Posted by: thebluemusicblog | June 27, 2018


Olav Fykse Tveit is the General Secretary of the World Council of Churches, and a fellow Norwegian. One evening in January we were sitting together, celebrating his birthday, when he informed me about a possible visit of the Holy Father, Pope Francis, to WCC in Geneva. I heard nothing more for a while, until a couple of weeks ago when Olav called me and said that there was one ticket waiting for me, to participate in the morning service in the chapel at the Ecumenical Centre and at a celebratory ecumenical meeting with His Holiness the same afternoon. I had to register with the police to receive clearance for security, and security was very strict, hundreds of police officers were closing down the neighbourhood. After having waited for an hour in the chapel, the Pope came walking in to the chapel and smilingly greeting us all.X+V1%mJMSr+15DuK6r5xRQ

In his address to the ecumenical group, the Central Committee of WCC and we, representatives of sister organisations of WCC, His Holiness said this: “Dear brothers and sisters, allow me to thank you for your commitment to unity, but also to express a concern. It comes from an impression that ecumenism and mission are no longer as closely intertwined as they were at the beginning. Yet the missionary mandate, which is more than diakonia and the promotion of human development, cannot be neglected nor emptied of its content. It determines our very identity. The preaching of the Gospel to the ends of the earth is part of our very being as Christians. The way in which the mission is carried out will, of course, vary in different times and places. In the face of recurring temptation to tailor it to worldly ways of thinking, we must constantly remind ourselves that Christ’s Church grows by attraction.


But what makes for this power of attraction? Certainly not our own ideas, strategies or programmes. Faith in Jesus Christ is not the fruit of consensus, nor can the People of God be reduced to a non-governmental organisation. No, the power of attraction consists completely in the sublime gift that so amazed the Apostle Paul: “to know Christ and the power of his resurrection and the sharing of his sufferings” (Phil 3:10)”


“What is really needed is a new evangelical outreach. We are called to be a people that experiences and shares the joy of the Gospel, praises the Lord and serves our brothers and sisters with hearts burning with a desire to open up horizons of goodness and beauty unimaginable to those who have not been blessed truly to know Jesus.”


“Dear brothers and sisters, I wanted to take part personally in the celebrations marking this anniversary of the World Council, not least to reaffirm the commitment of the Catholic Church to the cause of ecumenism and to encourage cooperation  with the member churches and with our ecumenical partners. In this regard, I would like to reflect briefly the motto chosen for this day: Walking, Praying and Working Together.”



“Walking. Yes, but where? From all that has been said, I would suggest a twofold movement: in and out. In, so as to move constantly to the centre, to acknowledge that we are branches grafted onto the one vine who is Jesus. Out, towards the many existential peripheries of today’s world, in order to join in bringing the healing grace of the Gospel to our suffering brothers and sisters.”

“Praying. In prayer too, like walking, we cannot move forward by ourselves because God’s grace is not so much tailored to fit each individual as spread harmoniously among believers who love one another. Whenever we say “Our Father”, we feel an echo within us of our being sons and daughters, but also of our being brothers and sisters. Prayer is the oxygen of ecumenism.”


“Working together. Here I would like to reaffirm that the Catholic Church acknowledges the special importance of the work carried out by the Faith and Order Commission and desires to keep contributing to that work through the participation of highly qualified theologians.”


Then it was time for the Holy Father to leave the hall and continue the visit in Geneva by attending a service for 40 000 people in Palexpo, the huge exhibition hall in Geneva, where every year one of the most famous car exhibitions in the world takes place.


In my thoughts I went back 6 years, to May 28, 2012, when I visited Buenos Aires and the anniversary of YMCA Argentina.Cardinal Bergoglio was the leader of the Church in Argentina, and he participated in an ecumenical service to celebrate the YMCA anniversary. He is a great friend of the YMCA in Argentina.


During my visit to Buenos Aires Cardinal Bergoglio invited me for an official audience, and we were talking together for more than an hour, He made a solid impression on me, he was genuinely interested in young people and the work of the world wide YMCA among young people. He asked a lot of questions and we shared a number of aspects related to YMCA and church.


