By Ruben Sánchez in Barcelona
It was Thursday, the 26th of July, around 9pm when a few twenty-something-year-old church members gathered at a friend’s house in Barcelona for some spiritual time. Before grabbing our Bibles, I opened my notebook and took out my pen as I explained that I had been asked to blog about Adventism in Spain. There I was, ready to write down their thoughts.
“We are kind of afraid of showing who we are as Adventists”, said Marta Muñoz, a 26-year-old award-winning film maker.
“I think there is a lot of escaqueo (skive off work)” interrupted a 25-year-old Ph.D student, Sara Llorca. “Everyone, starting with the pastors down to the laymen, shows a lack of involvement, we tend to think that someone else will do it”.
Ms. Llorca’s opinion is shared by many in Spain. However, official data may show the opposite. According to figures appearing recently in the Spanish Adventist Review, in the last five years church has grown by 906 members each year, (now there are 13.200 total in Spain). The numbers report that tithe collection has recently doubled, from € 4.855.839 in 2001 to € 8.239.338 in 2006.
Considering these upbeat numbers, is Ms. Llorca’s impression wrong?
In an email I got some days later, Isaac Llopis, a 26-year-old, who is close to finish his Ph.D in physics, pointed out that, “our church administrators try to make us happy by giving us general statistics which show the church’s growth in the past five years, but this
change is due to immigration. We would cry if we had the statistics for the native Spanish members”.
Our conversation at friend’s house went on. “Truly, the cultural diversity that immigration has brought is the greatest challenge our church faces”, explained Pablo López, a 28-year-old IT assistant. Immigration is a church issue because it is a country’s issue. Spain has experienced little immigration for the last 500 years, and now suddenly we have to learn how to deal with it.
Offering a suggestion, Mr. López added the church’s bureaucracy should be reduced.
Something that seems harder to do is what Ms. Muñoz, expressed: “women can not be ordained as pastors, and that makes me angry.” Judith de la Fuente, a 19-year-old nursing assistant did not go that far, but still sees the need for change. “Let us update our liturgy”, she exclaimed with a big smile. Adding that in Spain, we still worship with hymns composed centuries ago.
Ms. de la Fuente also said she likes Spanish church activities, something that arose controversy among the group because the big majority of youth activities organized by the Spanish Union are just sporty. Only one is mainly spiritual. Youth evangelism rallies have been non-existent until three years ago when ASI started to support a long evangelism campaign per year. Ms. de la Fuente was in the last one and she loved it.
Another thing made possible by the laity’s initiative and hard work is AEGUAE, an Adventist university students and graduates association which has been around for 30 years. Rarely supported with funds from the Spanish Union, AEGUAE has been the only way in Spain to get the most advanced Adventist thought and intellectual reflection.
Finishing the conversation, we all agreed in one thing the film maker Muñoz said: “We need a more transparent church”. After this experience, it may be good for us to create a blog, post short clips of people explaining how they imagine the church and let people comment on them. What do YOU think?
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I had a dream last night, a dream of General Conference Sessions past and future. I stood in the center of a stadium, packed with people, all captivated by the music and stagecraft in front of them. I looked around and felt a sadness that kept growing inside of me until it was overwhelming.
Some time ago I was sitting in what quite possibly was the most boring church service I have ever been in. (No, I won’t tell you where I was.) There couldn’t have been more than 50 people in the sanctuary, and I’m being generous. We sang no less than 5 hymns. All hymns were sung in a dry, slow manner. The sermon seemed uninspired, barely prepared, and was presented with no sense of conviction. It felt like we were in church for three hours. We were in church for about 70 minutes.