EurECA conference 2017

Learning from the Stranger:  Christian Educators and Cultural Differences

Hurdal, Norway

25 – 28 May, 2017 (Ascension Weekend)

The annual EurECA Conference was held at Hurdal Verk Folkehogskole, 44km north of Oslo, the first conference in Norway.  The attractive rural setting of the conference building and accommodation chalets allowed participants to relax in the exceptional weather, enjoy walks in the wooded areas and by rivers and streams.  A member of staff from Hurdal recounted the original purpose of the main building – a glass-making factory in the 19th century and the development of the ‘folkeskole’ as used presently for post high school students.  Participants were enabled to settle in quickly, due in no small part to the excellent Norwegian cuisine, the highly-organised conference timetable  and Signe’s meticulous care with transport, outings and housekeeping needs.

The conference began on Thursday evening with worship (sometimes singing in four languages!), prayer and passages from Scripture read by EurECA Board members.  The prayerful ethos was evidenced throughout the conference.  Ninety conference delegates representing twenty nations briefly introduced themselves at this point.  The keynote speaker, David Smith, mentioned his position in Calvin College, Grand Rapids, Michigan and whetted our appetites for his presentations during the remaining part of the conference.  The conference format focused around the keynote speaker’s presentations, followed by discussion groups with opportunities to hear of work in other nations and the opportunity to pray for issues in these reports.  Time was given for networking with others and the enjoyment of the spectacular surroundings of the conference environs.  A wide range of activities on the Saturday afternoon:  visits to Oslo city and Viking museums or walking, canoeing, horse riding and on site sports activities.

Each morning session commenced with morning worship followed by presentations from the keynote speaker, David Smith.  The theme of the conference was Learning from the Stranger – Christian Educators and Cultural Differences.  In the first session, David outlined how the topic would be addressed and the need as Christian educators to embrace cultural differences in our schools and communities.  This was expertly and interactively presented in three sessions – Culture and Self, Culture and Calling, Culture and Learning.  After each session, delegates were assigned to nine groups to further discuss and tease out issues from the presentation at a practical level e.g. How does your educational establishment accommodate cultural differences? / Are Christian schools and teachers equipping students to live well in a world of cultural differences? / What will this mean for curriculum and pedagogy?

Throughout the main sessions, delegates were encouraged to think about / rethink their relationships to cultural difference and in a Christianly way and how to deal with these differences, especially in the school environment.  David related to research - How your culture affected you before your birth, his own writing e.g. ‘Learning from the Stranger’, ‘Christians and Cultural Difference’, recognised theologians e.g. Dietrich Bonhoeffer – Living as Christians Together’ and Biblical contexts e.g. John 4 – Jesus meeting with a Samaritan woman.

Some gems to evaluate:…… ’There should be a commitment to the individual’s well-being even before they are like us’ ….. ’Cultural differences can turn into moral judgements’ ….. ’Learn to accept people who the Lord has placed with us and be thankful’ …. ’Cross cultural communication teaches humility’.  David also preached at the worship service on Sunday morning, taking the OT reading of Psalm 113 and the NT reading of Luke 19:25–37.  He drew useful insights from both readings – the extensive knowledge of God, Creator of all the earth ….. Jesus avoids confrontation, directing the ruler to the teaching of Leviticus 19 - ‘Go and do likewise’.  This was followed by a memorable communion service led by Liviu Caprar.

During the Friday and Saturday evening sessions, the EurECA bi-annual general assembly and the Presentations of the Nations took place, each time with prayer for issues raised.  Reports from board members were summarised and accepted.  The election of 5 board members was confirmed by EurECA members, Graham Coyle taking over as President from Matt Kägi.  Delegates appreciated the information given by reports from organisations and countries and the opportunity to prayerfully commit issues to God.

This was such a worthwhile conference and spiritually enriching.  Many thanks are due to organisers pre-conference and on site, to our speaker David Smith, the talented piano player and accompanying singer and to all the delegates who attended and were willing to share their experiences.

Report by Kirsti Paterson

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Link to a You-Tube video by Henk van Sorge (general report and interview with David Smith)

Download "10 things I discovered in Norway" - a thought-provoking and humorous essay about the conference by our vice president, Graham Coyle.

Link to the lyrics & translation of our 'theme song': "Graven Er Tom"

Link to a You-Tube lyrics video of "Graven Er Tom"

Link to chords of "Graven Er Tom" 

Some links on our EurECA Facebook group:

Link to video by Laci Demeter

 

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