Monday, November 30, 2009

Stuck in Paris

Roissy en France is a pretty and prosperous traditional French village 13 miles from the center of Paris and 3 miles or so from Charles de Gaulle Airport.  What are we doing here tonight at Hotel  Campanile  in Roissy?

We got up early this morning to catch our flight from Madrid to Newark via Paris.  You can imagine how sad it was for Rebecca, Rachel and I to leave Megan by herself in the hotel room in Madrid to find her way back to her host family home in Tres Cantos today, but we did, grateful for the four days we got to spend together in the city. (Thank goodness for global phones these days to stay in touch).

After boarding the plane, the the flight was delayed, and we missed our connection in Paris by 10 minutes.   AirFrance put us up overnight at a nearby hotel with meal vouchers for dinner and tomorrow's breakfast.  So here we are at an airport hotel discussing whether to take a metro into the city to dine on the Left Bank, or stay in our relatively warm rooms.  We decided to enjoy a surprisingly delicious French meal in the Hotel  Restaurant and walk into the small village of Roissy.

Though cold and dark, we enjoyed our walk through the village. Almost everything was closed, but we noted that Roissy has an old church and cemetary, town square, mini casino, lovely park with lots of rabbits running around, 13 resturants, an essential French Bakery, and even a cultural center with fabulous outdoor aireo photographs capturing French scenic beauty.

If international travel requires occasional overnight delays, its not that bad to be stuck near Paris.

Saturday, November 28, 2009

Experiencing Madrid

Two days in the city that never sleeps.   Here are some some sights we visited from 10am to late in the night on Friday and Saturday:  Royal Palace, tour of old city, downtown Madrid at midnight, Hotel on Puerto del Sol, visiting Tres Cantos, outside of Madrid, where Megan is living for the year.

From our hotel balony

Friday, November 27, 2009

Puerto del Sol, Madrid

We are now staying at the Europa Hotel at Puerto del Sol, downtown Madrid.  The view from our balacony is splendid, and we love it here.  Toured the immediate neighborhood and enjoyed he market.  Planning to see a the Flamenco Show tonight at Torres Bermejas, and a walking tour of the old city tomorrow morning  with a knowledegable guide. Here are some photos (not all my own) but will post more later:

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Tres Cantos Thanksgivng

After 5 days in Holland, we are spending Thanksgiving weekend in Tres Canto, Spain—about 20 minutes outside of Madrid.  Our daughter, Megan, is here for 10 months on a High School Rotary Exchange Program, and we are glad to see her after four months away from home.   Rachel was able to join us from San Diego, and we had a wonderful dinner with Megan´s host family tonight.   Tomorrow we will have Thanksgiving with other American Rotary students in Spain, and are indeed thankful for our good life.  We wish everyone a fabulous Day of Gratitude for all God´s blessings...

Megan´s host parents: Pelar and Migel

Thanksgiving in Tres Cantos

Tres Cantos Water Tower

Sierras at Tres Cantos

The view from Tres Cantos

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Alkmaar--Cheese Capital of Holland

Traveled by train friom Rotterdam to Alkmaar to have lunch with Jim and Nancy Forest

What fun it was to visit our friend Jim Forrest in Alkmaar--an wonderfully old city known for making cheese, about an hour from Amsterdam.  Both Jim and  his wife are  American journalists who have lived in the Netherlands for over 25 years.

Sunday, November 22, 2009

Living Your Mission

Rebecca and I (along with our daughter Rachel from San Diego who was able to join us for Thankgiving break from college) are in Holland for five days.  Invited and hosted by Laurent Nouwwen (Henri´s brother) to give the address at the Henri Nouwen Stichting (Foundation) annual event in Utrecht, we are enjoying our time in old Europe. About  250 people attended the event which included a reception, vesper service and classical concert pieces on piano and trumphet. We were asked to speak about our personal mission in the world, and how to live it from the heart, as Henri Nouwen inspired us to do. What follows are my notes for the evening, which may be helpful to others who are tying to discern their mission in this season of life.

