A letter from Karen Moritz in the Czech Republic
Working Together in the Czech Republic
Summer marks another important occurrence in the life of the Evangelical Church of Czech Brethren (ECCB) here in the Czech Republic: English Camps. Throughout the country at any given time during the summer one can find groups of people gathered together to learn English. I suspect there are a lot of camps going on about which I know nothing; however, here is a small sampling of the amazing work being done by Czechs and Americans together.
One remarkable camp began on July 2 and ended July 8. The music director and five people from Southminster Presbyterian Church in Pittsburgh, Pa., were joined by three young women from Poland, two young men from Germany, and me. We spent the week in the small village of Kateřinice, and we were hosted by the ECCB church there and the ECCB church in the nearby village of Ratiboř. This camp had two foci—one was learning how to ring handbells and the other was practicing English. Rev. Dr. Richard Pinkerton is the music director at Southminster, which has a strong and longstanding handbell program. The Ringers have had a partnership with Pastors Wiera and Mirek Jelinek for many years, a partnership that began when the Jelineks served churches in Poland. With grants from the ECCB and generous donations from individuals and groups, Good News Bells was formed and able to purchase the first set of bells. In addition to daily practices the handbell group gave a small concert as a part of the celebrations marking Jan Hus Day on July 5. On July 6 the handbell choir and students from the camp presented a concert at the church in Ratiboř, which was packed with family and friends from the surrounding area. Everyone in the churches and communities of Kateřinice and Ratiboř was incredibly welcoming and generous. It was a great and memorable experience for everyone. The only bad thing was the unseasonably cold weather, which was fortunately counteracted by our many taste-testing experiences of Slivovice!
Later in the month of July I had the opportunity to visit another English camp, in the Krkonoše mountains at the ECCB retreat center in Herlikovice. People gathered from many places around the world to participate in an International English Camp. The International camp in Herlíkovice had the theme of "around the world in seven days" and was advertised as "an interreligious International Camp to promote overcoming stereotypes and intercultural learning." The camp was done in cooperation with the ECCB congregation in Louny and SEM Angel, which has organized this event in the past and planned this year's event from July 9 to 17, 2011. Young people of all faiths were invited to this fourth camp. In addition to having daily programs focused on other parts of the world the participants helped with cleanup and revitalization work at the retreat center. Participants also had fun and hiked up Sněžka, the highest mountain in the Czech Republic. They gathered for worship daily and had evening gatherings filled with music and fun. It was a well planned and executed event that provided the participants with fun, service, and the opportunity to practice English.
This is just a sampling of two of the many camps throughout the Czech Republic this summer. First Church in Annapolis worked with their partner congregation in Letohrad to hold an English camp that included people from the United States and the Czech Republic. First Church in Ponca City, Okla., also sent a group to their partner church in Polička. First Church in Morehead City, N.C., had hoped to send a group to their partner congregation in Sloupnice but due to the unpredictable forces of nature that affected their part of the world the group from North Carolina was unable to make the trip this year.
As you can see there are a number of groups working together on both sides of the ocean to be of service to one another and to strengthen already existing relationships. It was a joy to participate in a few of these activities and to learn of the many ways in which the Czech Republic and the United States are tied together as parts of the body of Christ.
I invite you to be in prayer for:
The ECCB and the PC(USA) as they continue to work in partnership.
The congregations of the ECCB and the PC(USA) that have partnerships
and that are in the process of forming new partnerships.
All the individuals and congregations affected by the forces of nature
particularly during the past summer.
All those beginning to make plans for shared events over the next
months for the upcoming year.
The 2012 Presbyterian Mission Yearbook for Prayer & Study, p. 279