Strategic Plan of the Evangelical Church of Czech Brethren

ZDSC_0189General statistics for the Czech Republic:

  • Population: 10,580,000
  • Roman Catholics: approx. 20%
  • Other churches, mostly Protestant: approx. 2%
  • Other denominations, total: under 2%
  • (In the most recent census, the category of religion was left unanswered by almost half of the population, thus the above figures are only estimates)

General statistics for the Evangelical Church of Czech Brethren (ECCB):

  • Total number of churches: 250
  • Total members based on church files: 71,000
  • Members who make a financial contribution at least once a year: 21,000 – 25,000
  • Average participation in Sunday services all over the ECCB’s churches: 10,100
  • Average participation in Sunday service in one church: 40

 Strategic Plan for 2030

This plan was adopted at the ECCB’s Synod in May 2019, following three years of preparation. It is the first document of its kind produced by the ECCB.

The main reasons for its preparation, discussion and ratification:

 1. Part of the ECCB has shown dissatisfaction with some of the aspects of its church life

Many of the ECCB’s congregations are thriving and open, organising many activities in the fields of Sunday services, catechesis, small group meetings, ministry, Diaconia (both in its volunteering and institutional form), mission…

However, the increase in the number of the members of these congregations (predominantly in cities and larger towns) is still lower than the decrease of members in other churches (mostly village congregations).

This is happening at a time when Czech society is showing significant interest in various forms of spirituality, often alternative, esoteric, neo-pagan or eclectic. We are not able to respond with God’s Word to this spiritual thirst in a satisfactory way.

 2. Financial Departure from the State

The ECCB is currently facing a specific economic situation. Until 2012, approximately half of its budget came from state contributions – a relic of the communist era. Right from the beginning, around 1950, the totalitarian state confiscated the vast majority of any church-owned (mostly Catholic) property. “In return”, the communists were paying part of the churches’ expenditures, which meant primarily the salaries of the clergymen. The salaries were very low, of course.

The new act on the relation between the state and the churches has been effective since 2013. The state has committed to give back the returnable church property stolen by the communists as quickly as possible, naturally most of it was returned to the Catholic church. The assets which were no longer possible to return are being gradually repaid to the churches in financial form, in 30 instalments during the period from 2013 to 2042. The Roman Catholic church has surrendered part of these funds to the benefit of the other small churches. Only thanks to this generous decision did the solution (ongoing restitutions and the financial departure of churches from the state at the same time) find enough ecumenical and political support. The state is now repaying the stolen church property, and at the same time gradually lowering its contributions to churches, which primarily concerns pastors’ salaries.

For the time being, therefore, the ECCB has more funds. It is clear, however, that from 2030, it will be receiving less money, and it will receive none whatsoever from 2042. This makes any long-term planning of church life and service very complicated: is it wiser to switch to the new self-financing model faster, which would mean gaining larger investment reserves for full self-financing in the future, but also losing the independence of the ECCB’s smaller churches, as well as the jobs of their pastors? Or should our transformation into a self-financed church take place more slowly, which would enable the smaller churches to keep their pastor jobs longer, but would only leave us with the funds collected from the church members’ regular contributions?

Main Topics of the Strategic Plan

In this critical situation, the Strategic Plan brings forward seven main topics. Each category includes specific aims and tasks:

  1. A living congregation
  2. Religiousness = caring for your faith
  3. Comprehensibility and openness in mission
  4. Key people
  5. Transformation to the self-financing model
  6. Diaconia, chaplains and the Evangelical Academy
  7. Efficient administration and financial management

1: A living congregation

In the Protestant view, a local congregation is of crucial importance to the Christian faith. Its basic responsibilities and functions are as follows (loosely based on Acts 2:41–47): worshipping God through (Sunday) services, teaching (catechesis), existing as a community of faith, serving others through Diaconia, and giving testimony. Item 1 of the Plan suggests actions that our 250 churches could take to improve church life and service. This part shares some ideas that have proven successful, and also strengthens the authority of ministers and presbyters in building their congregations.

4: Key people

This topic deals with the people that are of key importance to each congregation: presbyters, auxiliary preachers and ministers. Each Presbytery (Seniorát), as well as the whole church, should support auxiliary preachers, whose numbers have been increasing, more intensively and on a long-term basis.