Notes for Annual Henri Nouwen Stichting Talk, Utrecht  21 November 2009
By  Michael  J. Christensen

Vocation: that unique mission in the world each believer is called to live and fulfill.

But what is my personal mission?  And how do I live it in the world?   Is my calling once and for all, specific to time and place, or does my vocation change with the seasons of life, and with different geographies of where I find myself in the world? [1]

I.                  What I learned from Henri (my teacher at Yale): I am sent.

Henri Nouwen was my teacher at Yale during a time when I was trying to discern my vocation in life, especially what next to do in ministry.  So I took a course from him each semester as was there.  More than the subjects he taught, the way he prayed and sought to discern the will of God impressed me, and I learned from his spiritual life.  He believed strongly, and so do I, that each of us are sent into the world to fulfill our mission.  This is what Henri Nouwen writes in one of the last books he wrote:

“We seldom realize fully that we are sent to fulfill God-given tasks.  We act as if we have to choose how, where, and with whom to live.  We act as if we were simply dropped down in creation and have to decide how to entertain ourselves until we die.  But we were sent into the world by God, just as Jesus was.  Once we start living our lives with that conviction, we will soon know what we were sent to do.” (Nouwen, Bread for the Journey, April 23)

A.   I am sent into the world , just as Jesus was sent, as God’s beloved child; 
·        that God has a plan and purpose for my life;
·        that I have been gifted and equipped to fulfill my mission;
·        and that I will have general and specific tasks to accomplish, people to meet and work with, things to do together….

B.    Out of the conviction that I am called and sent, my mission assignment will be revealed in God’s good time and way. In the meantime, I will make myself ready, open, and available to do God’s work.

·        Spirituality is the practice and process of discerning God’s will, knowing God’s time (kairos), being available, and preparing for and doing  the work God has for me to do in this present moment and season of life.

·        Ministry is not something we have to make happen or try to do.  Mission simply happens when we are faithful in prayer, meditation, friendship, family life, intentionally living the spiritual life.

·        Mission is the fruit of finding your gifts and making them available to others; To quote Elizabeth O’Conner:  ministry is “…dipping into our own life and offering what we find there.”  (Letters to Scattered Pilgrims)

C.   I will be supported by companions in the community of faith to fulfill my mission.  

·        We are sent out two by two, or in mission groups (Luke 9 – 10)
[We are not sent out alone.  Nor with adequate provisions.  Jesus said don’t take your staff, cloak, or bag of money, but make yourself dependent on the hospitality of those you seek to help.  So that there can be mutuality in ministry.]

·        Mutuality in Mission:   we don’t minister to the poor but with the poor, and among God’s poor.

·        Reverse Mission:    I gain much more than I give.  I go to serve but find that I am served…

Image of communion with God and ministry with others:   “Ministry is the overflow of your love for God and others.  Ministry is when two people, whose cups are filled with God’s love, toast each other in community, and their glasses of wine spill over.   Ministry is the extra, the splash over… (Spiritual Direction, p.131)

All these things I learned from my teacher, Henri Nouwen.  But what I will say next what I discovered on my own over 27 years of ordained ministry.

II.  What I learned from life:   “You did not choose me, but I chose you…” 

What I learned about living my mission over the past 27 years of full-time Christian ministry (as pastor, teacher) is that I don’t choose my missions, they choose me.    Children of Chernobyl, People with AIDS in Malawi, Shalom work in the world—these are mission projects that somehow captivated my attention and chose to engage me in action.  As Henri says, “a calling is something that you have to do, that you cannot not do.”   I have to teach and train others, I have to do what I can to save the life of 1000 AIDS orphans, I have to respond with compassion to the person or group of people God puts in my path.

