- A Church Changes Its Thinking

A Church Changes Its Thinking

Even Christians are sometimes prejudiced against people from other cultures. Two churches in Burgdorf and Hindelbank have been prompted by this fact to transmit the biblical view on this topic in a 10-part sermon series. The result is a new attitude toward migrants in the towns.

Matthias Wenk, pastor of the evangelical church BewegungPlus in Burgdorf and Hindelbank spoke about the project and its effects at the Agik Forum on April 30, 2011 in Hägendorf. The church leadership assumed that when dealing with foreigners, the Swiss adopted one of four behaviours: For example, they completely reject anything foreign. Or they can accept it, but don’t adopt it. It is also possible that someone partially adopts some things from the foreign things which please them. Or there can even be a complete adoption of the foreign and present customs are completely given up.   

Burning Questions

Menschen aus 20 Nationen nahmen am Agik-Forum teil.

Christian churches have to ask themselves how far they want to get involved with a different culture, including the religious customs of people from other cultures. The question becomes vital when churches want to host immigrants with islamic, Hindu and other relitious backgrounds. To find the right way to go about this, the church leadership spent lots of time studying the Bible intensively on the topic of immigration and foreign cultures. 

Afterwards, Matthias Wenk worked out a 10-part sermon series which looked more closely at biblical characters with a background of or experience with migration: The good Samaritan, Mary and Joseph, Daniel, Ruth, Cornelius and Onesimus. Antioch was examined as an example of a multicultural parish. The sermon series was accompanied by actual encounters with foreigners. 

Thinking Differently

Matthias Wenk confesses: “There was some rumbling in the parish.” But people also dealt more intensively with the topic, particularly in the housegroups, where the Sunday sermon is discussed during the following week. Many noticed that “we are more fear oriented than opportunity oriented” regarding migrants, states Wenk. In addition, quite a number of new activities were initiated, such as contacts to groups of foreigners and shelters for asylum-seekers. Wenk: “Someone decided to choose a foreign dentist from another culture group – something he would never have considered possible.”

New Insights

Tamilen feiern ein Fest in der BewegungPlus in Burgdorf und sorgen auch für das Festessen.

The church leadership also gained new insights. “We began translating the church services for guests” explains Wenk. “And we noticed that we have to deal more deeply with escatological questions.” These questions made it clear that Christians are “foreigners on this earth”, “pilgrims on the road to the true homeland”. Dealing with these matters also made it clear that Christians can’t render homage to any kind of nationalism. From a biblical point of view, they have a lot in common with migrants, who are “underway as strangers.” This perception also had an effect on people who think politically, said Wenk.
The theological conclusions were published in a flyer entitled “Ausländer unter uns” (Foreigners among us). It is a theological discussion of the topic in view of the current wave of refugees and migration.
The Agik Forum was carried out by the Cooperative Commuity for Intercultural Communication (Agik) of the Swiss Evangelical Alliance (SEA), who coordinates and encourages the work of churches, organisations and individuals who have contacts with foreigners, refugees and migrants.


More on the topic:
Warum sich Menschen missverstehen
Broschüre «Ausländer unter uns» (pdf)
Arbeitsgemeinschaft für Interkulturelle Kommunikation

Datum: 05.05.2011

Broschüre "Ausländer unter uns" (133.14 KB)
Author: Henriette Ludwig