As far as ministers are concerned, we are planning the following:

– more communication with active Protestant youth on the beauty and purposefulness of working as a minister, with the aim of increasing the number of students preparing to be ministers;

– discussions with representatives of the Protestant Theological Faculty of the Charles University concerning the possibility of modifying the study programmes taken by future ministers, so as to make sure these are in line with the practice and the actual needs of the church;

– increase minister salaries to the level of the average pay in the Czech Rep. and make them more transparent and comprehensible

5, 6: Seniorate and church levels

Item 5 of the Strategic Plan describes the basic tasks necessary for the ECCB’s transformation to the self-financing model: informing church leaders on various sources of funds, stipulating reasonable rules for various possibilities of job arrangements for ministers. Item 6 deals with the ECCB’s further cooperation with 34 Diaconia centres, seven Protestant schools and institutions to which we send chaplains (prisons, hospitals, the army).

What do we expect from the Strategic Plan?

The Strategic Plan is a new tool for the management and administration of the ECCB. It is not, in itself, a solution to all the current issues our church is dealing with, but it can provide some helpful guidelines for the work of the church’s broader management and for supporting church life. The following years will show whether or not it has proved to be a successful tool that will be used on a regular basis.

Roman Mazur, Chairman of the Strategic Committee

Flags at the Hus House in Prague marked the International Roma Day

DSC_4389.NEF (2)On Monday, 8th of April, the building of the Evangelical Church of Czech Brethren symbolically dressed up, when it was decorated with two Romany flags to mark  International Roma Day. Roma flags hung in the city centre for the whole day. In their symbolic display, the pastor for  humanitarian activities, minorities and socially excluded people, Mikuláš Vymětal, prayed the Lord’s prayer in Roma. Continue reading Flags at the Hus House in Prague marked the International Roma Day

We Confess and We Are Grateful. Declaration of the Synodal Council at the occasion of the 100th anniversary of the foundation of the Evangelical Church of Czech Brethren

ZDSC_0189This year, the Evangelical Church of Czech Brethren (ECCB) is commemorating the 100th anniversary since its founding through the union of the Reformed and Lutheran churches in the Czech lands. The ECCB took over the teachings of both of these traditions, and also proudly acknowledged the Czech Reformation of the 15th century, as well as the “old Union of the Brethren”, as the foundations on which it builds. We are grateful that the ECCB has been the herald of joyous Biblical news of God’s kingdom which is for this world and which gives us hope that transcends our lives. We are grateful that as Protestants, we have been able to contribute significantly to spreading the Gospel in a comprehensible way, for example through our work on the new Czech ecumenical translation of the Bible, among other things. Continue reading We Confess and We Are Grateful. Declaration of the Synodal Council at the occasion of the 100th anniversary of the foundation of the Evangelical Church of Czech Brethren

The festive gathering in the Municipal House in Prague concluded the commemoration of the 100th anniversary of the existence of the Evangelical Church of the Czech Brethren

EVAK6149We are happy and grateful for the year of celebrations that we could experience together. All the meetings, worship, film screenings and discussions in the Vaclav Havel Library, numerous publications, concerts, interviews, prayers… All culminated in a four-day festival in Pardubice, where church representatives from all over the country met.  At the end of the year, we would like to thank to all those who have responded to the call to become the parish ministers and curators of the church. This happened symbolically on December 16th at the Municipal House in Prague, a place where one hundred years ago the General Assembly decided to join Czech parishes of two evangelical churches (Lutheran and Reformed) into one single Evangelical Church of Czech Brethren. Continue reading The festive gathering in the Municipal House in Prague concluded the commemoration of the 100th anniversary of the existence of the Evangelical Church of the Czech Brethren

Faith Does Not Demand Definitive Answers. Interview with Jakub S. Trojan

4. Jakub TrojanJakub S. Trojan, theologian and minister of the ECCB, former dean of the Protestant Theological Faculty of the Charles University. On 25 January 1969, at the Olšany cemetery, he led the funeral of Jan Palach, a student of the Charles University who set himself on fire to protest against the growing indifference of the Czech people following our country’s occupation by the Soviet-led army in August 1968. This January, fifty years have passed since the event. Continue reading Faith Does Not Demand Definitive Answers. Interview with Jakub S. Trojan

The Krkonoše Kunzárna Cottage with the Lights on

IMG_20181013_150024In the autumn of last year, readers of the Český bratr magazine already had an opportunity to read an interview with Benjamin Klinecký, who, together with his wife Olga, has been renting and taking care of the “Mountain Home” resort in the Krkonoše mountains for the second year now. Much has changed for the better since they have been in charge and the numbers of guests choosing the “Mountain Home” as their holiday destination have increased significantly. There is another building that belongs to the resort, called the “Kunzárna”, which, however, was closed almost thirty years ago and has been falling into disrepair ever since.

