A letter from Karen Moritz in the Czech Republic
Visitors from around the world
One of the joys of working with the Ecumenical Department of the Evangelical Church of Czech Brethren (ECCB) is getting to meet visitors from other churches and institutions from various parts of the world. January and February were particularly busy months for us; we had three different groups visit. As the New Year began we welcomed guests from Columbia Theological Seminary in Decatur, Georgia, U.S.A. The Protestant Theological Faculty (PTF) hosted the 20th group from that seminary. Six students accompanied by two chaperones, Dr. George Stroup and his wife, made their way first to Prague in the Czech Republic and then to Budapest and other parts of Hungary. It is always a joy for me to meet with other Americans as they discover this amazing city and country. The International Department of the PTF plans their trip around Prague and to other parts of the Czech Republic. I was able to join them on their day trip to Brno and Kralice on Saturday, January 5.
The trip to Kralice was particularly interesting since this is the 400th anniversary of the Kralice Bible, which was the first translation of the Bible into Czech from the original languages of Hebrew and Greek. There is a museum at Kralice nad Oslavou that has a replica of the original printing press and information about the important Czech Bible. During this visit we were also able to visit with pastors from one of our ECCB congregations in Brno. The day concluded with a visit to the historic castle Český Šternberk.
On the following Tuesday the group came to the Central Church Office to learn more about the ECCB. That day ended with a meeting of the American Working Group. Professor Stroup is now a member of the Steering Committee of the Czech Mission Network in the U.S. (see also the Czech Connections website), so its parallel organization here in the Czech Republic, the American Working Group, wanted to take the opportunity to meet with Dr. Stroup during his visit here. The following day the group boarded a train for their next destination, Budapest, Hungary.
Visitors from Korea
For us in the Central Church Office the next day saw the arrival of visitors from Korea. Dr. Doil Kim, Professor of Christian Education and Director of Planning at the Presbyterian College and Theological Seminary in Seoul, South Korea, came with a large group of students from that institution. Rev. Gerhard Frey-Reininghaus, head of the Ecumenical Department of the ECCB, led that meeting. Besides myself we also had a number of other guests. Two young pastors from the ECCB who will be travelling to South Korea this fall, Pastor Alexandra Hauserová from Brno and Milan Balahura from Prague, also attended the meeting. Rev. Jong Sil Lee also attended the meeting. He is the pastor of a Korean congregation that shares a facility with a congregation here in the southern part of Prague called Kobylisy. The congregation is quite large and now has a student intern from the seminary of the visiting group. At the close of the meeting Rev. Frey-Reininghaus was presented with a beautiful plate, which is proudly displayed here at the Central Church Office. As the meeting concluded the students sang a piece in Czech and in Korean for all those assembled.
Visitors from Scotland
On February 1 we welcomed visitors from the Church of Scotland. The ECCB has celebrated a long-term partnership with that church. We hosted four visitors: The Very Rev. Albert Bogle, Moderator of the General Assembly of the Church of Scotland, and his wife, Mrs. Martha Bogle; Rev. Susan Brown, Minister of Dornoch Cathedral and Chaplain to the Queen in Scotland; and Rev. Ian Alexander, General Secretary, World Mission Council, Church of Scotland. After a devotion given by the ECCB Moderator, Rev. Joel Ruml, we went on to introductions. In addition to those named above other participants included the Rev. Gerhard Frey-Reininghaus, head of the Ecumenical Department of the ECCB, and other members of that department, including Daniela Hamrová and me as the PC(USA) mission co-worker. We were also joined by others from the Central Church Office including Lia Valková, Lay Moderator, Martin Kocanda, Head of the Central Office, and Daniela Ženatá, Chief Editor of Česky Bratr. Rev. Štěpán Janča, pastor in Orlova, also joined us since his congregation has a partnership with a congregation in Scotland.
Moderator Bogle presented some of the crucial issues facing the Church of Scotland and Scottish society in general. One major issue is the economic depression in Scotland, which is a phenomenon affecting most of the world. Another issue centered around the discussion about Scottish independence. Moderator Bogle expressed his belief that the Church must comment on issues relevant to society as a whole and present the message of the gospel. He urged us to talk about Jesus more and the Church less. Moderator Ruml went on to share some of the issues facing the ECCB. Since the ECCB is a minority church it doesn’t have a voice in society in the same way that the Church of Scotland does. One challenging trend in the Czech Republic is the growing number of people who support the ideals of communism. Moderator Ruml also thinks that a central issue here in the Czech Republic is a general sense of passivity.
After discussing some of the general issues facing the two churches the conversation turned to ways in which the two churches could continue to cooperate. In addition to the congregational partnerships it is hoped that other ways of cooperating can be found. One staff member from the Ecumenical Department of the ECCB, Daniela Hamrová, will be taking an intensive English course in Scotland for a month. In addition to financial support the Church of Scotland will provide hospitality. There is also the hope that clergy in the Czech Republic and Scotland can participate in events in both countries. There is also the hope that the two churches can work together in areas of shared concern such as work with the Church in Cuba and involvement in the Middle East. It was exciting to witness the energy and enthusiasm for this deepening relationship. As a clergy person in the PC(USA) it was also exciting for me to interact with this delegation from the church that is really the “godparent” to the Presbyterian Church in the U.S.A. As is often the custom here, and in most parts of the world, our time together concluded with a shared lunch before the delegation boarded a train to spend the weekend with the congregation in Orlova.
It was an exciting month and I got to travel around the world without leaving the Czech Republic!
Please continue to pray:
For the partnership between the ECCB and the PC(USA)
For our partner congregations
For the American Working Group and the Czech Mission Network
For the Presbyterian Church in Korea and for the Seminary
For the Church of Scotland and its partnership with the ECCB
S přáním Božího požehnání,
Rev. Dr. Karen R Moritz
PC(USA) mission co-worker in the ECCB Central Church office
Jungmannova 9 P.O. Box 466
+420 224 999 280 mobile
The 2013 Presbyterian Mission Yearbook for Prayer & Study, p. 285
Read more about Karen Moritz' ministry