The ECCB’s congregation in Přeštice dates back to the period after WWI. The first Sunday service took place in autumn 1921, sixty people attended. The number of the church’s members kept increasing and soon reached several hundred. The one who contributed most to the development of the congregation was its long-term minister and shepherd, Josef Francouz. However, from the very beginning, the congregation lacked an appropriate space that would serve both the Protestant congregation and the community of the town of Přeštice and its surroundings. The minister was continuously praying for a way to solve this problem. For a certain period of time, the congregation acquired the building of the synagogue and the adjacent house, but these were torn down in 1974. Under difficult conditions, they were then able to acquire a little house that served as the church, the manse and the parish house at the same time, but this was clearly just an emergency solution.
The congregation, which suffered a significant decrease in members under the totalitarian regime, has seen dynamic growth in the past few decades. More and more people have been attending Sunday services, including people that wish to serve their neighbours. In 2004, a maternity centre was established and a few years later, a children’s club followed, which, under the name of //Royal Rangers//, currently organises five camps a year and dozens of shorter trips and stays. The church organises public lectures, advent singing, it also contributed to the creation of the St Adalbert nature trail, among other things. It has also started cooperating with the municipality and local associations. The only type of service that was missing from this wide range was care for the elderly.
The summer of 2016 brought an opportunity to resolve several things at the same time. The generous support of the EU (the IROP grant system), as well as financial gifts from donors from Protestant churches in the Czech Republic, Germany and Switzerland, made it possible to start building a day care centre with a chapel.
How the idea was born
In summer 2016, the idea of building a day care centre for elderly people and people with disabilities came up at an after-church coffee in the garden, when talking to the minister of the Unity of Brethren. Josef Mištera and Michaela Cimická prepared the project for the day care centre which they called Kristián. The church’s elders agreed with the idea.
In this situation, František Straka from the Central Church Office came up with the idea of constructing a stand-alone building for the day care centre, which would also provide space for a chapel, which the congregation had so long been longing for. The ECCB’s management then expressed its support for the project: there was no longer anything standing in the way.
The congregation’s spiritual perception of the situation
The congregation kept praying for the project. The prayers concerned all the steps: the preparation of the project, its approval, the competitive tendering as well as the actual construction of the building. The process was long and full of situations that often seemed to have no solution. And yet, as if by miracle, a solution always came up at the last moment. All those praying saw God’s work in these successes and this is the way we still look at the whole project.
How we managed to gain the necessary funds
A total of approximately 7 million CZK was needed, a sum which was completely out of reach for a church with a budget of tens of thousands CZK. In spite of this, the construction started, and so did the fundraising, all with the support of the Synodal Council. Generous financial aid was provided by donors from Protestant churches in Germany and Switzerland. Also our local churches of the ECCB contributed with substantial sums through the Jeronýmova jednota fund. Additional contributions also came from the ECCB’s churches in the West Bohemian seniorate. We are very grateful to all the generous donors!
How it all happened
Very quickly. At the beginning, we had a very limited amount of time for filling out a grant application to draw money from the EU’s funds, which only worked out thanks to the great cooperation with the EUFC company. Within an unbelievably short amount of time, the project documentation was prepared by Zbyněk Wolf from Domažlice, in close cooperation with architect Ladislav Schejbal. These were three very busy months. We then received the information that the grant had been approved, started a tendering procedure to choose the construction company, and actual construction work followed shortly after. At the moment, the final details of financial settlements are still underway.
The purpose of the new building
We named the building the Jan Amos Komenský centre; it will serve as a day care centre for the elderly and for people with disabilities. But this is not its only purpose. The building includes a chapel, which should not fill up with people only during Sunday services. We would also like organise lectures, exhibitions, concerts and other events here. It should also serve other church activities – programmes for families, children… Our vision is that this building becomes a place where people have an opportunity to meet the Living God – be it through the Word, or actions of love. We would like this place to be the house of God, Bét-El, the gate to the Kingdom of God (Gn 28:17-19).
What the construction of the building brought to us
Words and actions – what should characterise the church – have been united here. Our society often seems to have forgotten that the church does not consist of buildings, but also of specific service for this world. Hospitals, schools, homes for the needy, activities for children and youth – historically, none of this would have existed without the church. Hence, this building should be a sign, both to the world and to ourselves as individuals. It connects the preaching of the Word (the chapel) and a specific manifestation of what this Word teaches us to do: to serve others (the day care centre).
It has shown us how many people around us need help. It has proven how beneficial it is to serve people whose lives are nearing their ends, how families taking care of these people can be supported, and how the fundaments of their faith, which have often been forgotten for ages, can be renewed.
We want the Jan Amos Komenský centre to serve the people of Přeštice, as well as the wider neighbourhood, and we want it to bring the joyful news of the Gospel and to serve the people around us with love.