Feature Article No: 06/22
18 October 2022
By Susan Kim (*)
When Tijana Petković thinks about the theme of the upcoming Conference of European Churches (CEC) General Assembly, “Under God’s blessing—shaping the future,” she believes that facing the problems and the ever-present question of theodicy, meaning vindication of God, is incredibly important for Christians.
Petković comes from the Serbian Orthodox Church and serves as vice-chair on the CEC’s Assembly Planning Committee.
“Christ never promised us trouble-free lives, but He promised eternal life and glory for those who endure and overcome troubles and suffering,” she said. “Of course, with His help, we are able to do this.”
She cites John 16:33, "These things I have spoken to you, that in Me you may have peace. In the world you will have tribulation; but be of good cheer, I have overcome the world."
“The first thing that comes to my mind reading this verse is hope,” she said. “To overcome problems and challenges, our faith is crucial because in this way with our faith we can overcome the problems and transform them and at the same time we are being transformed, our character is stronger and our hope is increased.”
As people prepare for the assembly, Petković reminds them that shaping the future implies joint work. “Only united we can make a change,” she said. “That is why the assemblies are offering the perfect possibility to make new friends and colleagues and on a personal level, to overcome our prejudices in order to shape a better future.”
The idea of joint work cannot come only from our "bosses" and heads of the Church, she urged. “This is precisely why such meetings are of great importance,” Petković said. “I see the assemblies as a great platform for discussion and critique, where despite our respected differences we are ready to unite our forces.”
Being a youth representative on the CEC Assembly Planning Committee, Petković has been urging CEC Member Churches to send young delegates and stewards who will shape the future of ecumenical dialogue.
What will it mean, to work “under God’s blessing,” as the assembly theme suggests? “Blessing is mentioned many times in the Bible,” Petković said. “God blesses the creation, including the animals and mankind.”
While a blessing can be about language, or about placing hands, it is most importantly about action, she added.
“I think that the theme is very inclusive and offers the possibility for various interpretations,” she said.
“What I consider to be key is the personal relationship between God and us, without which we would not be able to do anything to shape the future.”
Every decision and action we make—including those at the CEC assembly—will have an effect on us in the future, Petković concluded. “We are blessed, but we must not remain in a passive state of only receiving blessings,” she said. “Instead, we must react and influence the future, and that means giving our best here and now, advocating for peace, building bridges and inspiring others.”
(*) Susan Kim is a freelance journalist from the United States.