Saturday, October 28, 2017

Urban Church, Global City: The Flores Neighborhood, Buenos Aires


With the Flores community

Flores is a Buenos Aires neighborhood perhaps now best known as the home parish of Pope Francis. The Roman Catholic basilica
The Basilica in Flores
is first place I’ve seen statues of modern saints like Pope John Paul II
John Paul II
and Mother Theresa
Mother Theresa
as well as paintings of Francis.
Pope Francis

But there are other churches on the Plaza as well. The Flores Valdensians share in the diaconal ministry of the Methodist Church
La Iglesia Metodista de Flores
that so openly shares its life in every way with the community around it. When more homeless people came to the plaza, the Methodist church resisted the fencing of the plaza. But even after the fence, it has kept it's doors open. The pastor
a visit with the pastor
warmly greets those who have come for food and and joins in the casual conversation, at ease among friends. The open space beside the church is shared by children and sports activities.
An open space to play
Here is a classic example of an urban church whose walls are porous, where there is no boundary between church and community. And the pastor knows well that often ministry is defined buy how you respond to the knocks on your door.  And when the doors are open….so much more so.  

This is truly ministry in context, with a social worker, outreach to children and single mothers, and a market for artisans. The church is navigating creatively the reality of living in a middle class neighborhood which is not comfortable withth people who gather on its plaza. 

A symbol of that ministry is the annual  Christmas Eve service held outdoors in the plaza with. persebre viviente (live manger scene) with members of the  plaza community as the holy family and visitors…Christmas Eve ends with some and then breaking of bread together..


Perhaps its a sign of the dedication of the Flores community of la Iglesia Valdense
a dinner conversation
that we meet on a night when Argentina is playing for its survival against Peru in a World Cup qualifying match. We gather in their space at CAREF  for a dinner and conversation. 

Even though small in number, the Flores community is young and diverse with a richness of skills and talents and a passion for ministry. It is highly educated with a large number of  current and recent students. There are, for example:

  • A young man who has lived in voluntary simplicity and is committed to solidarity with the poor
  • A young  woman who describes herself as “an atheist and a theologian”
  • A church journalist and communications expert
  • Musicians, singers
    a song before dinner
  • Young professionals
  • People who ask serious questions about faith and society

The community has also recently opened  its arms and embraced a woman who has a very complex, challenging and emotionally trying  set of circumstances related to immigration and status.  As she seeks to get her feet on the ground and find an effective strategy, she feels welcomed and accepted as a member of la familia.

This small but vibrant group is attracting young adults from outside the Waldensian tradition, including former Catholics. Not burdened by having to maintain building, there is more energy for an engaged living out of the gospel. There would seem to be a bright and open future for this Flores community. 


Oh...and the Argentina team is still alive!

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