December 2015 / January 2016 - Vol. 83
European CCR conference in Warsaw, Poland
European CCR Conference - Christof Hemberger (right center) and
Bishop Bronislav Dembowski (left center)
. . I came to bring fire to the earth!
Luke 12:49

A brief report and reflection on the CCR European Conference
held in Warsaw, Poland, October 1-4, 2015

edited by Don Schwager

This past October, Tony Laureys, senior coordinator of Jerusalem Community in Belgium, and Don Schwager, from Servants of the Word in London, were invited to give a couple of workshops for the European CCR conference which was held in Warsaw, Poland. Tony organized a workshop on "Covenant Communities Case Study: The Sword of the Spirit." He was joined by his wife, Myriam, and by Daniel Spokoinyi from Belgium and Michael Jordan from Glasgow who both helped to facilitate the workshop. Don gave a workshop on "How to Read and Study the Word of God in the School of the Holy Spirit". The following is a brief report on the conference theme and overall sessions.

Some 500 people from more than 35 countries in Europe met for four days last October to worship and seek the Lord together and hear what God is doing in the charismatic renewal in Europe. The conference took place in Warsaw, Poland. Christof Hemberger, a German deacon who works for the International Catholic Charismatic Renewal Services office in Rome, led the conference. (Christof and his wife have two young children).

Christof gave the opening address at the beginning of the conference. He spoke of a new fire and work of the Holy Spirit bringing renewed life and energy to groups throughout Europe. He contrasted the old picture of a tired Europe with a renewed movement of the Spirit that is reaching many young people as well as older people who are coming together to promote charismatic renewal and the Life in the Spirit seminars, and the gifts of the Spirit. This is a season of building bridges among Catholics, Protestants, and Orthodox to support, encourage, and strengthen the charismatic renewal movements in Europe.

Christof remarked that many people have called Europe the old and feeble lady and it has often felt like that even in the charismatic renewal, But God is very much on the move here. Christof remarked, "When you are in the desert, you must not forget that there is a Promised Land ahead! It is time to regain our Promised Land as the charismatic renewal movement in Europe! It is time to focus again on the Lord instead of on our own problems and the poverty we experience. It is time to live and serve in the power of the Holy Spirit again!"

Tony Laureys and
                          Michelle Moran
Michele Moran (President of ICCRS) and Tony Laureys (Jerusalem Community, Belgium)

Two of the keynote speakers for the conference, Dr. Johannes Hartl, a married theologian from Augsburg, Germany and Dr. Mary Healy, who teaches at Sacred Heart Seminary in Detroit, Michigan, USA, both highlighted the challenges facing Europe and the work of the Holy Spirit who is on the move to renew, restore, and build bridges across Europe.

The Fire of the Holy Spirit Can Change Europe

"I am convinced that true renewal in faith only comes from a personal relationship with Jesus. And this in turn grows decisively in prayer.

For that reason, the return to prayer, to personal discipleship with Jesus is the most urgent and important concern of the moment.

We have to look at things soberly, watching the direction in which our western society is drifting. But our response can never be mere despair or mere militancy, but must be an inner renewal in the only thing that can change Europe: The fire of the Holy Spirit.

God is just as powerful in Europe as He is in Africa or Asia. He can do the same things. If we take Him at his word, believe and pray."

Dr. Johannes Hartl, quote from interview with

Dr. Johannes HartlDr. Johannes Hartl spoke on Friday morning at the conference. He shared his testimony of how the Lord led him, along with his wife and their four growing children, into the charismatic renewal and the House of Prayer movement where people pray around the clock 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. Johannes established a House of Prayer in 2005 in Augsburg.There are currently 20 full-time volunteer missionary intercessors and 70 part-time volunteers, mostly young people, who devote four hours each day to intercessory prayer and worship in the House of Prayer center in Augsburg. Last year they organized a charismatic European House of Prayer conference for 5,000 young people from across Europe. This coming January they are planning a European House of Prayer conference for 6,000 - 7,000 young people. God is on the move and many young people are responding.

