Hello from Bossey! I arrived safely in Switzerland on Sunday afternoon and after a few days to get settled in (and get over jet lag…) we started orientation for all of the new students at the Ecumenical Institute yesterday!
This year, there are students from Togo, USA, Cameroon, Romania, Russia, Ukraine, China, Bangladesh, Myanmar, Nigeria, Thailand, India, Cambodia, Korea, Sri Lanka, Poland, Netherlands, Canada, and Georgia (the country, not the state). And we come from all sorts of different denominational backgrounds – Presbyterian, Reformed, Orthodox, United, Non-denominational, Baptist, Anglican, Church of Christ, Roman Catholic, Lutheran, and Moravian, along with myself from the United Methodist Church and an amazing woman from the Methodist Church Nigeria representing the Wesleyan tradition. It is BY FAR the most diverse group I’ve ever had the privilege to be a part of in many different ways!
The first couple of days allowed me some time to just explore the surrounding countryside. Bogis-Bossey, the town where the school is located, is primarily a farming community – lots of corn, sunflowers, cows, and vineyards! Check out the photo gallery page to see some pictures from my walks. We also discovered that France is just a 45 minute walk away, and is a great place to buy things for much cheaper than you can find them in Switzerland! But you don’t even need to leave the campus of Bossey to see beautiful views. The backyard of the school looks out onto a lake and the mountains, and the buildings themselves are incredible. We worship in a chapel that was converted from the original wine press of the chateau, a building from the 11th century. Those pictures are in my photo gallery too!
We’ve spent these first couple of days of orientation celebrating our commonalities and our differences – yes, celebrating both! We celebrate our common humanity, our common rootedness in Christ, and our common desire to work for Christian unity. But we are also learning to celebrate the things that we hold in tension – cultural differences around greetings, language, gender, food, etc., religious differences around who is welcome at the communion table, what styles of worship are appropriate, and are there 2 sacraments or 7?!, and individual differences in personality, interests, and life stages. Those too are things to be celebrated because they teach us the precious privilege of living in unity amidst diversity, the joy to be found when we look past stereotypes and see the “other” as a brother or sister instead. This way of living and interacting with one another is DESPERATELY needed both in my American context and throughout the world.
This weekend we’ll get to do a bit of traveling, visiting Lausanne on Saturday to officially register ourselves as temporary residents of Switzerland, and Geneva on Sunday to join the other University of Geneva students in their opening worship for the semester.
Thanks for all of your prayers for travelling mercies last weekend. Just wanted to check in and say hello and let you know I’ve arrived safely. I’ll have much more to share soon! Love y’all! 🙂