EurECA conference 2018

The impact that Christian educators can have within a nation

Sofia, Bulgaria

10th – 13th  May 2018 (Ascension Day weekend)

The annual EurECA Conference was held in Sofia, ​our​ first conference in Bulgaria.  We stayed in the Vitosha Hotel, a very nice and big hotel close to the centre of Sofia. The team of Bulgarian teachers organised the whole conference in a fantastic way. Especially the songs of the children and the traditional Bulgarian dances​,​ we will never forget them! The meals in the Vitosha hotel were also impressive in ​the​ good Bulgarian tradition of hospitality!

The conference started on Thursday evening with worship, prayer and passages from Scripture read by EurECA Board members. Old friends met each other and new contacts were made. Being together as teachers and Christians from different cultures was enriching and inspiring. 

The theme of the conference was “The impact that Christian educators can have within a nation”.

The first lecture on Friday morning was by Prof. Dr. Detchko Svilenov​,​ about “Christian faith and values as an improvement method in education”. We were impressed by his stories about bringing the bible in all areas of society in Bulgaria and the impact it had, just bringing the bible in schools, in university, in local government​ and ​in the world of the media etc. He showed many pictures of people being proud ​of ​having a bible. For schools, it is important to explain what kind of impact the bible can have in daily life so that the bible will not remain as an icon on the wall.

The keynote speaker, Ken Badley, had two lectures, one on Friday and the other on Saturday morning. His lectures where about “Christians in this Cultural Moment: Who Do We Need to be?” He started with analysing our modern society in which ​the ​old ​​moorings are slipping away and people are in search of new moorings. Th​e​n he focused on the situation in our schools and the problems teachers have to deal with. He mentioned some possible cultural responses to the cultural moment in modern society where there is hunger for hope, meaning and intimacy but where people seek refuge in themselves in different ways. In the defined self (through activism, gender, the body, clothing, fitness etc), in the armed and protected self (through materialism and irony and cynicism) and in the ecstatic self (through war tourism, sex, drugs, food, extreme sports, religious mysticism, game personae, the edited self one presents on social media).. Finally, he focused on needed Christian responses in this cultural moment: love which can lead us, authenticity, integrity, hospitality, wisdom, right focus, recognizing ​the ​complexity of questions and answers. Let Christians be people of hope and meaning, people who seek justice, people who seek the good, people who live in wonder, people who live in gratitude and people who love creation. In this way, we can offer hope and meaning to others. 

On Friday afternoon, three possible excursions were offered​;​ visiting the centre of Sofia, visiting the city of Plovdiv ​(​which will be the cultural capital ​in​ 2019​)​ and a visit to the famous Rila monastery. Each of us discovered that Bulgaria is a very nice country​ and ​worth visiting!!

On Friday and Saturday evening, the participants delivered a short presentation about their country, about what God is doing there in the area of education and what needs they have. After three or four presentations we had moments of prayer in small groups with the people we had just heard from. It was impressive to hear about, for example, Albania (longing for justice and freedom), Belarus (the start of a small initiative in a big atheistic nation), Portugal (sorrow about ​the lack of ​support from the government) and Palestinian Christians from Israel (to be Christian in a double minority position).

Another relevant part of the programme were the workshop sessions by participants at the conference. After the second lecture ​from​ Ken Badley, we had three workshop sessions on Saturday morning and afternoon. In these workshops, colleagues from all over Europe shared their experiences on a variety of topics relevant to Christian teachers in different countries. The main goal was to encourage and inspire teachers in their daily work or personal life. In total 15 workshops were offered and we had good discussions about these presentations.

The conference ended on Sunday morning. The Chairman of the Board, Graham Coyle led the worship that morning. Celebrating the Holy Communion in this service was an special moment together. After the worship​,​ the conference closed and we said farewell to each other. We strongly encourage every Christian teacher to participate in the yearly meeting of EurECA over the Ascension Day​ weekend​.

Marja van de Lagemaat