Wednesday, 27 May 2009

Manure or sweet hay - what do carry in your back pack?

Giuseppe Platone, the longest serving member of the Kirchentag's international committee said his official goodbye to the committee and the Kirchentag's General secretary Ellen Ueberschär at the beginning of the Kirchentag in Bremen. He also handed over to his replacement from the Italian Waldensian Church on the committee Sergio Manna.
The Waldensian Church like many minority churches punches above its weight. In his speech Giuseppe also said how important it had been for him to feel that the Kirchentag made space for people from minority churches from beyond Germany's borders.
He brought all members of the committee a special present from the Waldensian valleys, called a kippa which is a small basket used to carry everything on peoples backs in the steep mountain farmlands. These baskets are symbols of hard work, minority, sustainable living and very much like a form of basket rucksack.
In a brief and moving meditation Giuseppe spoke about how people would carry all kinds of different things in these baskets depending on the time of year, from manure and seeds, clothing, harvested produce, food, firewood and newly cut hay to feed to livestock or to take down to be stored.
Sometimes the basket is full, sometimes waiting to be filled. It made him think of the biblical verse "bear ye one another's burdens" - though this didn't stop him from giving Ellen Ueberschär a much larger basket than the rest of us, the general secretary certainly has a heavier burden than many of us. As he handed out the baskets Giuseppe also remembered how his own basket had been filled with memories over the years and thought of how we fill each others' baskets with good things. He remembered a visit he had undertaken in the 1990s to many other members of the international committee and how this had cemented relationships and support for the Kirchentag.
As we wished him well we were all pleased to hear that Sergio will be maintaining the Waldensian Kirchentag tradition of an evening of Bible and spaghetti.
Meanwhile Giuseppe will also be leaving his position as the editor of the Protestant newspaper Riforma early next year - the lead article says Mensch wo bist du in Italian. We wish him well with all his new projects.
Meanwhile are you handing out manure or sweet hay from your back pack?