The Protestant Theological Faculty celebrates its 100th anniversary

7. 1.Prof_Manfred-Oeming_100_Years_David_Rafael_Moulis_2019-14Immediately after the end of the First World War and the foundation of the new Czechoslovak state, the Lutheran and Reformed Christians in Czechoslovakia united to form the Evangelical Church of Czech Brethren. And one of the first things the new church did was to establish a Faculty of Protestant Theology so that its theology students could be trained in Bohemia in the Czech language. 100 years later, the Faculty is still going strong, and in November 2019 it celebrated the 100th anniversary of its foundation with a series of events of different types.

The prelude to the celebrations was the annual meeting of the Association of Friends of the Faculty on Friday and Saturday, 9-10 November. The members of the Association – which was itself celebrating its 20th anniversary – heard from a number of former students of the Faculty about what they are doing now and how their theology studies helped prepare them for it. There was a broad range of interesting contributions, not only from those now working in the church, but also from a university philosophy teacher, a lawyer, a writer, a government official, and a current student involved in activities protesting against the erosion of the rule of law in the country.

On Sunday evening, 11 November, there was a service in the Church of St Martin in the Wall in thanksgiving for the 100 years of the life of the Faculty, with the sermon preached by the doyen of the Faculty teachers, Prof. Petr Pokorný, who sadly died only 2 months later.

To mark the anniversary, Charles University decided to award an honorary doctorate to Manfred Oeming, Professor for Old Testament Studies at Heidelberg University. Prof. Oeming is on old friend of the Prague Faculty, with which he has cooperated in a number of joint projects over the last 20 years, including block seminars and recently archaeological excavations in Israel. The official ceremony of awarding the doctorate took place in the Large Aula in the central university building on Monday afternoon, 12 November before a large gathering including the Rector of Charles University, guests from other countries, representatives of other faculties of the university, other academic institutions and the churches, and the general public. The ceremony was then followed by a festive celebration of the 100th anniversary of the Faculty at which representatives of the churches and the academic community abroad said a few words of greeting and honorary medals were awarded to longstanding friends and supporters of the Faculty from the academic, ecclesiastical, and publishing fields.

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The celebrations were rounded off by a symposium at the Faculty on Tuesday, 12 November. The main lecture hall was packed with guests who came to listen to a series of short lectures, some of them covering various aspects of the Faculty’s history, while others cast a critical eye on the Faculty’s relationship with the university, the church, and society as a whole. It was generally agreed that the lectures, mostly given by younger members of the teaching staff, were thought-provoking and insightful, and promised well for the continuing development of the Faculty over the next 100 years.

Peter Stephens