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A letter from Karen Moritz in the Czech Republic

September 2010

A group of people on a large terrace, standing for a photo.

Photo by Burkhard Paetzold.

Greetings from Prague! After over a year of discernment and preparation I am finally here. I left Omaha, Nebraska, on Wednesday, September 15, and arrived in Prague the next day. Although the weather was cool and gray, my reception was warm and bright. My colleagues here at the Evangelical Church of Czech Brethren (ECCB) had prepared a beautiful apartment for me. How many people do you know who can say they live north of a castle?

The day after my arrival Burkhard Paetzold, the regional liaison for Central Europe, came from Germany to spend some time with me to help orient me to the city. I have had the privilege of travelling to many places around the world, but I have never had the opportunity to live in a big city. It was exciting to enter the hustle and bustle of daily life here in Prague. One of the first things that struck me was how many people were out and about. Prague has many tourists, but I soon realized that many people make this city their home. We began our tour of the city by walking to Hradčany, the Castle area, which includes beautiful gardens, churches and, of course, a castle! We made our way through the gardens, across Hradčanské Náměsti, and down through Old Town, and finally across the famed Karluv Most (Charles Bridge). It was a beautiful sunny day and we, with many others, enjoyed it. We took a break at a small cafe that looked out over Prague. The city really does have the famous red roofs one reads about in the tourist guides; it was a magnificent view!

Karen Mortiz, wearing sunglasses, standing in front of a large, tan classically-decorated building.

Photo by Jitka Dankova.

As the day drew to a close, and my energy began to wane, Burkhard took me by my new office. The ECCB central church office and guesthouse are located at Husuv Dum (Hus House). In Czech the word dum means both “house” and “building.” Husuv Dum is named for the famous early church reformer Jan Hus. He lived almost two centuries before Martin Luther, but he, like many of his time, called for reform within the church. He urged clergy to live lives worthy of God’s call. Hus also called for reform in the observance of the Lord’s Supper. He, like many, believed that the laity should be able to receive both the bread and the cup at the Lord’s Supper. He was tried by a church council and burned at the stake on July 6, 1415, a day that is still remembered by Protestant Christians today. A statue of Hus greets every visitor who comes to his home. In my early days here in Prague I found him a welcome sight as I made my way to work each day.

On Sunday following my arrival Oliver Engelhardt from the ECCB staff and I attended one of our ECCB churches for worship. The congregation of Salvator Church in Old Town was celebrating its partnership with Johannesgemeinde, a congregation in Dresden, Germany. I got to hear the sermon by Pastor Carola Ancot in German. I sure wish I had studied German in school! Josef Daniel Beneš, the pastor there, did the translation of her sermon into Czech. It was a great celebration followed by a lovely meal on the roof terrace after worship.

Contrary to what folks in the United States may have heard about how churches are dying in Europe, Protestant churches in the Czech Republic are vibrant and active. Many people attend worship on Sundays and participate in the life of the church and community. In the next months I’ll share more about the many aspects of church life here.

I invite you in the next weeks and months to:

  • Pray for Christians here in the Czech Republic and throughout the world.
  • Pray for the partnership between the PC(USA) and the ECCB.
  • Pray for me as I strive to learn Czech!  In learning Czech I learn more and more about the Czech people and this beautiful nation.
  • Check out the Czech Mission Network’s website.
  • Feel free to contact me at kmortz@czechconnections.org or Moritz@e-cirkev.cz.

S Bohem (God be with you),

Karen

The 2011 Mission Yearbook for Prayer & Study, p. 200

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