Explored (Hope Explored), and finally Christmas (the Gift of Hope).
Meanwhile in Strasbourg and Alsace, HopeNow! (EspérerAujourd’hui) has been launched by a broad coalition of evangelical and mainstream churches and organisations. The campaign’s initiators, the evangelism network of Hope for Europe, also plan a European Congress for Evangelism in late september called Carrefour de l’espérance (Crossroads of Hope). [email: BNStrasbg at free dot fr]
In Crikvenica on the Croatian coast, a Hope for Life international conference will be sponsored by the mission organisation of the same name, April 28-May 4. I met the organiser, Vlado Hoblaj, last year at a businessmen’s conference in Malta. He was enthusiastic about the theme of my book, Living as People of Hope, and is busy translating the book now into Croatian.
Under the same title-Living as People of Hope-an ecumenical conference organised by RELaY (coalition for Reconciliation, Evangelisation, Lay-leadership and Youth) and the European Catholic Charismatic Renewal, will bring together hundreds of young leaders from movements and communities across Europe. Dates are April 23-27, and the location is a centre in the Czech Republic, 100kms east of Prague. Tracks and worskhops will address the four themes spelling the acronym RELaY. [See www.relay-network.org]
I look forward to sharing the platform there with, among others, Fr Raniero Cantalamessa, the pope’s chaplain. And to a year promising hope on many fronts!.
Till next week,
Till next week,