This year's meeting of the Poland Annual Conference of The United Methodist Church was dedicated to the 100th anniversary. Various ceremonies provided a glimpse into the eventful history of the church, which had come into being as a result of missionary and humanitarian activities of the Methodist Episcopal Church, South (USA).
The opening service, recorded by Polish television, was also an ordination service, during which three pastors were ordained as elders. The presence of the television crew highlighted something of the fact that The United Methodist Church is well represented in the media in Poland, despite being a comparatively small church. Three services a year are televised, and the radio programs are heard by 80,000 to 400,000 people each time.
The United Methodist Church in Poland has some problems that are also found elsewhere: COVID-19 has prevented many things from taking place, contacts with some parishioners have broken off, and income has dropped. Overall, church is also struggling with an aging congregation, difficulties in reaching out to the younger generation, and some generational conflicts.
For some years now, there has been a committee for diaconia in Poland, which is to establish a new diaconal branch, on the one hand to achieve a greater impact in society, and on the other hand to be able to apply for grants for social projects outside the church.
A remarkable motion for a statement was adopted after extensive discussions and with only a few votes against: In view of the inhumane situation of the refugees at the Polish-Belarusian border, an appeal was formulated to respect human dignity and to help the people.
Bishop Patrick Streiff also informed about the work at the level of the Central Conference of Central and Southern Europe. A roundtable there is to help seek and follow a path of unity in view of the situation of the worldwide United Methodist Church, which is facing a test of strength on the subject of homosexuality. Leading Superintendent Andrzej Malicki is involved in the discussions of this roundtable as co-chair.
A jubilee celebration welcomed numerous representatives of other churches. A presentation on the history of the United Methodist Church in Poland gave an overview and complemented the presentation of the first evening with pictures of the last 100 years. Guests from Pentecostal, Old Catholic, Baptist, Reformed, Lutheran, Roman Catholic and Orthodox churches were present and brought greetings. The general director of the Polish Bible Society also passed on her blessings. A written greeting was read from the Polish state and its president, Andrzej Duda, and a Polish flag was presented. Several times in the greetings, a great solidarity and also friendship was emphasized. Personal relations as well as contacts with the English language schools of the United Methodist Church, which already have a long tradition, were also underlined. But also mentioned were the common prayers - and the joy that the United Methodist Church is part of the Christian family in Poland and thus increases the number of those who pray, read the Bible and are there for the people. Even if in some places in Poland the cooperation among the churches may not be quite so cordial — at this celebration, there was no sign of it.
The jubilee was concluded with an evening of worship: the thanks, honor and joy of the 100th birthday is first of all to God, who has led his Church to the present and will accompany it into the next century.
The next gathering of the Annual Conference is scheduled for June 23-26, 2022.
Pastor Silke Bruckart, Hamburg / Urs Schweizer, Assistant to the Bishop Patrick Streiff, Zurich
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