A.   Children of Chernobyl in Belarus and Ukraine (1990):

After the Berlin wall came down, the door opened for ministry in Eastern Europe and the former Soviet Union.   I was invited by CitiHope International to go to Minsk and assess the needs of children with cancer, a generation at risk for radiation-induced cancers—a group that became known as the ‘Children of Chernobyl.’   When my friend, Rev. Paul Moore, and I met Dr. Olga Alenikova, and her patients at the pediatric hematological center, I found it hard to believe that she lacked the medicine needed to save lives.   She showed us her patients—all children with cancers—who were dying without medicines.  Her cupboards were bare.  They needed the miracle oncological drug— Methotrexate— available in the West, but not in the USSR.  Dr. Olga said she was an atheist because she could not believe in a God who would allow her children to die when there was a way to save them.  Paul Moore, my more evangelical friend, asked her:  “Olga, how many vials of methotrexate would it take for you to believe in a God of miracles?”  “What do you mean,” she asked. “Well, would it take 100 vials,  200 vials?  How many to believe that God really cares about your children?”    She then shouted out:  “One thousand vials.”    That was all Paul Moore needed to challenge our constituency to sponsor medicine for the children of Chernobyl, and by Thanksgiving time, 1990, CitiHope delivered not 1000 but 2000 vials of methotrexate to Dr. Olga in her hospital.  And do you know what she said?   “It’s a miracle!”    She came to believe in a God of miracles who could assign someone the mission task of connecting resources with needs.  

That’s how God works in the world.  {BTW, methotrexate was the same drug our family needed 7 years later to save our own daughters life that had leukemia.  Amazing connection between the miracle drug needed to save the lives of children of Chernobyl and our own daughter Megan.  But that’s another story.)  [Note:  The story of this mission is told in my book, Children of Chernobyl.   Which led to WV mental health promotion project in Belarus and USAID mental health project in Ukraine, 17 mission trips, etc]

B.    Malawi MissionHope Home Orphan Care

In 2005, another invitation from CitiHope International was issued to do an assessment of need of AIDS orphans in Malawi. I took Rachel with me, who was then 15 years old.  Together we visited several orphan care projects, including FOMCO.  There we met over 200 kids who had been affected by AIDS and needed basic nutrition, safety, education, a home.    I was inspired by the model of foster care in Malawi in the wake of the AIDS pandemic.   Extended families were organized to include a number of orphans in need.  Guardians were either grandmothers or aunts or neighbors or often older siblings.   They had love in abundance.  They needed hope.   We helped raise hope by offering food aid and support for these extended family units, often with 15 kids.  While Rachel volunteered at the center, I helped organize a system and put practical provisions in place to feed and care for AIDS orphans in Malawi. Practical vision is one of my gifts, and I felt God called me to use it to help save the lives of 1000 AIDS orphans.  

WorldHope Corps, an organization I started, is now caring for 100 orphaned and vulnerable children in our Hope Home program.  And we provided “Hope Scholarships” to send 19 youth to secondary school or college.  Since that first mission trip, I have taken groups on 5 other mission trips, and will return to Malawi again in January to dig our 10th village well, and start an economic venture to help sustain the work.  Again, I did not choose this mission project, it chose me, and keeps me engaged.

C.   Communities of Shalom

After 10 years of teaching theology and directing the Doctor of Ministry program at Drew University, God called again with a new mission assignment.  My Dean suggested that a good way to utilize my gifts and mission experience at Drew would be to develop a training institute for students called to do community work and ministry.   The National Shalom Resource Center at Drew, which I direct, equips ministry teams in over 100 sites in the USA and Africa to do what is called Asset Based Community Development. (ABCD).   It’s a particular approach to ministry that focuses on the strengths of a community rather than its deficiencies, assesses its resources rather than needs, and mobilizes its assets to build community from the inside out, so that it doesn’t have to depend on external resources.    I find it deeply fulfilling and am able to integrate my various academic interests and mission callings under the banner of Shalom.   The movement’s theme verse of scripture has become my own personal leit motif:   “Seek the shalom of the community where I have sent you, says the Lord. for in it’s shalom you will find your shalom.”  (Jeremiah 29:7)

Conclusion: Where will we find Messiah?

If it’s true that we do not choose our mission, but our mission chooses us, then how do we prepare for our assignment?  What do we do with our life?  Where do we go to be found and called upon when needed?

