Pattinasarany was one of 27 students who received certificates for completing studies in ecumenism that have prepared them to become future leaders and ambassadors of the ecumenical movement.
What Pattinasarany means is: “It’s okay to feel uncomfortable but one thing we still have to do is be brave enough to encounter people from the different denominations, to be brave enough to sit together, to be brave enough to pray together.”
That courage is evident in all the graduates, who have experienced the “living laboratory” of ecumenism.
For Elena Onetiu, from the Eastern Orthodox church in Romania, all those “Bossey moments” changed the way she perceived history.
“For me, one of the most important things I learned is about living together, and looking at the history from the other’s point of view—because many time we take history from our tradition and call it the ‘true’ history,” she said. “Here, I learned we have to look from the other’s eyes, and it’s amazing when we can come together to tell the same story with the same voice.”
It’s a matter of trust, chimed in Mareike Rosmarie Meyer, from the Lutheran Church in Germany. “There always needs to be room for development of the trust,” she said. “It’s just not possible to have ecumenism without trust.”
At first, there were a lot of what Meyer calls “sharp moments” among students as they become familiar with each other’s tradition.
“With time, people learned to love the other’s context and confession and tradition—because they started to love one another,” she said.
As the graduates get ready to return home, they are deeply considering how their studies will impact their work in their local contexts.
“I can spread the impact of ecumenical relations between churches,” said Pattinasarany. “That’s an impact I can bring back to my church.”
Meyer said she was able to train herself to stop looking at other’s traditions with negative feelings and thoughts. “It takes an effort and an act of will to look at one another with a loving appreciation or curiosity,” she said. “I think this is shaping me for my future work.”
She also wants to impact others with this positive attitude. “I think this is really changing how I will study,” she said. “It does not make sense to study Protestant theology only—it must be ecumenical theology!”
Onetiu agreed that the time she spent at Bossey helped her to overcome prejudices and to look at her own tradition with a critical eye. “At the same time, I learned to do theology together with the others,” she said.
Pattinasarany agreed. “For me, as a future church leader, Bossey shaped how I look the other person—with more respect.”
Students from 19 countries complete ecumenical studies in Bossey (WCC news release, 31 January 2023)
Photo gallery of the Bossey Ecumenical Institute graduation