Tuesday, February 14, 2017

Community Organizing for Peace and Justice

The St. Paul Lutheran Church in southern Bogota has been searching for ways to reconnect with its surrounding community which, in some ways, has changed drastically over the last 50 years. In discussions with Pastor Nelson and other church leadership, we decided that a congregation-based community organizing model is what they are looking for.

Pastor Nelson Celis of St. Paul Luthern Church in Southern Bogota. Photo by Katie.
While the concept of community organizing is new to the members of St. Paul Lutheran Church, they are very excited to begin a process that has the goal of revitalizing the relationships with the surrounding community as well as strengthening the church’s search for peace and justice in its community. We created a plan for the 2017 year that will involve weekly studies and monthly workshops for the community to strengthen its understanding of community organizing from theoretical, theological, and practical perspectives. These studies and workshops will go until July, when the congregation will come together and make a plan for how to move forward in connecting to the wider community.


Last Sunday, February 12, we held the first workshop after worship. With about 40 people attending the worship service, 22 stayed for the workshop (not bad for an education hour). This group of 22 was also very diverse in terms of age and gender, showing a large range of interest on the topic and the goal. After studying foundational texts and ideas about community organizing, the participants began to map out their surrounding community as well as identifying allies in terms of the search for peace and justice. We left inspired, hopeful and excited to continue studying this topic, and for St. Paul Lutheran Church to reconnect with the community. 

Some of the group that stayed to learn more about community organizing just as we were getting started. Photo by Katie.
Smaller groups mapping out their community and identifying potential partners in their work
for peace  and justice at the community level. Photo by Katie.

Tuesday, February 7, 2017

Regional Christian Formation Retreats

We are starting off 2017 with a visit to each of the four regions of Colombia where the Lutheran Church has congregations. The retreats are with the Sunday School teachers and the faith formation leaders in the congregations.  

Zulma and I, along with the coordinators in each region have been in charge of these retreats. We have completed three of the four retreats, with the final one this Saturday. It is a full-day retreat focusing in the morning on Baptism, how we live into our Baptismal promises and how we teach the children in the church to do the same. In the afternoon we look at our own emotions and how that affects the ways we interact and teach children. 

In Paz de Ariporo (The Llanos region)  the group always has the meetings in the kiosk outside, because closed indoors is too hot. In this photo the group was doing small group presentations. (Photo by Katie)

In Sogamoso (Boyaca Region), here I am wrapping up the section about emotions and how that affects our work with children. We used the book "7 Desires of Every Heart". I divided the group into 4 groups and gave each group a 'desire' to work through - looking at 4 places in their life: how that desire was fulfilled and not in their own childhood, and then how their are each fulfilling and not that desire in the children in their classes. In every region this has turned into delightful conversations. (Photo by Zulma Ojeda)
The other piece, as I mentioned, is looking at our Baptismal promises and how we live into that. At the end of the whole day, in an activity of closure, I have lead an activity of remembering your Baptism. In my experiences in the states, this is a normal/common activity for us, or at the very least, nothing new. That is not the case here. I gave everyone a piece of paper with summary and key points from the day, on the bottom of the paper, in big italic letter is said (in Spanish of course): Remember your Baptism, you are a beautiful child of God, in your Baptism you were sealed with the Holy Spirit and marked with the Cross of Christ forever. 
Above, Juliana is marking Pastor Sergio in the retreat in Bucaramanga (Eastern Region). (Photo by Katie)

Photo of the participants in the Boyaca Region, (Photo by Katie)

Participants in the retreat in the Eastern Region, (Photo by Belky Hernandez) [We forgot to take a photo of the group in the Llanos Region, and haven't had the Central Region retreat yet.]