I like the old rabbinic tale called “Where to find Messiah?”    A younger Rabbi asked the older Rabbi, where will we find Messiah when he comes?  The older Rabbi said, “We will find Messiah when he comes outside the gates of the city changing the bandages of the lepers.”   Quote parable from Spiritual Direction, p. l28.  

We make ourselves available to God and wait to be called, by tending to our own wounds as well as the wounds of others…outside the gates of the city where the poor are found.

For information on the Henri Nouwen Foundation in the  Netherands, contact: 

Lauren Nouwen

[1] What is my mission in life?  How do I discover my purpose and calling?  What are my gifts and graces for ministry?  What is the relation of my talents and skills, my strengths and experience, my motives and abilities, to God’s mission for me?  What part does choice, chance and circumstances play in discerning my vocation?  How is God’s will for me made known?  These are questions of spiritual discernment—listening to the voice of God in our hearts in deciding what best to do…given my personal and family constraints, current circumstances and present opportunities.

Saturday, November 21, 2009

Downtown Utrecht before Event

Henri Nouwen Foundation Annual Event

Uterecht flower market outside church where Nouwen Event Takes Place.

Rebecca remembers Henri in the church before she lectures on "Living Your Mission"

Laurent Nouwen and son Raphael prepare arrangement of Sun Flowers for Annual Event (One of Henri's favorite paintings was Van Gogh's "Sun Flowers")

Friday, November 20, 2009

Old Europe

Rotterdam:  Here for a week in Holland, then Spain to spend Thanksgiving with our daughter Megan,  Rebecca and I along with our oldest daughter, Rachel, are being hosted by Laurent Nouwen (Henri´s brother) at his house in Rotterdam.

Laurent, who looks a lot like Henri, is a marvelous host.  He loves classical music, modern art, good wine, old cheese, a roaring fire, and honest conversation.  I find in him a compelling man of practical wisdom, with keen insight and stimulating ideas.  We certainly have gained a friend this week. Laurent, at 65, is energetic and passionate about his mission in Ukraine which his brother suggested before he died in 1996.   He retired from his 30 year law practice to run the Henri Nouwen Foundation which supports a number of projects in Ukraine and South Africa.   It also hosts an annual lecture event to which we have been invited to speak on Saturday night in Utrecht.

We also plan to visit  the church where Henri Nouwen was ordained and where his memorial service was held on Sunday.  On Monday we´ll have lunch with our journalist friend, Jim Forrest and his wife Nancy in Alkmaar.  On Tuesday we plan to see The Hague, and then fly to Spain on Wednesday for Thanksgiving weekend with our youngest daughter, Megan, who is in Madrid for 10 months as a High School Rotary exchange student.

I´ll try to post some photos and commentary along the way for family and friends.

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

19 students Receive Hope Scholarships in Malawi

With monthly support from individual sponsors, a total of 19 students (orphaned or vulnerable children and youth) received Hope Scholarships from WorldHope Corps this year, to stay in secondary school or go on to college to continue their education. 
Youth like Noel Daire Kumwenda, Lusayo Mhango and Johnathan Jere...
It cost approximately $400  per year to send a kid to secondary school (High School), or $1200/year to send a youth to college through our Hope Scholarship program, now in its third year of educational sponsorship.   

If you are interested in sponsoring a youth in 2010, please contact Dr. Michael Christensen at

For additional information on WorldHope Corps, please visit our website:

What follows is Pastor Copeland's Report for November: 

Your Email reached us all and aroused excessive exciting and joy of immeasurable magnitude for the mind-goading good news of new funding from United Methodist AIDS Fund for 2010. Over the past few months we took time to pray and commit these projects into God’s hands.  And we consider this as God’s active response. It’s a miracle to us as He sees your good commitment to uplift the needy.  Here is our report on Hope Scholarships for November 2009.


The Hope Scholarship is a noble gate to:
§  Higher learning
§  Good employment
§  Preparing young people for leadership
§  Encountering God and walking in His company

We are pleased to report that Noel Daire Kumwenda has emerged “Student of the Year” having scored 3 distinctions and 1 pass at certificate level of Business Management. There is more hope that more and more of our students will come out with excellent scores to qualify them for university admission in various fields of study.

