In 2015-16 the Protestant Theological Faculty in Prague (PTF) opened a new study programme at Bachelor level which is innovative and unusual in many ways. It is run in conjunction with the Diaconia University of Applied Sciences (Diak) in Helsinki, Finland, and the International Academy for Diaconia and Social Action, Central and Eastern Europe, o.p.s. (Interdiac) in the Silesian part of the Czech Republic, and teaching is provided jointly by teachers from all three institutions. Students are enrolled both at PTF and at Diak, and on graduation they will receive degrees from both partner universities. The title of the study programme is “Social Services Focused on Diaconia and Christian Social Practice”, and it is taught entirely in English. Most of the students come from Eastern European or non-European countries, and the aim of the programme is to equip them with both theoretical and practical knowledge in the whole generic field of social work and social services, with a special focus on the participatory approach, incorporating anti-oppressive practice, empowerment and community development. The programme also includes the study of social work in the context of churches and faith communities (diaconia) which is an additional study that equips graduates to practice in church related contexts. As part of their studies, students have to undertake extensive practice placements. Continue reading Three Things I Learned from my Studies in the Czech Republic
“Let us now share the signs of peace with one another.”
When I heard the pastor say these words, I stood up, ready to smile and calmly shake hands with people in the neighbouring pews, just as we do in my hometown church in the Czech Republic. But what I got was something quite different. Suddenly, people jumped out of their seats. The band burst into a fast-paced song. Everyone started running around the church, greeting anyone and everyone who happened to stand in their way. Many warm hugs, kisses, and firm handshakes were loudly exchanged. After at least five minutes of this chaos (and after everyone but me circled around the whole church at least once), people seemed to start to calm down. When they finally found their places again, the service moved to its next point as if nothing happened. But I couldn’t move on; I had so many questions! “What just happened? How was this mayhem a sharing of the sings of peace? And most importantly: which of the several lunch invitations I just received will I accept?!” Continue reading Signs of Peace – Thoughts From My Exchange Studies in the US
In the first week of September 2017 the seventh annual International Conference on Sociology and Social Work took place in Prague. The tradition of this interdisciplinary meeting started more or less spontaneously several years ago on the initiative of some British and Dutch sociologists and social workers. In recent years this international circle has expanded and has now reached the Czech Republic: this year’s conference took place in Prague for the first time, at the Protestant Theological Faculty of Charles University, and there were around 50 participants coming from 11 countries. The theme chosen this year focused on sociology and social work in post-secular societies. The prefix “post-” is often used to express a kind of state that occurs after attaining a peak in the modern era. Modernism was linked to secularisation, but, as can be seen at the end of the 20th century, secularisation has never been fully achieved anywhere. It is true that in modern states the public sphere has usually been separated from the ecclesiastical one and is administered without any direct influence from religious institutions, but religion and the churches still exist and represent a significant alternative to the prevailing rational-technocratic and economic-pragmatic perspective of modern people and modern civilisation. They show that it is possible to imagine a different dimension of life and the world. The conference focused on how the churches can be involved in the shaping of contemporary communities, how human spirituality can be used in social work, and how to recognise and fulfil spiritual needs. Continue reading Interdisciplinary and international conference on sociology and social work at the Protestant Theological Faculty of Charles University
On Friday 2 June a formal ceremony took place at the Protestant Theological Faculty of Charles University (PTF) to mark the end of the Course for Hospital Chaplains. The sixteen graduates of the course had been training for a year so that they could become a beneficial part of a hospital team while maintaining their own unique personality. Part of their role will be to bring hope to patients, their families, and health service workers. Many of them believe they will be successful in changing the atmosphere in their hospital, so that hospitals will be seen as a place of God’s presence with a friendly atmosphere and relationships characterised by openness, trust, and respect. Continue reading New Chaplains Ready for Service in Hospitals
On 6 May 2017 Prof. Martin Prudký and Dr. Filip Čapek, together with a group of eight students from the Protestant Theological Faculty in Prague, set off for Jerusalem in the Holy Land, where they stayed till 20 May. The reason for the trip was an invitation from Yuval Gadot, Professor of Archaeology at Tel Aviv University, to participate in the “Ancient Jerusalem Excavation project” in Zone E in the City of David, situated to the southeast of what is today the Old City of Jerusalem. Under the supervision of Helena Roth, Gadot’s assistant, and Johann Regev, an expert on radiocarbon dating, the group, together with other archaeology enthusiasts, worked on exposing materials such as ash, bones, olive pits, and ceramic shards, from as many different levels of sediment as possible, in order for them to be analysed later in the laboratory. The academic background to the project was the attempt to draw up a complete chronology of Jerusalem as a basis for dating further historical events and finds. The primary focus, according to Gadot, is on the Iron Age (11th – 7th century BCE), so that the excavations concentrated on the sediment layers from this period. At the end of the two weeks we spent working on the project we had discovered more material than we had expected, and so further excavations will take place on the same site in July in order to secure more material and to construct a complete chronological picture. In addition, Gadot plans to visit Prague next year in order to present the results of the excavations. It will be interesting to see what archaeological discoveries about Jerusalem the work of the delegation from Prague has contributed to. Continue reading Theologians from Prague in the Holy Land
In October 2016 the Rector of Charles University announced a prestigious new award, the Donatio Universitatis Carolinæ, to be awarded to leading researchers who have made an exceptional contribution to the international specialist prestige of the University. The award is accompanied by a grant of one million Czech crowns to support the research interests of the prize-winner.
