The partnership between the PC(USA) and Evangelical Church of Czech Brethren in the time of pandemic
October 12, 2022
When Covid struck in spring 2020 in the Czech Republic, it meant, above all, a radical reduction in contacts. This reduction was a reasonable response from the authorities to the pandemic, which was spreading through physical encounters between people. The schooling of children and young people as well as the work of many adults have moved to their households. When people outside the home had to meet others, such as on public transport or in shops, the obligation to wear a mask began to apply.
These measures surprised people. Quarantine has revealed the social differences that exist between people — and especially between children. Home-schooling has had great difficulties in some families. For many people, quarantine was a great economic shock. Some people have retreated to the shell of their household. But here they often suffered from cabin fever.
I was surprised at how quiet those days were.
The church, as the community of Christ’s people, is built on communication. In many churches, pastors spent hours phoning people who were left alone. Many churches have launched online services. Sometimes ministers hung prerecorded sermons, sometimes they streamed services from an empty church, and sometimes church members joined from their homes using conference platforms like Zoom. Those who were not connected received printed sermons.
When the pandemic broke out, it seemed that the contacts between American Presbyterians and members of the Evangelical Church of Czech Brethren (ECCB) would have to fall asleep for a while. The canceled air connections and the closure of the borders meant the cancellation of planned visits and English summer camps. However, the opposite turned out to be true.
These contacts were established already in the early 1990s. In the following three decades, hundreds of people have visited the other continent, become a part of the partner church for a short time, and shared the experience of their home-churches. In the summer of 1992, a group led by Betty McGinnis helped with the reconstruction of a home for the disabled in Klobouky near Brno. In the following years, several other American missions took place helping in various ECCB or Diaconia facilities. Later, a partnership was established between the individual churches of the PC(USA) and the ECCB. American friends from First Presbyterian Church of Annapolis, Maryland, helped build a new CCE church in Letohrad. In the following years, the pastor of Letohrad, Pavel Ruml, and many other members of his church visited the United States and temporarily joined the church in Annapolis. Later, Letohrad and another large church in Olomouc, in collaboration with a church in Atlanta, moved on to preparing summer camps with English lessons. The camps open Czech churches to local children. Members of the partner church from the U.S., being native speakers, usually work as instructors there. These camps enjoy great interest and help to break down negative prejudices against the church, which many Czechs have.
A distinctive chapter of American-Czech friendship is the scholarly partnerships between Columbia Theological Seminary in the suburbs of Atlanta and the Protestant Theological Faculty of Charles University (PTF) in Prague. Many teachers from Prague and about 10 students stayed at Columbia Seminary as visiting scholars. Several American students from CTS spent a semester in Prague. In addition, CTS organizes regular students’ visits to the Czech Republic and Hungary as part of a course called “Global Contexts.” They get to know the culture of these countries, but also the service to the church, the Diaconia of the ECCB (charity agency of the ECCB) and the PTF. A visit of this kind also includes a joint seminar on an afore agreed theological text, read and discussed by both American and Czech students. An encounter took place in January 2022. Despite skeptical voices, professor Mark Douglas and seven students finally managed to visit Prague. They arrived shortly after the launch of the Omicron variant. Until the last moment, it was uncertain whether the group would arrive. Yet finally all planned visits took place in the unusually deserted Prague. A joint seminar on the papal “ecological” encyclical Laudato si’ was also held.
Petr Sláma, Mission Crossroads
Today’s Focus: Partnership between the PC(USA) and Evangelical Church of Czech Brethren
Let us join in prayer for:
PC(USA) Agencies’ Staff
Anisha Hackney, Manager for Human Resources & Payroll, Administrative Services Group (A Corp)
Ian Hall, Chief Financial Officer/Treasurer, Finance & Accounting, Administrative Services Group (A Corp)
Let us pray
Great God, you have given us abundance in our lives, our work and our world. Help us to multiply your gifts so that your great goodness shines through us into your world, and so that all might live in your abundance now and in the world to come. Amen.