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Victoria reverend speaks about Geneva meeting

By Jennifer Lee Preyss
April 3, 2011 at 10:03 p.m.
Updated April 2, 2011 at 11:03 p.m.

Rev. Whitney Wilkinson, Presbyterian Church U.S.A. minister, speaks about her experience  during the 2011 World Council of Churches meeting in Geneva, Switzerland at a noon luncheon  at First Presbyterian Church on Sunday.  Rev. Wilkinson was among 15 young adults selected worldwide to take part in the Stewards Programme at the World Council of Churches Central Committee meeting in Geneva, Switzerland.

She's 5 feet 1 inches tall, but the Rev. Whitney Wilkinson's size doesn't prevent her from sharing a big message of God with Christians around the globe.

On Sunday, the native Victorian brought her message to First Presbyterian Church on Navarro Street, discussing a recent trip to Geneva, Switzerland, where she served as a steward for the World Council of Churches.

"Can everyone hear me? I know I'm small, but I'm good at projecting," Wilkinson, 29, said.

Fifteen international young adult Stewards were chosen to attend the council's 2011 Central Committee Meeting, and Wilkinson was one of them.

"It was kind of an exciting invitation to get, really," Wilkinson said. "It's a wonderful place, a wonderful experience and I won't ever forget it."

For three weeks in February, Wilkinson served at the council with international Christians of all denominational backgrounds, she said. The council, which includes 349 member churches from around the world, meets each year to discuss and carry out policies adopted by the council's assembly.

Wilkinson's role, she said, was to assist with worship services.

"Worship was an absolute amazing experience there. You had this very rich diversity of worship," Wilkinson said, describing the services led in multiple languages and musical styles. "It had this Pentecost feeling to it, like this is what it's like to hear God's people sing together in all languages."

And while Wilkinson briefly described Geneva's sprawling mountain views, world-famous Swiss chocolate and European settings, she said what she'll most remember of the trip, are those she served with.

Going through a slide-show of photos, Wilkinson reflected on the friendships she formed with other stewards: the Methodist woman from Sri Lanka who dressed her in a sari; Dalibor, the Serbian Orthodox priest in training, who exhibited a gentility she'd never experienced before, and the Columbian Presbyterian who continuously played music throughout the trip.

"That is what I'm going to remember. The faces of the people I met," she said.

Beyond the international relationships she formed, Wilkinson was also introduced to a variety of international Christian traditions, such as the Orthodox tradition of candle-lighting when entering worship.

"It's a way of saying that God is in this place and I am in this place," Wilkinson said of the candles. "And that's the best way I can describe the Council of World Churches. It's like lighting a candle. It's like saying God is here and we are here. It's the one voice of unity in Christianity around the world."

When Wilkinson returned to the United States six weeks ago, she was asked by the council to participate in a six-week Bible study about building just communities of men and women with two co-Stewards from Haiti and Serbia.

"I'll meet with my study group Thursdays on Skype and then I'll get together with the stewards and we'll discuss what we've learned from the study," she said. "The whole point of the study is to understand cultures, build relationships and interfaith dialogue."

Once the Bible study concludes next week, Wilkinson and the other Stewards will submit an official report to the council, she said.

Wilkinson concluded the presentation by asking the church body to get involved with the world council.

"I encourage you to get as involved as you can," she said. "I think when we can become this one body of Christ, Jesus is really happy about it."



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