Students from the continents graduating at world churches school urged to take ecumenical message to world

(Photo: Vatican Media)Students from the Ecumenical Institute at Bossey outside Geneva with Pope Francis during a visit to Rome in January 2024.

The smiles of students graduating from the Ecumenical Institute at Bossey picking up their credentials showed they experienced something unique that will bind them as they return to their different corners of the world.

On Jan. 26, Bossey hosted its Graduation Ceremony, for students of Ecumenical Studies at the institute run by the Geneva-based World Council of Churches, that represents more than half a billion, Anglican, Orthodox and Protestant Christians.

Students received the 2023-2024 Certificate of Advanced Studies and the Complementary Certificate in Ecumenical Studies in picturesque Bossey outside Geneva on a chilly 26 January evening overlooking Lake Geneva and flanked by alpine mountains.

Rev. Kuzipa Nalwamba, WCC programme director for Unity, Mission, and Ecumenical Formation, and Prof. Elisabeth Parmentier from the University of Geneva presented the students with their credentials after a prayer ceremony in the chapel.

Nalwamba, from the United Church of Zambia, noted that in a setting such as Bossey, the transformation that takes place is not just in the one who is being hosted but also in the one who is hosting, so the learning is a two-way process.

WCC pilgrimage

"The WCC has embarked on a Pilgrimage of Justice, Reconciliation, and Unity. I invite you to continue on that pilgrimage, whatever that represents, in the context in which you are going to serve," said Nalwamba.

Parmentier said, "Being ecumenical means simply being human and open to humanity."
She explained that the quest for ecumenism and this pilgrimage requires translation and transformation.

"We need translation, to learn more about the other church in its otherness, and about the life of the others—the way we think they reflect, believe, and act—it needs translation, hermeneutics, interpreting," said Parmentier.

The world needs a new generation of ecumenists trained to translate the message.
"When you feel alone in your own way, in your own country, think that there are many people who stay together and stand together for reconciliation."

Academic Prof. Simone Sinn said the staff works with students in the classroom and also with relationships. In a parting message for the students, she spoke about the "ABCs of ecumenism."

She explained that the three words "agency, boldness, and commitment" are what she experienced at Bossey and encouraged the students to take that back home.

"The first word, 'A' for agency, inspiring confidence. And this is what education is about...This is what Bossey is about. It's about inspiring confidence in our students so they can act with agency, stand on their own feet, and be confident," said the dean.

The 'B' is for boldness, said Sinn.

"Ecumenical pioneers have to be bold, and their humanism needs to continue to be bold. This means that we will be edgy; we will call for justice; we will strive for justice, and we will have people who will confront us with questions, and continue to do so," said the dean.

"And finally, 'C'—commitment to one another. It's not just a tactical move or a strategic move. We work together with other churches; it's a profound commitment that comes out of the commitment to Christ."

Graduating student Rev. Shengmin Huang from China's Northeast Theological Seminary said, "Although we are different and have different concepts, we can move towards unity together as we set sail together; progress may be slow, but it will never cease."

For students from the Ecumenical Institute at Bossey, attending a Sunday mass at which Pope Francis presided in the Basilica of St Peter, Vatican during the week of Christian unity forged a special memory about bringing churches together as their studies were ending.

For many students, it was the end of their ecumenical studies at Bossey, which draws students worldwide.

Rev. Jackie Makena Mutuma, a master's student from the Methodist Church in Kenya, blogged after the week-long visit, "The ecumenical pilgrimage also led us to a profound realisation – that every Christian is an integral part of the mission of God (Missio Dei)."

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