WCC Anniversary and Eighth Assembly
Feature Service
No. 4
A Journey of Faith
by John Newbury
WCC Press and Information Officer

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"Our research showed us there are more good things going on in the world than we would otherwise have known. We saw hope, and were inspired by that hope."

That is the reaction of two people who have written and designed a new poster set for the World Council of Churches. The WCC asked Brigitte Lee and Jack Messenger to come up with a poster concept to tell something of the history, nature and work of the WCC in this, its 50th anniversary year, when it will also hold its Jubilee Assembly.

We asked Brigitte and Jack, two UK-based freelance writers and editors who have formed a partnership known as Redshoes Cooperative, to create something which would appeal to widely divergent audiences in terms of church commitment and knowledge of the WCC.

We told Redshoes to avoid the ecumenical jargon we so easily use but which means little if anything to most people, and to tell our story in the simplest way. The aim was to help answer the often-asked question, "So, what does the WCC actually do?"

We gave Redshoes piles of paper from our programme units: reports, leaflets, magazines, study documents, and financial reports. Brigitte and Jack also spent hours looking through our photo archives, after which they said, "We were impressed with the sheer scale of the WCCís connections and activities. We saw people from all parts of the world, living and working with their local WCC-member church. We also saw the human reality behind the WCCís statistics: women, men and children whose lives have been touched in so many ways."

The result is A Journey of Faith, a stunning 16-poster set divided into four groups, each with a distinctive theme and background colour: green, orange, white and blue. Single key words are highlighted within the texts, for example God; gospel; unity; future; life; hope; equality; action, and each poster ends by linking the WCC to a positive and intriguing statement, for instance: "The WCC: on a small planet we are all neighbours", or "The WCC: Christian unity in a divided world".

The photographs on each poster are powerful in the extreme. They stir, inspire, intrigue and haunt as they bring the words of the text to life by showing the experiences of real people in real places.

In A Journey of Faith, the Ďgreení set explores the basis of the journey and what the world might consider as some of the WCCís overtly Ďreligiousí elements. Certainly, the vital elements of worship, prayer, theology, and mission are emphasised; they mark out the WCC as different from non-governmental organisations. One poster in this sub-set proclaims, "How we understand God affects how we relate to other people and the world", and another explains, "Very often, we discover God afresh in one another. Thatís why individual congregations are the focus of our Christian life."

The four 'orange' posters take us to the heart of the practical outworking of the Christian faith as they explore the work of the WCC in the areas of education, health, ecology and globalisation.

Against a white background, four of the posters in A Journey of Faith turn the spotlight on people potentially at risk: the dispossessed and uprooted, children and women. Without lessening the awfulness of some of the situations in which millions find themselves around the globe, it is a positive message that comes through.

One of the posters proclaims that not only is the WCC "helping women right wrongs" but that it is women themselves who are "joining hands" and now claim a "partnership with men in a true community of equals".

Finally, four 'blue' posters tell of the WCCís work in the areas of Christian service and support. The work of the Ecumenical Church Loan Fund and Action by Churches Together is featured, and shows how the WCC not only provides aid when disaster strikes through famine, flood and war, but also how this world body of churches tries to tackle the root causes of poverty and powerlessness.

But it is the photographs on each poster which bring A Journey of Faith alive. Faces from around the world talk to us in many ways: children from the South Pacific, Africa or Europe; Latin American women planning, deciding and working together; Africans and Asians at work; an Aboriginal woman in Australia telling her story to Christian visitors from abroad; people at prayer, worship and study.

The photographs contain many images of people on the edges of society, but who nevertheless retain their integrity and dignity. The WCC believes that what it does plays a part in helping that happen.

One poster asks "What have we done to creation?" An answer is suggested by two accompanying photographs. One is of a breathtaking sunset and another shows a stream filled with rotting rubbish.

The photographs are not captioned. They speak for themselves and will say different things to different people. That is true of all of the Journey of Faith posters. Although an instruction leaflet accompanies the set, the use of the posters will require creativity and imagination. They should not just be stuck up at the back of some church hall and forgotten!

