Restaurants and cafes resorting to offering take-aways due to corona restrictions in recent weeks are now welcoming customers back to their tables to enjoy the full menu.
Our annual Heritage Tour–in search of faithful minorities who shaped Europe’s story–was also restricted by the global circumstances to a virtual tour. Yet our two weeks together ‘on the road’ behind screens at home united over forty fellow travellers from all continents in a journey of discovery through the heart of Europe, exceeding our expectations.
Using zoom technology, we mixed narratives, slideshows, videos, google maps, live connections with local experts, interactive discussions and chat boxes to create the next best thing to ‘being there’.
It was time for ‘take-aways’ after our last stopover yesterday, in Robert Schuman’s hometown, the French village of Scy-Chazelles south of Luxembourg. The Schuman story of a vision of peace and unity among the European peoples together wove together so many of different themes emerging over the trip. Now was time to weave our own tapestry from our impressions.
What? What had we learned on the trip?
So what? What difference would that make for us?
Now what? What will we do about it?
Among the ‘take-aways’ we shared were the following:
• Our European story is full of connections over time (a ‘domino effect’) and geography (cross-border networks) stretching back to when Paul and other apostles introduced a radically new worldview to our European forebears, derived from a loving, forgiving, compassionate, merciful, creator God;
• Influential movements and great consequences flowed from the choices and actions of minorities daring to stand for truth, refusing the live the lie, acting for justice and righteousness against all odds, proving that ‘God plus one is a majority’;
• Learning ‘on the spot’, seeing, exploring and experiencing places of historical significance, is great pedogogy and a fun way to learn;
• Stories of forgiveness and reconciliation give hope for today’s trouble spots;
• Our own national stories can only be properly understood when seen in the context of the bigger, interconnected, interdependent European story;
• National and denominational prejudice had robbed us of the richness of movements whose faith and sacrifices paved the way for freedoms and truths we often take for granted today;
• God has always been active even outside church circles, and we too need to recognise God at work in least expected places;
• We need to grasp the ‘long arc of history’, to recognise God at work, to challenge the claim that history has no meaning, and to offer to younger generations hope and perspective;
• We need the humility to listen to and learn from outside our own circles, and seeing how God has used streams whose theology we may not ourselves accept should challenge our narrow perspectives;
• As Francis Schaeffer’s teaching had offered understanding of the times half a century ago (we ‘visited’ L’Abri in Switzerland on our way over the Alps), so too we need to apply the wisdom of the ages to the fresh challenges of today;
• All professions are vocations (callings) as Calvin taught, and lay leadership, ‘saints in suits’, played key roles in effecting transformation in politics, (e.g. Schuman), banking (Raiffeisen), education (Cele), healthcare, reconciliation and relief work (Dunant).
We too, like many restaurants, are glad to offer full menus again, not just ‘take-aways’. The Summer School of European Studies will be a full residential week in Amsterdam, August 3-7, where Evert Van de Poll and I team up again to give background to understanding Europe today.
• Evert will teach in morning sessions from his soon-to-be-released book, Christian faith and the making of Europe.
• The evening sessions will be an online Celtic Heritage Tour, in which I will follow the story of the christianisation of Ireland and Britain, the prequel to the continental story.
Both morning and evening sessions can be followed online, for tuition fees of €75 per series, including resources of notes, slideshows and e-books. Those attending in person in Amsterdam (for €200, plus €100 for accommodation) will also share in extra sessions, city tours, films, discussions, museum visits and meals.
For further information and to register: email firstname.lastname@example.org.
Coming up on youtube.com (go to Schuman Talks): August 9, 6pm: with Dr Margriet Krijtenburg (Netherlands), Professor Wolfgang Palaver (Austria), and Victoria Martín(Spain); on the relevance of Schuman’s ideas for Europe today.
For those ready for more: ask me about the masters programme in Missional leadership and European studies (for which the Heritage Tours can earn you credit) which is a part-time, self-study programme to equip you for missional engagement in Europe today.