number 8, december 12, 1998

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Padare, the assembly energizer

A letter from the Padare Advisory Group

The Padare Advisory Group wants to gratefully congratulate padare presenters, assembly delegates and visitors for the success of the padare event.

Imagine the WCC 8th assembly without padare! What would have happened to the thousands of participants and visitors who enthusiastically visited 550 padare sessions, and participated in the rich dialogue that characterized the whole four days of deliberations?

An interfaith dialogue participant from India aptly summed it up saying, "In many years of attending large group gatherings like this, this week was the first time I felt visible, heard and respected."

The sessions definitely broadened and deepened the 8th assembly discourse. There was no urge for positional debates nor rush to pass resolutions. This has surely been business unusual.

The result was richness of dialogue, networking, and opportunities for follow-up work with various people from around the world.

"I experienced the value of open conversation beyond my denominational space and even my religious tradition," said one Brazilian pastor.

A young German delegate from the Debt Forgiveness Padare "appreciated the globalised and still localised reality of the socio-economic struggles of all people burdened by debt across the globe".

"As a visitor to the WCC assembly I come away with encouragement and hope that the WCC will in all future deliberations include sessions like padare which are a sign of openness and welcome to the whole ecumenical community including us who cannot be delegates," another visitor from South Africa remarks.

Our view is that, in spite of difficulties of location, logistics and sheer size, padare succeeded in establishing community for a great many people. It has been a bold step in affirming the culture of dialogue and an innovative social architecture that allows large numbers of people to attend to many meetings, experience multiple realities and successfully deal with difference and uncertainty that arise from each encounter.

The distinctive contribution of padare was to add personal commitment to respectful dialogue and infuse collective energy into the stream conversations throughout the four days. Both delegates and visitors found rich ground to collectively imagine how to reshape local and global realities which affect people with different intensity yet with similar results.

The whole concept of padare has been to introduce a meeting place of ideas, a marketplace where everyone is included, giving and receiving gifts of wonderful work from across the oecumene.

Another emerging theme from many padare sessions centred around the question of the role of the church, and possible positions that the religious community should take on topical issues at the dawn of the new century.

We hope that in the coming seven years the WCC may be enriched and informed by the visions, yearnings and actions that many networks agreed to pursue after the assembly. We are convinced that padare has influenced the deliberations of the Assembly in a positive way.

We are thankful to the Program Committee for including padare issues and themes in the hearings, which made many padare participants feel included and heard within the WCC deliberations.

Padare has been a positive experiment. It has harnessed the collective genius of people, and has presented an alternative encounter methodology that blows away competition and exclusionary conversations from different denominational traditions.

The forums were issue oriented, and less dominated by personalities. Minority people and views found space for unfettered expression. It has been a major context for encounter and exchange with local Zimbabweans, who have attended padares in large numbers.

There are some who have questioned the value of padare and how the deliberations can more fully impact the life of the assembly after Harare. Others have wondered how they could feel safe at padare in times of controversy and conflict.  Others still have expressed disappointment that their issues seemed to remain marginalised.

Most experience and response from both participants and presenters showed us that the design of padare minimises conflict and allows difference to be shown and told in honesty and love.

On the other hand it should be mentioned that padare as an open gathering place of frank discussion, can be both a safe and risky place. The meetings are generative and intense, and participants may be too many for the airtime available.

Some issues remain unconcluded, and people have brief moments to make friendships in such short intense session. It is an educational forum for us all to learn to live in a plural society.

Possibilities for follow-up are good but cannot be assured. That is the structure of padare; a place to provide encounters with newness of sharing and uniqueness of exchange.

The padare has been a new venture for the WCC assembly. It had no blueprint to follow. It has been of its nature experimental. It has certainly been the case that action has removed at least some of the doubt that theory could not solve, and there is much to be learned for the future. It will be interesting to observe follow up work, networking, cooperative activities that will arise out of these encounters.

The fact that so many sessions were well attended, with others arranging for additional meetings is a clear sign that padare succeeded in gathering people at places and times they felt most called to participate.

We salute you all and wish you successful deliberations for the rest of the assembly. Thank you for allowing us to work with you.

Godwin Hlatshwayo, of Zimbabwe-USA, signed this letter on behalf of the Padare Advisory Group. Its members are: H.E.Archbishop Anastasios, Albania; Ms Paulina Arola, Finland: Dr Clifton Kirkpatrick, USA; Ms Priyanka Mendis, Sri Lanka; the Most Rev. Michael G. Peers, Canada; Ms Jean Skuse, Australia; and Dr Aaron Tolen, Cameroon.

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Read other articles in this issue:

Polygamy no problem for African churches
Mandela to attend assembly tomorrow
Catholic Church doesn't want to 'dwarf' WCC
Evangelicals work the stream at WCC
Orthodox find the space for dialogue
Padare, the assembly energizer
Unmasking Orthodox claims
Amsterdam had a Message
50 million members, and growing fast
Some quiet nourishment

8th Assembly and 50th Anniversary

copyright 1998 World Council of Churches. Remarks to webeditor