„YMCA Europe is a working fellowship to strengthen movements where people grow in body, mind and spirit.“


20th May 2020

The Ecumenical Thanksgiving Service was hosted by World YMCA on May 20th. We are thankful to Steve Clay and the Planning Team working in excellent cooperation with World YMCA and the Area Organizations.

Immediately after Asia, the dramatic journey of the pandemic continued and reached Europe.

From the Mediterranean region to the nations in the East, from central Europe to Scandinavia, from the Caucasus across the English Channel and from the Balkans to the Baltic sea. Over two million people infected and close to 170.000 have died until today. Our prayers have remained with all those affected in Europe and across the world.

The virus does not respect borders, cultures, social conditions, religions, ages …not even different governmental approaches. Europe stopped, just like the entire world did. Several generations had never experienced such an uncertain time in our continent.


Interdependence and vulnerability. Very few times in our history both concepts were so strongly connected. At all levels, humanity depends now on the behavior of each person and still isolation is a mandate in many of our societies.

New words have become a daily habit for us. And behind each of those words, there is an enormous list of articles, researches and proposals. “Unpredictable”, “spread”, “invisible enemy”, “mobility”, “social distance”, “crisis”, “new normal”… future!

Across Europe search for answers listening to the messages of leaders, institutions and scientists.  As Christians we turn our eyes to God, praying in the confidence of His love, thanking Him, seeking for protection, hope and courage.

The pandemic has directly affected many YMCAs in Europe. The largest and the smallest associations, the federations and the centralized models, local YMCAs, national coordination structures and international platforms.

Since the beginning of the crisis, our surveys show the impact on colleagues serving at all sorts of community projects and services. It is affecting our youth groups, our accommodation programs, training sessions, camps… It is also questioning our own sustainability, the relationship with key stakeholders and our international partnerships.

And yet, in the midst of this uncertainty, we have remained proud of belonging to this movement. We are proud of volunteers, staff, members and partners. YMCA solidarity extended as an inspiring, positive virus, reaching out to the most vulnerable with a helping hand. Most of our local YMCAs took action in their communities and it would just not be possible to name each of the hundreds of actions implemented in these two months.

Internally we have developed new habits in communication. We were forced to quickly update our technical capacities. Innovation is no longer an option, it is rather a need.  Creativity is becoming the tool for relevance and impact. Virtual management meetings have increased, dozens of weekly online spaces at all levels. Remaining in contact with our beneficiaries is a daily goal. Yes, we learned that it is possible to do peace work, leadership training, social inclusion, sports and recreation online! First-class governance meetings and strategic decisions take place keeping social distance and increasing effectiveness under the leadership of our President Mike Will and the Executive Committee. We are thankful for this guidance and the outstanding work of YMCA Europe´s Staff Team.

We are also blessed with the daily morning prayers in the silence of home individual offices but virtually connected among ourselves and with God.

Our YMCA Connects platform literally burning each day with posts and reactions.

Webinars, weekly newsletters, projects applications, statements and advocacy work addressed to decision-makers in the light of the crisis. Conversations about the present and future of our common movement have increased like never before.

Our YMCA Europe Connects Facebook platform has become a daily journal with updates, news, best practices and valuable information for the movement. 1,600 members with over 400 posts in the last 28 days and more than 5,500 reactions. We invite you to join in if you are still not a member!

There is a sense of renewal and open questions about effective ways to coordinate our work in the future, the use our resources and the adjustment of our structures at all levels. Reflections also about the next steps in our common journey, strengthening our message and increasing our impact. Somehow the YMCA is also searching for its own “new normal”.

And this Thanksgiving Service reminds us that we do not need to search too much to find our own way. Trusting the Lord and taking action.  

Thank you!

Juan Simoes Iglesias,
Secretary General