The partnership between the ECCB and the Presbyterian Church in the USA has a long tradition. Many roots reach as far as into the 19th century. At that time, immigrants from the Bohemian Lands founded Czech Protestant congregations in the US. They often maintained close relationships with the evangelicals in their old homeland. Many of these congregations became part of the Presbyterian Church in the United States. During the time of communism and the closed borders, many contacts were broken.
After the Velvet Revolution, relations between the Evangelical Church of Czech Brethren and the Presbyterian Church (USA) took off again. Guests from the USA visited ECCB congregations, groups came to work in the newly founded diakonia, contacts were established between the church headquarters in Prague, Louisville and Kentucky, and there was an exchange between our Evangelical Theological Faculty and various theological faculties in the USA. The outcome of these activities is a network of partnerships between congregations, diakonia and the Evangelical Theological Faculty, all of which are part of the partnership between the ECCB and the PC (USA). There is a group on both sides of the ocean that looks after this partnership. In our church it is the so-called Partnership Working Group, in the Presbyterian Church it is the Czech Mission Network. Both groups have already organised four partnership conferences together: after a first conference in 2008 in Prague, another followed in 2012 in Annapolis, Maryland, then again in Prague in 2016 and in 2019 in Atlanta, Georgia, at Columbia Theological Seminary. The next conference is to take place in Moravia, in Olomouc, from July 9th to 13th, 2023 under the theme: Together on the journey. We expect over 60 representatives from the USA and the Czech Republic to take part in this conference.
The period of restrictions caused by the pandemic became a challenge for this partnership! On both sides of the ocean we have become more and more used to virtual communication. Online meetings and church services became an everyday experience. For many, video conferencing has become an integral part of work, free time and family communication. Therefore, it made sense to try out video communication in our partnership as well. Said and done. On June 16, 2020, for the first time, the two partnership groups met during a joint video conference. And it was an instant success, so that both sides agreed: We’ll continue. And not just for ourselves. Twice a year we will organise a two-hour video conference to which we invite all interested parties. The date for the first video conference: Sunday, March 21, 2021 at 2 pm American and 8 pm Central European time. The topic: PRAYER AND PRAISE IN THE PANDEMIC: A Conversation about Worship in the Season of COVID-19. We hope that many people will take part in this conversation. We are planning another meeting for autumn and more for the next few years.
We hope that this format will enable us to open up our partnership further and that more people will be able to participate. Perhaps other congregations or congregational groups could be inspired to join a Czech-American partnership. At the moment the number of partnerships is still below 10. It makes sense to consider more partnerships – after all, there are approximately 10,000 congregations in the Presbyterian Church (USA). In addition to the Presbyterian Church, the Lutheran Church in America and the Church of Scotland are also involved in our partnership network. We are very grateful for these global partnerships that open our eyes to the global dimension of the gospel of Jesus Christ, who sends his disciples all over the world for the gospel to be preached.