A few months later I realised how small the world is and how intertwined we are with one another, like wheels turning around and around and moving one another. Late one evening we were sitting in front of the television screen waiting for the white smoke coming from the chimneys in the Vatican to announce the successful election of a new Pope. The small window went up and there I saw the new Pope. All the others in our room asked who that was, and I could immediately answer that this is the Cardinal from Buenos Aires, Cardinal Bergoglio, and I told with some pride that I had visited him a few months earlier, and that he was a friend of the YMCA!


In his final speech to us in Geneva, Pope Francis said: “Let us encourage one another to overcome the temptation to absolutise certain cultural paradigms and get caught up in partisan interests. Let us help men and women of good will to grow in concern for events and situations that affect a great part of humanity but seldom make it to the front page. We cannot look the other way.” It is problematic when Christians appear indifferent towards those in need.”

“The Lord, the Good Samaritan of mankind (cf. Lk 10:29-37), will examine us on our love for our neighbour, for each of our neighbours (cf. Mt 25:31-46). So let us ask ourselves: What can we do together? If a particular form of service is possible, why not plan and carry it out together, and thus start to experience a more intense fraternity in the exercise of concrete charity?”

Posted by: thebluemusicblog | April 28, 2018


From the very first welcome at the airport in Chiang Mai you feel extraordinary welcome. Thailand is all about friendship, smiles and hospitality. Rachan, who is sitting at my left hand side on the photo below, is the symbol of all of those values. The rest of Rachan’s team of local YMCA staff and volunteers are working extremely hard to make the whole world feel welcome in Chiang Mai when the world comes visiting this summer, beginning July 8.

Jose Varghese is my staff member responsible to lead the technical and programmatic preparations for the 19 th World Council in Chiang Mai this summer. He and Andrew McKenzie and I flew to Chiang Mai this month to visit all sites, to meet with key people from local authorities and to get the final overview of how the preparations are going. Entering the lobby of the main conference Hotel Empress, I immediately felt the welcoming atmosphere. I was expected and welcomed like an old friend.

Already the same day we started the meetings with the hotel staff and the conference centre staff. We walked through the whole hotel from basement to the top floor and identified meeting rooms for groups, special events and seminars.

Later on we did the same with the three magnificent floors of the conference centre. The staff was extremely helpful and flexible, and we were able to solve most of our challenges and get answers to all our questions.

One of the challenges we sought to solve, was to find a good place for the group photo, Big enough and close enough to the centre not to waste too much valuable time. Here Andrew is on the top of the world testing the photo opportunities – a real Kodak moment!

We spent a lot of time in the main conference hall discussing how to put the chairs, the size and strength of the stage, arrangements for sound and light, translation and video screens. We have excellent partners both from Bangkok and Chiang Mai to help us deliver technical solutions!

In these days with all kind of unrest we have to think seriously about safety and security. Therefore we were received by the local Police Force and had a very informative meeting with the responsible leaders of the Police as well as with the group of Police officers identified to work together with us during the World Council.

This is the Captain leading the group working with the YMCA. It turned out that his son is learning English in the local YMCA!

This is from the meeting in the Police headquarter where we established an excellent relationship with the leaders f the Police.

We met with 25 members of staff of the local YMCA, working extremely hard to prepare all the different details of a huge event like the World Council is. Not the least all the excursions are a huge challenge. We are going in tuc- tucs and red taxis, in mini busses and large busses and we are going to a wide variety of exciting places to study the impact of the social change programmes of Chiang Mai YMCA. It will be a day to look forward to!

In between we have new meetings with the hotel staffs from three different hotels to coordinate meals and transport and added services. It all goes well and we are all the time dealing with excellent professionals in the tourist industry.

Finally we got together for a last group photo before we are driven to the Airport. 70 days to go to the 19th World Council.

You are warmly welcome to Chiang Mai! We shall be ready for you!

Posted by: thebluemusicblog | March 22, 2018


It has always been clear to us that young people need empowerment. It was equally clear to us that the small and medium size National YMCAs also needed empowerment – they needed a place around the tables of power and influence. To give them that, we needed to see them every year at least once.


