I wasn't convinced. The conference warned us about the altitude: Puebla is 7000 ft above sea level but I thought it would be barely noticeable. How wrong I was. After a very short walk up the street, I fond myself gasping for breath and feeling like an old man or a heavy smoker. Puebla really does take your breath away!
The last 36 hours have been spent acclimatizing to the altitude and the surroundings and trying to finish off presentations. I'm not sure how successful I was at either. But the principal joy (and purpose) of these gatherings is not the surroundings or the official presentations - though Popocatepetl is pretty amazing! It is the chance to renew acquaintances and deepen friendships. The shared meals and conversations about common challenges is what really remains when the alititude-sickness has subsided and we have returned to our homes and desks.
But Puebla takes my breath away for another reason for, in 1979, Pope John Paul II, newly elected as pontiff, opened the third Latin American Episcopal Conference (CELAM). Ten years after Medillin, it was this meeting that enshrined the 'Preferential Option for the Poor', the heart of the Liberation Theology Movement. It is such a privilege to be meeting in the same place as the likes of Blessed Oscar Romero, and to have inherited the treasures brought to light through the sacrificial service of Latin American churches and theologians.
So will Puebla in 2017 prove as prophetic to IAMSCU and Global Methodism as it was for Catholicism and Liberation Theology in 1979? We shall have to wait and see ...