A letter from Karen Moritz in the Czech Republic
Now that I’ve learned some Czech I’m able to visit more of our ECCB congregations. During the weekend of February 4–5 I visited our congregation in Olomouc. Olomouc is about 2 ½ hours east of Prague. That congregation has a partnership with Covenant Presbyterian Church in Athens, Georgia. The pastor in Olomouc, Jana Rumlová, and her husband, Pavel Ruml, have past experiences with partnerships. When they served the congregation in Letohrad they had a strong partnership with First Church in Annapolis, Maryland. You will hear more about that partnership in my March newsletter.
Jana and Pavel graciously received me in their home and let me practice my Czech. Pavel has been to the United States before and speaks English quite well; in fact, he’s preached in English in Annapolis. Jana also speaks German fluently and speaks some English. Jana and I first met at the Kirchentag event in Dresden, Germany, last June, where we were roommates in the home of a young lady living in Dresden. I took the train to Olomouc on a cold Saturday afternoon and had dinner with Jana, Pavel, and their three children, who are young adults. After dinner we took a quick walk around Olomouc; it was quick because it was quite cold. Then after dinner we prepared for worship and spent some time visiting.
Although it was a cold morning we had a nice crowd in worship. Jana and the congregation were extremely welcoming. They were gracious enough to listen to my first sermon in Czech! As I began my sermon I talked about my former pastorates in which I would do a children’s sermon and shared my suspicion that many adults liked that better because it was short and simple. I told the Olomouc congregation that they would effectively be receiving a children’s sermon—my sermon would be short and simple. This illustration fit in quite well in Olomouc because Jana also has a portion of the service that is quite unique in the ECCB—she has a time with the youth and children. She is one of the few ECCB pastors that includes this in Sunday worship.
I preached on the text in Matthew 25 where Jesus speaks about being a stranger and being welcomed. It was really interesting to study the text in English, Greek, and Czech. The Czech translates “I was a stranger” with the phrase “byl na cestach,” which can be understood as “I was a stranger, a traveler.” The translation for “and you welcomed me” was also interesting because the Czech word had the implication of not just welcoming someone but including them in the fellowship of the community. I was blessed to have help with my sermon from my office mate Petr. I tried to write the sermon in Czech, so he had to make his way through my fledgling Czech and make the necessary changes. His help was invaluable. I also read my Scripture lesson in Czech and gave the benediction. I have to admit that I was terrified and thought about backing out and doing it in English, but I hadn’t written an English version of my sermon so I was pretty well committed.
During worship we also read a letter from Covenant Church. I read it in English and the curator for the congregation, the lay leader who would be similar to a clerk of session, read the letter in Czech. They expressed their excitement about the partnership and shared some tentative plans for upcoming partnership events. Jana also did a short interview with me. I tried to answer in Czech but fortunately I had some help, particularly when I didn’t understand a question or didn’t know how to answer in Czech. Ivana Marková gave me a lot of help; she speaks English very well. She went to Covenant Church in Athens last November as a representative of the Olomouc congregation. She was warmly received at Covenant and said she had a great time.
Ivana was also a lot of help following worship when several of us met to get to know one another better and to talk about the partnership. We had a great time visiting and I learned a lot about the congregation and had fun meeting several of the members of the congregation. We shared a lot of stories and laughter and talked about ways to strengthen the partnership. We also spent some time simply getting to know one another. I tried to answer in Czech when possible. Ivana and I really laughed when she began to translate into English something I had just said in Czech! We really had a great time and I look forward to future visits.
After lunch Ivana and another member of the church took me on a walking tour of Olomouc, in daylight this time. It was very cold, but I got to see the highlights of the town. Olomouc is an old town and was central to the part of the Czech Republic known as Moravia. We saw some beautiful architecture, including a pillar marking the end of the plague, which is located in the town square. We also visited a church named after me—well, I guess my family was named after him, St. Moritz. The church of St. Moritz is one of the older buildings located near the town square. It was a great tour of the town but I hope to visit again perhaps when it is a bit warmer.
It was a great weekend and I enjoyed getting to know the congregation and I look forward to getting to know the congregation in Athens as well. It’s exciting to be a part of this growing partnership. Next stop, Letohrad!
S přáním Božího požehnání,
With wishes for God’s blessings,
The 2012 Presbyterian Mission Yearbook for Prayer & Study, p. 279