The 16 posters in A Journey of Faith are ideal for exhibitions and campaigns; churches who wish to mark and celebrate the WCCís 50th birthday this year will find this new product from WCC Publications particularly useful.

The same is true for Bible study groups or preachers who could use A Journey of Faith as the basis for a sermon series.

Like all paper posters, A Journey of Faith will quickly become ragged and torn unless taken care of. But with imagination, this presentation of the work of the World Council of Churches could become a highlight of church life for many congregations throughout the year. Churches and groups who buy the set could do worse than to find someone to mount the posters on art card or even make wooden frames for them (preferably also with non-reflective glass) so they can be displayed attractively.

In other words, it will require effort and thought to get the most out of A Journey of Faith; the same could be said of the work of the WCC.

However, simple text and pretty pictures do not a movement make. Do the posters reflect reality or are they just wishful thinking?

Later this year, in December, the work of the WCC will be put to the test in Harare, Zimbabwe, when the WCCís Eighth Assembly will review in detail what the organisation has done since its last Assembly, in 1991.

At Harare, a series of plenary sessions and hearings will put the spotlight on what the WCC does. Testimony will be heard from those involved in, or on the receiving end of the organisationís work. The Assembly will confess where it has failed, and celebrate achievements gained. It will also decide what the WCCís future work should be and set priorities and policies.

For now, A Journey of Faith provides an excellent introduction to the aims and work of the WCC, as well as what it means to be part of the ecumenical movement.

Users of this product should, however, beware. God may well speak through the posters, and no one can tell where that may lead! Perhaps God will use those who join A Journey of Faith to bring about the visible unity of the churches, which is the aim of the ecumenical movement. When that happens, a whole new set of posters will be needed.

Click here to view the posters

"A Journey of Faith" Poster Set

Set 1 (Green): Journey of Faith - The Basis of the Journey
The search for unity - The WCC: Christian unity in a divided world
Living the gospel - The WCC: many churches, one gospel
Worship and prayer - The WCC: growing together in the love of God
Faith in the future - The WCC: a certain faith in an uncertain future

Set 2 (Orange): Human Rights - Justice and Peace Issues
Education for life - The WCC: because education is for life
A global vision - The WCC: on a small planet we are all neighbours
Health is for everyone - The WCC: faith is good for your health
A suffering planet - The WCC: because creation has a future

Set 3 (White): Jubilee People - People at Risk
People on the edge - The WCC: because there are no edges to hope
Children of the world - The WCC: children are people too
The world uprooted - The WCC: so the uprooted can stop moving
Women & equality - The WCC: helping women right wrongs

Set 4 (Blue): Church and Community - Christian support & service
Making a difference - The WCC: emergency relief and crisis prevention
Speaking out loud - The WCC: speaking out can change the world
Loving our neighbour - The WCC: solidarity in action
Working together - The WCC: where money speaks the right language

Information for editors and journalists

A Journey of Faith, consisting of 16 A2 (42 x 59 cm.) posters, is available in English, French, German and Spanish and costs Sfr.50, US$35, DM60, £22 (plus postage). When ordering please be sure to say which language version you require. Send your order to Visual Arts, World Council of Churches, 150 route de Ferney, P.O. Box 2100, 1211 Geneva 2, Switzerland.

John Newbury is the Press and Information Officer of the World Council of Churches. He is available for further comment and interview.

Radio journalists please note that for interview purposes we have an ISDN line installed in our radio studio using a CCS Codec M66I 64K.

Use of the article must credit John Newbury as author. Editors are free to shorten the article if they wish but this should be acknowledged. Please send a copy of anything you publish for our records. Thank you.

Those of you with access to Internet (www) may download the Assembly and 50th Anniversary logos directly from files at , or contact us if you wish us to airmail them.

Click here to view the posters

John Newbury
Press & Information Officer
P.O. Box 2100
1211 Geneva 2, Switzerland
Tel.: (+41 22) 791 6152/51
Fax: (+41 22) 798 1346
E-mail: media
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