The weekend of July 1-2, 2017, was, in two respects, reason to joy for The United Methodist Church in Albania: On July 1, 2017, the first national United Methodist church convention took place in Gjinar/Elbasan; on July 2, 2017, the first United Methodist worship service was celebrated in Durrës, Albania’s second largest city.
On July 1, 2017, the UMC in Albania organized, for the first time in its history, a national church convention. The theme «Fellowship» was not only focused in the reflections and the moments of sharing but was also put into action in very practical ways. About 140 participants from Elbasan, Durrës, Pogradec, and Tirana, found their respective place in one of the various activities: hiking, gathering forest fruits, sports, music – and all of them shared their time, their personality, their gifts, and their talents with others. Superintendent Wilfried Nausner underlined that fellowship can be particularly experienced in love because love expresses itself in sharing – and this was proved in various ways during this church convention. Rigels Kasmollari from Tirana emphasized the formative nature of the event from a very special perspective: «For many students from Tirana, this day was a good opportunity to get to know themselves, other people and God in a new way – close to nature and as part of a sustaining fellowship.»
The day after, July 2, 2017, the first United Methodist worship service took place in Durrës, Albania’s second largest city. The attendants were mainly church members who, together with their families, had moved to this place some years ago. Additionally, there was a small group of Tirana UMC. Gjergji Lushka, currently still a student of theology and responsible for this new church and particularly for leading the worship services, said: «Our church members are so happy that a place could be found where they can encounter God, where they can encourage one another on their respective faith journeys, and where they can share joys and sorrows.» One woman agreed: «I am so grateful to God for this wonderful gift – grateful that our vision of a haven became reality.»
The first worship service was preceded by a considerable time of preparation. There were lots of conversations with church members already living in Durrës as well as with people who have relatives and friends in this city. The affirmation, encouragement, and willingness to organize a new church in Durrës was expressed by all of them. A church member described the current and future development of the UMC in Albania as follows: «Our church is like a strawberry plant: on the one hand, green surfaces are created at dry places by the new offspring. On the other hand, and more important, the plant bears fruit.» The leaders of the UMC in Albania hope that this will also become a reality in Durrës: that the presence of the church in this country’s second largest city will be a contribution towards the transformation of the local society.
Source: Rigels Kasmollari / Gjergji Lushka / Urs Schweizer
Date: July 6, 2017