Sunday, December 17, 2017

Urban Church, Global City: Dolores, Uruguay


"El Granero de Pais"

The city of Dolores, Uruguay, calls itself el granero de pais, that is the barn of the country. It is the center of the surrounding agricultural  area and sits on the left bank of the San Salvador River before it empties into the Uruguay River. 

Dolores' true claim to fame is it's annual celebration to welcome spring every October. For one weekend a year, every other activity  stops and .the  city fills with visitors from all over. 
Festival float
While there are many accompanying activities like carnival games and rides, music, food and drinks, the center piece of the festival is a grand parade that passes through the city's streets.
A grand parade

Ostensibly organized by the lcoal high school students, the hands of the  parents are clearly visible and the students joke abut their parents' intensity about the event. (Something strikes me as universal about that...)One can imagine the fathers who drive the vehicles that haul the giant decorated floats gathering for a beer after. 

The festival is so all consuming if the city that even church  services set aside for the weekend. La Iglesia Valdense, however prides itself  on the massive barbecue it produces. Thanks to a member who donates a whole   cow, and the dedicated  work of a crew of volunteers, it is truly a church activity of another kind truly building...and  And that is typical of this congregation. 

One important strategy for most successful urban ministry is to be engaged in one's community in integral ways.  And this is very much a reality of the way this congregation lives out its ministry. A year ago a tornado touched down in Dolores, a virtually unheard of climatic event. Four people died and some 200 were injured. A third of the people lost their homes A high school was destroyed.
School destroyed by tornado
And the  church itself was blown away.  A terrifying experience for the community.

In talking about the church's response, Pastor Carola Tron quotes Isaiah 44:26:
26 who confirms the word of his servant, and fulfills the prediction of his messengers; who says of Jerusalem, "It shall be inhabited," and of the cities of Judah, "They shall be rebuilt, and I will raise up their ruins"; 

Even while devastated itself,
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the church gathered for worship among the ruins of its sanctuary and turned to serving their neighbors. Only when the neighbors were taken care of did the church turn its attention to its own needs. 
with the people of La Iglesia Valdense de Dolores

Eventually a new functional multipurpose building was constructed making use of what was still usable from the existing community house.  The new bulldog houses worship, fellowship, education and meals. The congregation though small, feels vibrant and united. The response to the tornado and yes, the annual barbecue, show an urban church actively engaged in its community.  (And it was a joy to be accompanied by Juan on cajon when I sang ).
Joined by Juan on cajon

Pastor Carola ...and her sister Claudia in Parana, Argentina...are typical of the dynamic  and creative leadership of women pastors I have met on my visit. Pastor Carola Tron is also currently serving as Moderadora of la Iglesia Valdense del Rio Plate. Such leaders are a rich resource for the Waldensians of the Rio Plate. 

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