From beauty to struggle, Brazil has much to teach Anglican youth—and inspire
Days 4 and 5 have been busy for the small group of Anglican young adults gathered in Rio de Janeiro for the Anglican World Youth Encounter, and they will keep getting busier. The highlight of Day 4 was an ecumenical worship service at the Anglican Cathedral of the Redeemer in Tijuca. Around 30 people joined together to worship, led by two brothers from the Rio de Janeiro Taize community. Diocesan bishop Filadelfo Oliveira also joined the service. Afterward, the group joined thousands to line the streets nearby to wait—in the rain—for a glimpse of Pope Francis as he passed by. One of the Anglican youth in attendance, Alice Christofi, a London native currently studying in Italy, has had the opportunity to see Pope Francis a couple of times already, but said it was “still a feeling of being drawn to it… the first glimpse of the change he is hopefully going to bring. We’ve had a bit of a glimpse of that in the Diocese of Europe already…but for many people here it was their first encounter with him.”
Day 5 was a visit to the City of God. First attending afternoon prayer at Christ the King parish, led by parish priest Rev. Nicholas Wheeler, the group then learned about the history of the parish and the community. City of God is a housing estate built in 1966 on the edge of the city to provide accommodation for people on low-incomes but became home to the residents of some 67 favelas, or shanty towns, when government embarked on a policy of slum clearance in the wealthier parts of the city. Flood victims added to the number.The Anglican church, having had a presence in one of those expulsed communities, also migrated to this new home, and in the early 1970s purchased the property on which the Parish Church of Christ the King now sits. The present church was built in 1991. For more than 40 years the Anglican parish has faced the troubles that the entire community has endured—violence, drug trafficking, security issues—but continues to be a strong community presence. As Rev. Nicholas said that afternoon, “If the church doesn’t stay in places like this, then what on earth are we doing? How does the church have integrity…if not in places like this?”
Afterward, Rev. Nicholas took the group on a tour of the neighborhood, starting in the area closest to the church, and eventually ending up in a much poorer part. Some houses are little more than crudely built shacks, while others have walls & foundation of concrete, but are rather simple, only a small living room, kitchen, bathroom and bedroom. There are many roads that have been recently paved—a government initiative in preparation for the World Cup and improving the country’s image—but there are many byways that, these rainy days, have been reduced to muddy alleyways. On their tour, the group encountered a parishioner who welcomed them to her home for coffee. Though a group by then of some twelve, this was of no consequence. For Helen Wolstencroft from the Diocese of Guildford, England, she found herself very much struck by the generosity and hospitality the group encountered. Her first time in Brazil, she never considered herself the type to take the leap of faith to travel so far and have such an experience as this, but now she finds herself very moved and inspired by her experiences thus far. As the group prepares for more activities, including joining thousands in the Pope’s evening vigil on Saturday, they find themselves reflecting much and deepening their fellowship in this short time together. It is our prayer and hope that they continue to be challenged, strengthened and inspired.
by Nina Boe