In 2017 five researchers were chosen by an international advisory council to receive the award from among candidates submitted by the 17 faculties of Charles University. One of these initial five recipients, who received the award from the Rector at a solemn assembly on 6 April 2017 to mark the anniversary of the founding of Charles University, was Professor Petr Pokorný from the Protestant Theology Faculty.
Pokorný has been an internationally recognised scholar in the field of New Testament studies for several decades. He is a member of a number of leading Czech and international scholarly associations. As long ago as the 1970s he was a member of the translation team responsible for the Czech Ecumenical Translation of the Bible, chairing the New Testament group. The award of the Donatio is recognition of his specialist research in fields such as Coptic Gnostic literature, the history of the Synoptic Gospel materials and the deutero-Pauline epistles, and the hermeneutics of the Bible. The financial support will help further his current research projects, in particular the series of publications entitled The Czech Ecumenical Commentary on the New Testament and historical research into Jesus of Nazareth.
Rev Dr Alistair Donald came to Prague on an Erasmus visit hosted by the Protestant Theological Faculty in early May. A minister of the ECCB sister church the Church of Scotland, he is employed by Heriot-Watt University – a science and technical university in Edinburgh – as its Chaplain. He here gives impressions of his visit. Continue reading A Scottish University Chaplain in Prague
Charles University is one of the oldest universities in the world. It has survived because it has been able to adapt, and this is what it continues to try to do today. One important element of this is international cooperation, and the university is making huge efforts to form partnerships across the world.
With this aim in mind, a group of 25 people from various faculties of the university, led by the Rector and his team, travelled in April to the United Kingdom. The theological faculties were well represented, with three members of the Protestant Theological Faculty, the Vice-Dean for International Relations, Dr Jan Roskovec, along with Associate Professor Pavel Hošek and Associate Professor Tim Noble, and two colleagues from the Catholic Theological Faculty, Dr Martin Kočí and Dr František Štěch. Continue reading UK in the UK: Charles University (Univerzita Karlova) visits the United Kingdom
One of the most important visitors to the Protestant Theology Faculty in Prague (PTF) this year was Prof. Israel Finkelstein from Tel Aviv. A leading expert on the archaeology of the ancient history of the land of Israel, both in the field and in the classroom, he is the recipient of a number of international awards and prizes. Finkelstein has written many books and articles on Israel in the Bronze and Iron Ages, examining among other things whether the archaeological evidence backs up the biblical narratives about the early history of Israel. His visit to Prague took place on 5-9 December 2016 as part of the continuing cooperation between PTF and Tel Aviv University. During his visit, Prof. Finkelstein gave two lectures at PTF on archaeological insights into biblical history, and also attended the launch of the Czech translation of his book “The Forgotten Kingdom: The Archaeology and History of Northern Israel” in the pleasant surroundings of the literary café in the Academia bookshop.
Each year the November meeting of the “Spolek” (Association of Friends of the Protestant Theology Faculty – PTF) provides a chance for former international students of PTF to come back to Prague, meet old friends, and discuss a theme together. This year’s subject was the topical one of “Migration, Integration, Identity, and Christian Faith”. Some 40 current and former international students and other friends of PTF attended the meeting on 11-13 November 2016 and gained insights into the topic in both theoretical and very practical ways. Continue reading Hidden Cameras and Arab Lute Music