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Urban Centers of Influence: a challenge also in Europe

Urban Centers of Influence: a challenge also in Europe

This so-termed “postmodern” outreach approach is inspired by Jesus’ method, found in the New Testament and summarized by the American writer, E.G. White.

September 28, 2017 | Cernica, Romania. | C. Cozzi, CD-EUDNews.

 This could be a simple narration of a recent event in Romania. The event in question was designed to bring together the majority of leaders responsible for projects by the Urban Center of Influence (UCI) of the Inter-European Region (EUD) of the Seventh-Day Adventist Church.

But this is more than just a narration of an event: it is a showcase of a series of concrete experiences and success of the UCI therein represented.

What are the UCI? They are centers located in urban areas with high population density, created with the intent of: serving the local urban community; engaging lay people in these service; planting new groups of Seventh-day Adventist believers among unreached people groups. This so-termed “postmodern” outreach approach is inspired by Jesus’ method, found in the New Testament and summarized by the American writer, E.G. White:

“Christ’s method alone will give true success in reaching the people. The Savior mingled with men as one who desired their good. He showed His sympathy for them, ministered to their needs, and won their confidence. Then He bade them, ‘Follow Me.’”[1]

With this aim, approximately 60 participants from over ten European countries met under the roof of the Adventist Seminary of Cernica, in Romani, from September 20 to 24. The main guests were Jeff Scoggins and Ernesto Douglas Venn, administrative representatives of the worldwide organization of the UCI.

The program provided three significant moments: a general and administrative information meeting on the structures of these centers; the presentation of experiences in the centers that are still functioning; a visit to some of these centers.

The reports presented by the various representatives confirmed that “these centers … feature a wide variety of activities such as lifestyle education, treatment rooms, bookstores, reading rooms, restaurants, literature ministry, lectures, small groups, instruction on preparing wholesome food, and more. The activities of each center will vary depending on an accurate assessment of local community needs.” (As found on urbancenters.org).

Let’s have a rapid overview of some of these projects.

Good food in time

This is a Center of Influence in Buerglen, Switzerland. In this Center, they offer spiritual counselling, Bible readings and German language classes, but mainly, they offer food for the needy. A magazine has been organised and every day, from Monday to Friday, carloads of bread, fruit and vegetables, offered by stores nearby and church members, foster this Center of Influence. The main goal of the organiser, Jorg Fehr, is to reduce poverty in the district where the church is.

Friend of Goodness

This Center of Influence is organised in Ruse, Bulgaria. Born from the interest of two lay members, this Urban Center of Influence offers a combination of activities recognized as services for the local community.

It involves a three-story building bought by a lay member desirous to offer multiple services, including a sewing school, fitness, music, etc.

To be able to finance some of these services, another lay member came up with a plan to set up the first floor as a bakery. This way, clients, at their will, could buy bread, listen to seminars, learn at the sewing school, and participate in fitness and other activities offered. 

Among Jews

This is a Center of Influence among Jews. It is a learning and training center where volunteers and workers must have a basic knowledge of the Hebrew language, Jewish culture and the meaning of contextualisation among Jews. The main training activities are focused on how to visit a Jewish family, give Bible Study, learn Jewish Adventist Liturgy, and so on. The main goal of the organisers is to build bridges with Jews, offering a space where one can find Jewish-Christian literature, Bible courses, health programs, and whatever is helpful to establish this bridge with Adventism and Jewish culture.

Family and Community Center

In Reinach and Wynental Swiss Communities, there are two Centers of Influences focused mainly on family, where all members can find their area of interest, from the children to the grandparents. The activities are selected to meet the needs of the participates. These Centers offer music instruction, programs for overweight children, counselling for newborn babies’ parents, parental training, premarital counselling, family celebrations, cooking classes, and so on.

The main goal is to be a Family Information Center for the community.

Hope Center

The Hope Centers are places where the virtual Hope Community (following the Hope Channel video broadcasting) comes together for real encounters – from the virtual to the real world. It is an integrative mission concept designed to connect the media world with the local church community. These centers, started in Germany this summer, 2017, in Bensheim and Bremen, are developed on three pillars: Life development (health, education, financial planning, languages courses, etc.); Spiritual (spiritual counseling, worship, seminars, etc.); and Social/cultural (programs for women, men, youth, seniors; concerts, book readings, etc.).

Kronsberg life

This Urban Center of Influence was organized in 2005, in the city of Hannover. Everything started with the building of an 18-meter tower, called Kronsberg Life Tower, set as a meeting point for children, youth and family, thus creating a sense of community. Most of the activities are designed to create integration by building relationships between Germans and migrants & refugees. Sports, Scouts programs, outdoor adventure programs for families, education like gardening to learn nature, counselling groups to support parents and children in specific critical life situations, networking especially in refugees’ work, etc.: these are the activities that animate this Urban Center of Interest in Hannover, Germany.

Arcobaleno

The Cooperativa Sociale Arcobaleno is a Center of Influence designed to offer services in favor of minors, seniors, disabled people, and migrants. Among the activities, they provide support for the disabled to find a job, house assistance for the disabled and dependent seniors, support and assistance for minors at risk, distribution of first-rate foods, etc. This Cooperativa is located in Sciacca, Italy, and has a branch in Assoro, Italy.

Podis Health Center

This Center is located in Bacau, Romania. It is mainly a center of health, where people can receive 10-day treatments to regenerate physical, moral and spiritual health. The qualified personal help the participants to care for their body, motivating an holistic healthy lifestyle.

Respiro

Under the motto: Refresh your life, this Urban Center of Influence located in Bucharest’s city center, in Romania, has the purpose to help youth of the city to “recharge themselves, cut out toxic factors, live life to its fullest, discover and experience a new lifestyle, and so on”. The strategy of Respiro is to offer services online (social networks, web pages, library, counselling, magazines, etc.) and offline (tearoom, workshops in schools, youth support center, magazines, counselling for families, premarital counselling, as well as psychological and spiritual support). They organise more than 40 events every year with the intent to help youth live their lives according to the value given by God.

Sola Scriptura

Started in 2001 in Bucharest, Romania, this Urban Center of Influence is mainly oriented to teach the Bible and its values. In partnership with the Publishing House, the 36 Centers around the country are settled as libraries for consulting and/or buying books. The thousands of participants registered in Sola Scriptura can follow courses on the Bible, family, nutrition, health, etc. The strategy of Sola Scriptura also foresees National Camp Meeting, where non-Adventist participants can follow workshops, lectures, small group dynamics, etc., focused on building a strong fellowship besides a healthy spiritual nurturing.

Rise and Walk

Starting in 2010, Romanian pastor, George Uba, organised an association in favour of people with disabilities. In Bucharest, Romania, this pastor and other volunteers opened a center to welcome these special needs people. The project foresees meetings for the exchange of fellowship, music, arts, outreach programs, summer camps, and personal assistance. After 7 years, there are more than 20 centers of influence throughout the country, where more than 4000 participants can meet weekly.

“We need to find the way to reach people that live in our territory and who are citizens of the country,” said Paolo Benini, the organiser of the event. “Immigration in our churches is giving good results to the receiving countries, but not to the original country of this people. For this reason, we are really dedicating ourselves on understanding how to work in Europe and how to face our postmodern society.”

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