1.       Noel Daire Kumwenda
2.       Lusayo Mhango
3.       Eunice Kachipanda
4.       Mababazo Jere
5.       Jessie Mwale
6.       Vitumbiko Lungu
7.       Ribia Phiri
8.       Elton Pwele
9.       Chimwemwe Kalua
10.   Mabuchi Mwafulirwa
11.   Alice Mkandawire
12.   Mc Donald  Kumwenda
13.   Jonathan Jere
14.   Karin  Vernon

1.       Esau Chunda
2.       Austin Makala
3.       Malumbo Kalondola
4.       Jeremiah Kambele
5.       Kondwani  Nyoni

All these students yearn for aid towards school though it may not be easy to provide for everybody at once.

Rev Copeland Nkhata
Francis Mzumara
Leaster Mhone
Peter Botha

Friday, November 06, 2009

Director's Report on National Shalom Summit 2009

Here's my report on last week's National Shalom Summit: 
Shalom Summit 2009 Celebrates Achievements and Envisions Future
Columbia, SC.  If the purpose of a National Summit is to bring together representatives from a national network for a time of community sharing, inspiration, team building, and training, then ‘last weeks’ Shalom Summit fulfilled this purpose and more through onsite participation and live streaming of sessions to those unable to attend in person. Together, they focused on the theme of “Stepping Up To Shalom” – Seeking Systemic Change through Community Development, sponsored by Drew University and General Board of Global Ministries October 28-31, 2009.  

When Global Ministries offered to webcast the Summit, I was delighted.  I knew this was a virtual sign and tangible indication of the success of the Shalom movement.   I think there is sufficient momentum now to ‘step up’ to a new level of web technology for this once small grass roots initiative called ‘shalom zones.’ 

We reached our goal of 250 registrants by mid October.  A total of 275 persons from 26 States attended the event, including: 30 JustUsYouth and 15 Community Developers Associates (two programs of GBGM).   Representing nearly 100 Shalom sites in the national network, the largest group, predictably, was comprised of the 71 from South Carolina Annual Conference which served as host to the national gathering.   North Texas Annual Conference sent 26 Shalom team members to the Summit, followed by 16 from the State of Tennessee, 13 from Baltimore-Washington, and 13 from California.

Webcast Draws 400+ online participants

In addition to the 275 ‘shalomers’ who attended the 3 day Summit at the Radisson Hotel in Columbia, SC,  an additional 400+ participated in the event via streaming video on the internet.   Viewers of the webcast participated in the Summit through two social networks, Facebook and Twitter. According to James Rollins at Global Ministries, "We had a total of 408 online hits over the course of the Summit. There could be multiple viewers on each hit.  It was picked up in 12 countries- but most of the viewership was based in the US."

Four general sessions, two worship services, and the Banquet were broadcast live online through the facilities of the General Board of Global Ministries, the mission agency of The United Methodist Church, and a partner in the sponsorship of Communities of Shalom and the National Summit. The sessions focused on such themes as ‘stepping up’ from social services to peace with justice, prophetic leadership, new shalomzone training units, and the use of web technology to develop Shalom's presence on the Worldwide Web.

Live streaming, also known as webcasting, offers new possibilities for reaching audiences of people unable to attend actual events. The Mission Communications Office of Global Ministries is developing the capacity to offer the option to diverse mission programs and organizations within the United Methodist connection.

"Live streaming is a wonderful tool in the cause of mission but is not intended to take the place of actual participation in mission conferences and other events," said the Rev. Chris Heckert, director of Mission Communications for Global Ministries. "It is an asset to draw in persons who are unable by distance or other factors to be present in person. It extends the reach of mission education and actual participation in mission events."

