Of course, one can always look at what is NOT possible. But no one is forced to do so....
The fact that in recent months church life has been massively restricted has been just as much a reality in the countries of eastern Central Europe and the Balkans as a striking expansion of digital offerings for all generations. However, it is far from true that in times of the Covid 19 pandemic, shared faith and active love would only have been available in electronic form, as the following examples show:
In a UMC church in North Macedonia, for example, a concert was held by teenagers and young people that was able to touch the hearts of the listeners. Not only the melodies but also the sung texts accompanied the people for a long time as encouragement on their way through everyday life.
The pastor of a UMC church in Poland is not only regularly to be found in his church, but also at a factory in his town, where trucks are loaded. There, the pastor takes the opportunity to talk to the truck drivers about their lives, distributing Bibles and helping them to read and understand them. It is a ministry that has an impact, as the pastor can see time and again when the truck drivers return to town after sometimes long trips and want to talk about their questions about the Bible, faith and life.
A UMC church in Serbia has become a place of refuge for migrants. Often the camp where they are housed is overcrowded. When they then get the opportunity to leave the camp during the day, they gladly take the chance to find rest in the church's sanctuary and receive strength and encouragement for the next leg of their journey in a time of prayer or conversation. The church building of this congregation also serves as a "logistics center" where what is subsequently distributed as part of relief operations in this camp is stored.
In Bulgaria, a UMC church also regularly ran a soup kitchen last winter. Time and again, the guests told those in charge how they had lost their jobs, their homes, their families. Often, these experiences of loss have to do with alcohol abuse or alcohol dependence. The congregation has therefore now started a cooperation with the organization "Alcoholics Anonymous", and it is looking into setting up a self-help group for relatives of alcoholics, as well.
In Romania, the situation was extremely difficult, especially for Roma. They were isolated for months and deprived of any opportunity to leave their villages to go shopping. The leaders of the UMC therefore visited these villages regularly and brought food and other relief supplies to the Roma. This support had a beneficial effect on many a family, and now that there is more freedom of movement again, regular events continue to be held for children and adults, focusing on what satisfies the hunger and thirst of the soul.
In the Czech Republic, the pandemic was used to do good. In one UMC church, face masks were sewn and distributed in the city. Computers were provided to needy families so that their children could participate in distance learning. Single mothers in financial need received food and hygiene items.
These and many other local churches in eastern Central Europe and the Balkans have demonstrated in the challenges of the past months what one is capable of doing when one does not focus on what one is not capable of doing.
Source: Urs Schweizer, Assistant to the Bishop of the UMC in Central and Southern Europe