Dr. Hartl addressed the current situation going on in Europe the influx of refugees, major social changes in society, and challenges facing the churches and the charismatic renewal. Johannes asked the audience, "How should Christians respond to the crises we face here?" Johannes presented two options that Christians throughout history have had to choose between. The first option is to look to the Lord and be strengthened in him - and to see how the Lord is working today to advance his kingdom and to equip his people with spiritual power to live and proclaim the Gospel.The second option is to be timid, fearful and anxious - and to look for a comfortable place of distraction or retreat from the problems and turmoil around us. 

Johannes remarked that Option 1 ("Be strengthened in the Lord") is always better than option 2 ("Be fearful and anxious for the future"). He asked: "What is better: Christians who react to the crisis in Europe with fear? Fear and anxieties always lead people into slavery. It is much better to live in the freedom of the sons and daughters of the Lord! ["For freedom Christ has set us free, do not submit again to a yoke of slavery..." Galatians 5:1] Only then can we face the problems of today and to see the victory which the Lord has for us just as David experienced when he faced the giant Goliath!"

Johannes continued: The world is changing, but let us not make the mistake of trying to live a comfortable life the Gospel is always challenging us calling us to move forward!

At the end of his talk, Johannes mentioned three areas he thinks the charismatic renewal needs to focus on: (1) more clear biblical and practical teaching, (2) more encouragement to grow in a deep prayer life, and (3) gifted leaders who are courageous and faithful to the Lord.

Dr. Mary Healey from
                          Detroit, Michigan USA
Dr. Mary Healy, who teaches at Sacred Heart Seminary in Detroit, Michigan USA
was one of the keynote speakers

Dr. Mary Healy (Michigan, USA), chair of the Doctrinal Commission of ICCRS, spoke about living in the power of the Holy Spirit: "The Holy Spirit is the only answer for the problems of today! The Lord is calling us to live in this current of grace. There are so many people around us who do not know God! The new evangelization can only be done in the power and leading of the Holy Spirit! "

Mary Healy encouraged everyone to not neglect the baptism in the Spirit and the charismatic gifts of the Holy Spirit. She stated emphatically: "The supernatural must be NORMAL for us Christians!" Mary gave a number of inspiring personal examples to show how the supernatural can become a more natural part of our daily life and witness to others.

Monsignor Wilfred
                          Brievens and Archbishop Kevin McDonald
Monsignor Wilfred Braevens (right) from Brussels was the oldest European participant who was baptized in the
Spirit in 1973 in Ann Arbor, Michigan, USA. He is joined by Archbisho Kevin McDonald from England (left)

A number of afternoon workshops were offered to help participants go deeper into the conference themes and understanding of the role and gifts of the Spirit.

There were some very inspiring testimonies from Malta (Life in the Spirit seminars for priests and bishops) and from Slovakia (a work of reconciliation in society and unity among Christians from different churches cooperating together to bring about reconciliation).

Two bishops participated in the conference, Bishop Bronislav Dembowski from Poland and Archbishop Kevin McDonald from England. A few other bishops from Poland who have a close connection with the charismatic renewal in Poland also visited and joined in the Eucharistic celebrations.

On Friday evening Monsignor Miguel Delgado (Pontifical Council of Laity, Vatican) gave a  presentation and summary of church statements in support of the charismatic renewal. 

Each evening session ended with a lengthy time of charismatic praise and worship, followed by ministry and praying over individuals. Praise and worship was led by "Jacobs Ladder," a lively and enthusiastic group of young charismatics from the Netherlands who helped us to enter into the presence of the Lord in a powerful way throughout the conference.

During the closing session of the conference, Michelle Moran (England, president of ICCRS), encouraged all who were present to go and live in the power of the Holy Spirit. "Of course in Europe we live in difficult times today! But we can learn from many of our sisters and brothers from other continents as well: Where there is persecution, faith is rising! Yes, Europe is a weak and sometimes difficult continent but God has not forgotten Europe! Those who focus only on their problems will only see their problems! Whoever is not looking ahead lacks vision! God wants us to live in the freedom of the sons and daughters of God and in the power of his Spirit! Let us return home, strengthened by this sign of hope which the Lord gave to us during these last days! "

Christof Hemberger summarized the aim and fruit of the conference: "This weekend in Warsaw was truly about focusing on our identity and calling as a charismatic renewal movement of the Holy Spirit."

[photos by Myriam Laureys]

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