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Presbyterians invited to partnership conference in Czech Republic

After a four-year hiatus, the Together on the Way conference returns

by Scott O’Neill | Presbyterian News Service


LOUISVILLE — Five days with four topics revolving around “Togetherness” marks the re-emergence of the Together on the Way conference sponsored by the Evangelical Church of Czech Brethren (ECCB) and the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.). Scheduled for July 9-13 in the community of Olomouc, a city in Moravia in the eastern part of the Czech Republic, the conference is extending invitations to participants from U.S. congregations, including young adults, to join guests from the Church of Scotland and Evangelical Lutheran Church in America to share faith practices, prayer and song — all while exploring the life of the church in the Czech Republic.

To learn more, including registration instructions and conference costs, click here.

Daniel Batla, life-long resident of Olomouc and a conference coordinator, believes a broad range of participants will make the conference experience enlightening.

A typical worship service at an Evangelical Church of the Czech Brethren church. (Photo courtesy of the ECCB)

“From my own experience, this is a unique way to find out how much we do and do not differ from each other no matter where we grew up, where we went to school or where we work,” said Batla. “Exploring different places, meeting new people, gaining experience, sharing faith and love surrounded by wonderful people make events like this a pleasure to be at.”

While the schedule details are still being finalized, the conference theme and framework are set. Each day will start with a devotion followed by “theme-of-the-day” discussions. The daily themes are:

  • Together in the family
  • Together in the church
  • Together in society
  • Together in the world — in partnership

Small group workshops, trips to tourist attractions, networking opportunities and dinner with an evening devotional mark the second half of each day.

According to Batla, the word “together” was chosen as a main theme of this conference, and the four previous conferences, to stress the relationship between the ECCB and PC(USA).

“This word reminds us of the unity in our faith even though we are quite far from each other,” Batla said. “This year the whole title is ‘Together on the Way,’ which symbolizes the way throughout our lives and faith. Since the conference lasts four days, we split those days into different topics. Sharing the love and faith starts in our families, grows in our congregations, can have an effect in our city or neighborhood — and as we see from our partnerships it can be shared worldwide.”

Alethia White, the Presbyterian Mission Agency’s co-regional liaison in Northern and Central Europe who liaises with the ECCB, is one of three Presbyterian representatives scheduled to speak at the conference. Joining her are Luciano Kovacs, PC(USA) area coordinator for the Middle East and Europe, and the Rev. Mark Harper, the pastor at Takoma Park Presbyterian Church in Takoma Park, Maryland.

“In my role as co-regional liaison I have enjoyed getting to know those involved in the ECCB and the American-Czech Partnership Network. The Partnership Network has been thoughtfully working together and has experience doing conferences together,” said White. “I am looking forward to joining the conference and continuing in-person conversations I enjoyed during a trip to the Czech Republic last fall. Returning to beautiful Olomouc and spending time with the team there will be a pleasure.”

A complete list of conference speakers scheduled to date can be found here.

A key component to this conference is furthering connections with young adults. A student dormitory is a housing option for younger participants and congregations are encouraged to identify or include young adults who might be interested in participating. Destini Hodges, coordinator for the Young Adult Volunteers program, will be attending along with the Scotland-based YAVs.

“Myself and the Scotland YAVs are looking forward to the opportunity to connect with partners in the Czech Republic,” said Hodges. “This is a crucial meeting not only for the PC(USA) and the EECB, but for the YAV Program. This year we are extending our national program to Scottish YAVs to serve in New York and New Orleans, and we are interested in having a conversation with our Czech Republic partners as well. Jan Dostál, the young adult representative on the Czech Republic side, is also looking for ways to sustain young adult connection between the two churches that go beyond conferences and workshops.”

Handbell ringers in a music camp in Katernice, Czech Republic. (Photo courtesy of the Evangelical Church of the Czech Brethren)

PC(USA) supports Christian witness in the Czech Republic through a long and active partnership with ECCB and has strong links through a partnership network of congregations formed over the past three decades. Today, ECCB has more than 70,000 members and 250 congregations in the country and is the largest Protestant denomination in a very secular society. The PC(USA) works alongside ECCB partners to support outreach to the Roma population and most recently support people arriving from Ukraine.

The conference fee of $500 includes accommodations, most of the food and transportation within Olomouc. Participants are responsible for airfare and transportation to and from the Olomouc airport. Batla suggests participants bring a suitable power adapter. He expects the final schedule to be posted near the end of March on the conference website.

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