Tuesday, August 26, 2008

Rio Day 1

August 20, 2008

Richard hall and I arrive in Rio bright and early to be met by Ian Benedict an English speaker born in Argentina and naturalized Brazilian. He was accompanied by Bishop Filadelfo Oliveira Neto, soon to be installed as Bishop of Rio and formerly Suffragan of Reciffe. They dropped us at our hotel but we met up again for lunch with them, Ann Benedict and Filadlefo’s wife Duci at Ian and Ann’s flat in the Gavea section of town.

Our first conversation was wide ranging. My conclusions: The diocese is virtually bankrupt. Clergy have not been paid for a while. Reporting and accounting has been ‘flexible’. Ian is a retired accountant and together with the bishop I am confident they will get that sorted out and audits will become a regular part of life. No one is paying much attention to growing the church or any other strategic thinking about the future. Most of the clergy have taken second jobs to keep food on the table and so are rapidly becoming ‘Sunday only’ priests in some quarters. (Remember these are impressions and my not be accurate.)

I emphasized that it was All Saints’ hope to find a way to be in relationship that could excite our interest and allow friendships to develop. I said (as I usually do) that we believe that gifts flow from relationship and that it is hard for us to enter real relationship when it is structured around hopes and expectations about our providing financial support. I told the bishop that we have plenty of work to do at home that has claims on our money and that every penny is important. At the same time, when mission has ‘a face and name’ and friendship begins to be real then anything is possible. Richard and I are in Rio to see if there is any project of the church that might qualify for MDG funding that could become a focus for our being in relationship with some part of the diocese of Rio. He said that bishop Alexander and he had talked of wanting to develop ‘parish to parish’ relationships.

It is pretty clear from this conversation that we are unlikely to find what we are seeking. Most of the schools are being closed as is their home fro troubled boys called Boystown that has been in existence for over fifty years and which so touched our teenage pilgrims three years ago

It is not clear how many people would call themselves Anglican in this geographically large diocese, or how many people would know that they are served by Anglicans. They do have a plan to ask the Diocese of Atlanta for one year of support for the bishop which they believe would allow them to get on top of a lot of this kind of information and formulate a plan. I doubt that one year is enough to scratch the surface of them becoming self sustaining, but think they could have a viable plan for growth within a year if they choose.

Our global relationship s at All Saints’ do not have to be identical to each other. Our premise is that by relating to Christians in different cultures and circumstance than our own that we will find our faith challenged and deepened. We will have much to receive and possibly find that we have something to offer. Having (or being perceived to have) resources is both a challenge and a blessing: a challenge to make the relationships real rather than utilitarian, and a blessing in that relationship is possible in the first place.

If we are to be or stay in a relationship with this diocese or some part of it, we will be really challenged to consider what is of real importance and what is real good news for our own faith. Thus far I have not heard a story that suggests why anyone should want to be part of a struggling, tiny, hardly noticeable and ‘foreign’ church. Can we inspire the telling of stories by sharing ours? I’m not yet sure.

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