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2017 Bulgaria-Romania Provisional Conference


The 65th meeting of Bulgaria-Romania Provisional Conference took place March 30-April 2, 2017, in Pleven, Bulgaria.

This year’s annual conference gathering offered valuable insight into the church life in Bulgaria and Romania, summarized by the Rev. Marietjie Odendaal, a delegate of the Switzerland-France-North Africa Annual Conference.

She discussed how The United Methodist Church in Bulgaria and Romania reflects on its identity, particularly in regard to worship; how the church is looking for ways to deal with administrative barriers and how both males and females are appreciated and how particularly the contributions of women are valued.

 “I heard from both clergy and lay how they invite socially excluded people, particularly Roma, and how they deal with the challenges connected with this ministry,” Odendaal said. She also noted “how hard they work when they start or revive a new church and only have a few co-workers and how ingenious they proceed when it comes to keeping their churches above water.”

Some news in brief:

  • In his report, Superintendent Daniel Topalski described Biblical literacy, an open and authentic fellowship in the local churches, a new access to Holy Communion and an active prayer life as higher priorities than administrative and financial issues.
  • In the area of the ministry with children, youth, and women, there are very diverse programs, encouraging camps and hopeful new beginnings both in Bulgaria and Romania.
  • The diaconal activities are maybe even more colorful — in nursery homes, orphanages, centers for socially deprived children and adults, special schools and prisons. However, the Rev. Ivan Morunov also drew the attention to the testimony of some churches that handed out hot tea in the streets of their neighborhood during winter, proving that a diaconal commitment does not require a huge amount of money.
  • The building of Mizia United Methodist Church, which was destroyed by severe floods in summer 2014, shall be restored during the year of 2017. A substantial grant from Germany will help making the respective plans come true.
  • Ana Marinova and Nina Topalska are part of a team working on a new translation of the Bible, which will be published by the Bulgarian Bible Society.
  • The Theme Day focused on the theme “Worship as a Means of Grace.”
  • A special highlight of the annual conference was the ordination of Vladimir Zhelezov and Milen Stefanov as elders. In addition, Jessica Morris-Ivanova, who is married to a Bulgarian local pastor, was confirmed as pastor on probation.

An annual conference gathering is more than a matter of duty, which one wants to get over and done with as smoothly as possible. Rather, it is an opportunity to experience how diverse the shape and life of The United Methodist Church is. This, Odendaal emphasized, is “an expression of the richness of the kingdom of God.”

— The Rev. Marietjie Odendaal, and Urs Schweizer, assistant to Bishop Patrick Streiff