Michal presenting the refugee project

We knew that it would take time, but we believed that the regularity of the annual NGS-meetings would help change the situation in a good way.


Denise from England and Wales

It was very interesting to listen to the opinions of the National General Secretaries from five continents. The first meeting in Dunford House in England was very positively evaluated – it was obviously meeting a strong need for people working lonely jobs.


Alexei from Russia

At the end of the first NGS meeting it was unanimously declared that annual meetings were needed to strengthen the unity in the movement and to give all of us the necessary feeling of belonging to the larger context of YMCA in the world.



Nikos Bibiris from Greece

The principle was going to be the same: A host movement would pay for the meeting cost together with WAY and making the meeting free of cost for the participants.


What is building up in our garden?

Travel was to be paid by the participants, but bursaries were given according to the travel policy of the WAY. Lack of funds should not make participation in the NGS meetings impossible. These meetings were regarded top priority and therefore given a line in the budget.



A hamburger shop!

In 2014 the NGS meeting met in Kassel, Germany, hosted by the German YMCA. We also met at the World Council in Estes Park, Colorado, in the summer of 2014.



Ernesto from Mexico

In 2015 we met in Mexico, hosted by Ernesto (picture above!), in 2016 in Thailand, Chiang Mai and in 2017 in Tanzania, at the foot of Mount Kilimanjaro. Every year the meeting grew larger.


Michal and Selma from our staff

These meetings have been instrumental in bringing NEW WAY and OUR WAY strategies through to implementation in the national movements around the world and also to bringing us a huge group of fabulous Change Agents.


The whole group (almost) of National Secretaries

A growing number of National YMCAs have decided to align their National Strategies with the World strategies, thereby strongly strengthening the unity of the movement! None of these important developments would have happened without the annual NGS meetings.


Gwenael from Haiti

In 2018 we met in Leysin in the Swiss mountains just above Montreux. A record breaking number of 60 leaders of National Movements, Area Movements and the World Alliance first met at the headquarter of the World YMCA in Clos Belmont 12, Geneva, for a welcome party in our offices.




Peter Dinsdale from Canada

Since our office would be too small for a dinner party for 60 people, we hired the only hamburger wagon in Geneva to come to our garden and they served burgers and soft drinks until we had fed YMCA leaders from 5 continents.



Antonio from LACA

From there we went into the beautiful, mighty mountains of Switzerland to celebrate our achievements together and to prepare for the 19th World Council in Chiang Mai, Thailand, July 8-14, 2018.



Jared from Kenya

In the middle of that conference we took the cable cars to the top of the mountains and had a spectacular view of the Swiss Alps in splendid sunshine. It was a mountain top experience in more ways than one!



During the NGS meeting we prepared for the collective story of all the National Secretaries: Our joint travel through Youth Empowerment. It will the performed at the World Council in Chiang Mai July 8-14 this summer, all the National Secretaries on stage at the same time!


Romulo and Carlos from our staff, and I am proud and very happy to introduce Carlos Sanvee as my follower as Secretary General! Great news!

A few of us made an extra excursion to the Ice Cathedral in Leysin to estimate if it would be large enough to host one of the devotions during the meting.


It was very special and vey beautiful, even if it was one of the coldest churches I have ever visited.


Unfortunately it was too small to host 60 people at the same time, but many others from the group made a visit to this excellent place of worship. It is rebuilt every winter!


Carlos, Romulo, Humbly Yours, Jose and Andrew from our staff team

Having been to church, all of us fell for the temptation to use the ice glider down from the mountain top. We rented a rubber wheel to slide on and went for the adventures!


It was great fun, after the first feeling of panic had left our body, mind and spirit and we were just gliding beautifully down the ice in warm afternoon sunshine.


More preparations for the collective story of the Journey through Youth Empowerment!


Enjoying the mountain top experience and good friendship together with Jose!XH7iqNcLSs+JsQ22EWiiOA

Christian Kamara from Sierra Leone. Together with colleagues listening to the wisdom of Jørgen Kvist from Denmark.

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