Recordings of the general sessions will be made available by GNTV and GBGM at 

Inspiring Worship

The two worship services, designed by Rev. Tanya Bennett of Drew University, which opened and closed the Summit, were image-rich, musically engaging, liturgically-diverse, and focused on God’s work in the world. Bishop Gregory Palmer (Chair of the Council of Bishops) preached at the opening service and Bishop John Schol (Chair of the National Shalom Committee) closed the Summit. “This event is tremendous, said Bishop Schol, who once served as national director of the Shalom Initiative and hosted most of the previous Summits.  He said of this year’s gathering: “Not since our Summit in Los Angeles have we had so many participants, and now we truly have moved beyond just United Methodists to include other faith traditions in the spirit of Shalom.  Shalom is still on the loose!  And coming to a community near you.”

Motivational Sessions:
After a spirited concert performed by the 70-voice Claflin University Gospel Choir Thursday night, the Keynote Address was delivered by Bishop Joseph Sprague, who originally called for the creation of a “shalom zone” in 1992 on the floor of the General Conference of the UMC in the immediate aftermath of the social uprising in Los Angeles following the not-guilty verdict of the policemen who beat Rodney King. Sprague inspired the crowd in his impassioned call to prophetic justice, community organizing, prison reform, and seeking systemic change in the church, the community and in the larger society.  Mr. Will Dent, senior program associate and a national trainer, iIn behalf of the National Shalom Committee, presented Bishop Sprague with the first Shalom Dove Award given for prophetic action and community development in seeking systemic change.  The glass crystal award was inscribed with the words:  “Joseph Sprague, Instigator of Shalom, 1992”.

Following the Keynote were remarks by Tanya Bennett and Jayda Jacques of Nine Strong Women—a new shalom team featured in the Sundance documentary “Brick City” about the Newark Mayor’s war on drugs and gang violence and grass-roots efforts to bring peace to the city, produced by Forest Whitaker.  A 10 minute clip of this highly acclaimed series was shown during the program, and the full one-hour of Episode III was shown to the many that stayed after the close of the session.

Enthusiastic response was expressed by participants over the three days after viewing the eight high quality and entertaining YouTube type video clips shown during plenary sessions produced by selected sites, including: Richmond Shalom Farms (VA), Gallatin Shalom Zone (TN), Deaf Shalom Zone (MD), Pharr Literacy Project (TX), Tree of Life Ministry (SD), Nine Strong Women (NJ), Bennettsville Cheraw Shalom (SC), and HopeHomes (Malawi). Each media clip not only profiled the site, but illustrated ways they had ‘stepped up’ to a higher level of shalom ministry in their community.

Celebratory Banquet
At Friday night’s Shalom Banquet, Rev. Kelvin Sauls, Assistant General Secretary, Congregational Development and Racial Ethnic Ministries, GBGM,  presented and preached with great passion from his experience in his native South Africa on the theme of “Shaloming Across Borders" His appreciative audience was on their feet and applauding with delight, which reached it height when Resurrection choir and singers from JustUs Youth led in a final set of energetic praise and worship.

During the celebratory Banquet, a Shalom Dove Award was presented to Rev. Velma Cruz-Baez, pastor of Pico Union United Methodist Church in Los Angeles—one of the original and only surviving Shalom Zones from 1992.  Now known as “Mother Shalom”, the historic site was recognized for its prophetic witness in South Central LA and its achievement in building a 30-unit apartment complex comprised of 2 and 3 bedroom apartments called Casa Shalom, completed in 2006. It has a child care facility operated by Head Start serving 100 children in 3 daily sessions. The Pico Union Shalom Ministry offers programs and services for building residents and community members on site. However, the ‘mother shalom site’ is struggling during the current economic downturn and in its relationship to a highly transitional community in the face of changing district church priorities.

Also during the Banquet a ten minute media clip was shown about the Mzuzu Shalom Zone’s efforts in Malawi to make their orphan care program sustainable for the long run.  This new Shalom Zone and their Hope Home program caring for 100 orphans recently received a $20,000 sustainability grant from UMCOR.

EPIC Training
Whether one accessed the Summit in person or online, the program schedule “was packed with EPIC--experiential, participatory, image-rich and connected—ways of learning,” explained Dr. Christensen.  Four general sessions and eight specialized workshops offered ample opportunities to step up to a higher level of shalom ministry.”  (EPIC is a term coined by Leonard Sweet to describe postmodern pedagogy and mediums of delivery of content previously packaged in modernistic outlines of precepts, propositions and principles of reasoning.)

