Summer Academy on Diaconia 2019 has concluded in Nanjing

Held on September 13 to 19 at the Nanjing Union Seminary, the intense training included lectures and discussions on the Diaconal church, Biblical Reflections on the SDGs 2030, Spiritual and Psychological preparations for diaconal practitioners.

Prof. Tian Rong of Nanjing University’s Social Work Department, gave an introduction about “The Family and Social Work”, and Ms. Zhang Lanying, a consultant and environmental expert of the Liang Shuming Rural Reconstruction Center in Beijing, gave a presentation on Waste Management. The purpose of the training was to better equip diaconal workers in Chinese churches where there has been growing involvement in serving the needs of those with disabilities and who are socially marginalized.

In his presentation on the Diaconal Church, Prof Kjell Nordstokke of the Diaconia University in Oslo stressed the inter-relationship of worship, proclamation and diaconia as essential parts of what it means “to be church”. Taking a holistic view of being “church” today requires concern for the Sustainable Development Goals 2030 that provide an important reference and framework for Christian participation in diaconia. He provided biblical reflections of each of the 17 goals of the SDGs 2030, combining it with a history of Christian involvement in diaconia.

Rev. Peng Huai Bing and Ms Grace Tsang lectured on “The qualifications, qualities, equipment and self cultivation of a Servant”. They shared their experiences and advice on how Christians can prepare themselves psychologically and spiritually for their often challenging tasks in diaconia, through prayers, meditation and biblical reflections and also awareness and sensitivity in relating to others. Participants were then exposed to some of the social realities in China today. Sharing her rich experience in social work research and practice, Prof. Tian Rong introduced some basic concepts and ideas of the family, its changing composition and understanding, the new challenges and needs given China’s rapid industrialization and urbanization. Changing concepts of marriage, high divorce rates, new ideas of gender and relationships, parental neglect, domestic violence against women and children, the challenges of a rapidly aging society were topics that were introduced.

Ms. Zhang Lanying demonstrated what participants could do in addressing the urgent need to combat climate change and the dramatic destruction of the environment and God’s creation in the last 50 years. Demonstrating how waste management had been done in parts of Yunnan Province in recent years, she encouraged participants to implement waste segregation in their own homes and to advocate this in their own churches and neighborhoods. This sparked great interest and some participants have already vowed that they will make their congregations among the first “green churches” in China.

There were 30 pastors, church leaders and lay workers who came from provincial and local churches in 9 provinces in China from the south to the north: Guangdong, Jiangsu, Sichuan, Henan, Shaanxi, Gansu, Jilin, Shandong and Liaoning. Also taking part in the training were students of Nanjing Union Theological Seminary (NJUTS), where a course on “Diaconia” has been newly introduced this year. Around 20 students from undergraduate and graduate courses sat in the lectures which were held in meeting rooms of the seminary’s new annex. Rev Shen Zhanqing and Ms. Shine Xie Xiaoxuan were the main coordinators of this Amity program which is co-hosted by NJUTS, and is now in its second year.

by Theresa Carino