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Interchurch Families – Rome 2003

Personal Reflections by Helen Connell

Every time I’ve been asked about the Rome conference, I’ve tended to compare it to the Conference five years ago in Geneva, and for me Rome was so much better than Geneva. There was somehow, an overall feel that we were together in spite of our different cultures and four languages, and that must be attributed to the hard work of the planning group, especially our own Melanie.

I say this, because for me the most important part of the conference was working in small groups. In Geneva, I had been with French speakers, and sensed that they were struggling to comprehend why not being able to share communion was a problem. Whilst the French speakers in my group still acknowledged that it was something they struggled with, we found a way of communicating the differences between our two cultures. I think it was put like this ‘The Latin temperament tends to apply the spirit of rules, and the northern European temperament applies the letter.’ One of the members of my group, a Frenchman, expressed to Richard and I that he really admired us, trying to worship in two churches every week.

I can’t comment on the children’s work in Geneva, as I was expecting Ruth when we were there, but I was very impressed with the work done by the Waldensian Youth Team, in Rome. Ruth obviously enjoyed it, and has returned with a delightful book of colouring, with the story of Noah’s Ark in the four languages. She keeps asking me to tell her the story, first in English, then in French, then in Italian and then in German. I’ve never done German, and only have a smattering of French and Italian, so it’s quite a challenge for me! I look forward to the day, when she can read it to me in all four languages, and I’m delighted that the conference set off her interest in the other languages!

The worship of the Conference provided the most vivid memories for me. It was moving, thought-provoking, sometimes too long although managing four languages and the distribution of communion to so many, made this not surprising. However, it was hot, and the church did not lend itself to services in such conditions! I remember coming out before a service began, and Barb Slater met me and said ‘You’re going the wrong way!’ ‘I know, but it’s too hot now, and there’s no bodies in it yet, so I’m going to stay outside as long as possible!’ There was something to be said for there being a wedding in the church on Saturday, necessitating us having the Anglican Communion in the Auditorium which was air-conditioned!

So, all in all as a family we really enjoyed this Conference. My mother 74 enjoyed herself too, the conference centre had the most beautiful grounds, and she found lots of people to talk to, and thoroughly enjoyed herself!


Helen Connell September 2003