According written evaluations, the most popular training session was Ted Hart’s “Stepping Up to Web Technology” about how to develop a Shalom presence on the World Wide Web through online fundraising, social networking, and creative ways to attract new constituents by driving them to your website where they can request more information or make a donation.

Another favorite training session was conducted by national trainer, Annie Allen, who reinforced the six threads of Shalom by orchestrating six teams to act out in skits and songs each letter of the SHALOM acrostic:  Systemic change, Health and healing, Asset-Based Community Development, Love for God, self and neighbor, Organizing for direct action, and Multicultural, multi-faith collaboration. Most entertaining, perhaps, was the group that composed a song about asset-based community development.

Specialized workshops were devoted to such topics as:  Green Collar Jobs, Community Mapping, Financial & Administrative Excellence, The UMC Connection--Resources for Community Development, Community-Organizing--A Biblical Theology and Practice of Power,  Sustainability--Funding Shalom Sites,  How to Start a Community of Shalom, and How Walking the Labyrinth can Help Rebuild the Community.  Unpredictably, the most well-received workshop was Walking the Labyrinth.

“Participants expressed genuine delight about the quality of the training and equipping sessions: “Extremely informative, full of useful information, excellent feedback and participation,” said one registrant.  “Good to see Shalom Training adapting to the times,” said another. “Technology the best I’ve experienced at this kind of gathering,” said another.

The National Summit was hosted by the South Carolina Annual Conference which sponsors and supports 33 individual shalom sites in its State?  Columbia, SC was chosen by the planning committee because of its unique rural Shalom sites and their prophetic witness to racial reconciliation and economic community development.  South Carolina was the first Annual Conference to adopt and adapt the urban ShalomZone concept to the rural context in 1994.

The National Shalom Summit 2009 was the eighth national gathering of Communities of Shalom since it began in 1992 in the aftermath of the Rodney King verdict in Los Angeles.   Previous National Summits were hosted in Stamford, Ct (1994), Charleston (1995), Philadelphia (1996), Los Angeles (1997), Houston (1998), Washington D.C. (2002), and Chicago (1997).   Columbia, SC, was chosen for the 2009 Summit, in part, because 30 of the 104 Shalom sites are located in the State.

The next National Summit is scheduled for Fall 2012 in Los Angeles—the birth place of Communities of Shalom.  By then, Dr. Christensen told participants, the three goals of the Shalom initiative should be realized: “Shalom should be ‘green’ with community gardens and organic farms; international with sites not only in Africa but in Korea, Northern Ireland, the Middle East, Central and South America, the Caribbean and other countries where communities have shown interest and requested training;  and interfaith, having moved beyond Methodist to include Jewish, Muslim, and Native American faith communities.”

Background:  Communities of Shalom
Communities of Shalom currently has some 100 sites in the US and Africa. Its work is geared to local community assets and needs. Shalom communities address issues such as poverty, health, housing, micro-enterprise, and legal services for immigrants. The program is especially strong in the South Carolina Annual Conference of The United Methodist Church, which is serving as host for the summit.

The initiative has United Methodist origins but is now ecumenical, or interfaith, in some communities. It was administered for 16 years by Global Ministries and, following a plan to find another institutional partner, is now based at the Theological School of Drew University, Madison, New Jersey.

Communities of Shalom--the name is taken from Jeremiah 29--was initiated by the United Methodist General Conference of 1992 in response to urban conflict in Los Angeles following the acquittal of police officers caught on videotape beating motorist Rodney King. One objective was to bring peace to communities by addressing issues such as economic opportunity and race relations.

It was supported with general church money and administered by the General Board of Global Ministries with the understanding that oversight and funding would eventually be shifted to an institution outside the mission agency. A strong link to Global Ministries continues, since Drew assumed the administration last year. Dr. Michael Christensen of the Drew faculty is the national Shalom executive.

For Further Information, contact Michael Christensen, National Director, Shalom Resource Center, Drew University.   973 408-3738