It takes a lot for me to be truly surprised by something anymore. This week, however, I spent a few days at a nunnery in Switzerland for a meeting of leaders in The United Methodist Church's North Africa District. This wasn't the part I found odd. It was when I began to ask more about this monastic order hosting us that I received my shock. These sisters aren't Catholic; they are United Methodist!
This monastic order of deaconesses, the Sisters of Bethesda, started in Strasbourg in 1892 and by 1923 had formed themselves into large communities in both Strasbourg and Bale. The sisters had many vocations--including service in Algeria--between them, and in Bale they even founded a hospital that still stands proud. Next door, the remaining Bale sisters live together in a building designed for the realities of this chapter of their journey together. As their numbers dwindle (now just over 30), empty rooms function as guest housing.
It's bittersweet to be privileged to witness this chapter of something so beautiful as people of faith spending their lifetimes together--sharing their possessions and encouraging one another in their service to humanity. This nomad yearns for such communion.
Thursday, June 18, 2015
|Photos from U.S. Embassy Algiers' Facebook page
Being both a foreign service spouse and a member of a choir whose memberships includes several high-ranking diplomats (led by the British Ambassador), I got to hear--and rehearse-- a number of National Anthems this week. In fact, I was even drafted to be the soloist for the USA's Anthem for their event (had never analyzed until then why that song is so tricky to perform).
I found a sort of spirituality in attending the patriotic celebrations of others and singing their anthems with them. In fact, this week reminded me of the ritual of Passing the Peace in church. Sure, we have our differences and it is frequently difficult to get along, but these embassy receptions aren't simply parties for diplomats, government officials, and key contacts just as Passing the Peace isn't merely shaking hands. It is about setting aside our conflicts for a moment and honoring each other. And if only for just that evening, a world where there is true friendship between all our countries seems possible.
For obvious reasons, we only sing/play the first verse of the Algerian Anthem at all these events.
Posted by Taylor Walters Denyer at 1:31 AM