Since 2010, a group of people who call themselves the “Friends of Herlíkovice” have been trying to renovate this timbered cottage with elements of the traditional Krkonoše architecture. They would like to see the cottage in operation again within three years, providing simple and stylish mountain accommodation as well as a small exhibition about the Czech and German history of the village. It is possible that the building will be declared a cultural monument this year, which would increase the chances of receiving a subsidy for its renovation.

 A light in the Sudetenland: let’s light up the dark cottage

The Friends of Herlíkovice association organises regular volunteering jobs and Czech-German workcamps in cooperation with ASF-Servitus (a German organisation that has, for 60 years now, been sending out volunteers to countries that were once occupied by or fought with Hitler’s Germany). The 2018 summer volunteers started preparing new electricity cabling in the Kunzárna; the plan is to have the cottage lit up by the end of 2019. We would therefore welcome volunteer workers who understand electricity.

The spiritual programme at the summer workcamp (which was not only for young volunteers) was led by Leonardo Teca, a minister of the ECCB who was born in Angola. Some of the workers were preparing wood for the Mountain Home resort; they built a little house for storing wood during the winter. We are planning to spend all of the upcoming summer changing the bottom beams, with the help of a carpenter. We would also like to start building the chimney this year, so that it would be possible to heat the place again after all these years.

IMG_20181013_092358

 Overcoming boundaries, forgotten crafts workcamp

We invite anyone interested in a summer workcamp to come and work with volunteers from ASF Servitus this summer. The workcamp will take place in the last week of June. This time, the event should concentrate on traditional, yet often forgotten, crafts. The necessary skills were lost largely as a result of population changes in the border regions. The seminar part of the workcamp will focus on “Overcoming Boundaries in Society”, in line with the topic of the year determined by the Czech-German Future Fund. These boundaries often no longer divide the Czechs and the Germans, but rather they cut through societies, in various regions. As part of the seminar, we would like, together with interesting guests, to look for the causes of this polarisation, and for possible ways of overcoming them.

As usual, the workcamp will finish with a weekend mountain hike and a Czech-German Sunday service (on 30 June) to commemorate the 115th anniversary of the local church.

Partners and collaborators

Our important partners include the already-mentioned ASF Servitus and the Association of German Natives (the Heitmatkreis Hohenelbe, a compatriotic organisation from the Vrchlabí region). We also cooperate with the ECCB’s youth department, the ECCB’s congregation in Vrchlabí (the Herlíkovice congregation is affiliated to the one in Vrchlabí), and of course with Olga and Benjamin Klinecký, who are running the Mountain Home. We would also like to thank the Czech-German Future Fund and the ECCB’s Grant Fund for supporting the projects, as well as the ECCB’s Synodal Council, who is providing the Kunzárna cottage under a loan agreement.

Jan Kirschner

Death of Prof. Milan Balabán, for many years a teacher at the Protestant Theological Faculty in Prague

9. Milan Balaban fotkaMilan Balabán was born on 3 September 1929 in Boratín (in what is today the Ukraine), where his father was a pastor of the Evangelical Church of Czech Brethren (ECCB) for the large Czech community in Volhynia. In 1948-1952 he studied theology at the Comenius Theological Faculty in Prague (today the Protestant Theological Faculty of Charles University – PTF). Continue reading Death of Prof. Milan Balabán, for many years a teacher at the Protestant Theological Faculty in Prague

Diaconia is Celebrating Its 30th Birthday: What Can We Look Forward To?

10. IMG_8632In June 1989, Diaconia of the Evangelical Church of Czech Brethren renewed its activities after the fall of the communist regime. The celebrations that will commemorate this important anniversary will culminate on Thursday 20 June from 3 p.m., at a meeting in the Prague Salvator church. We are preparing a festive programme with many guests, which will take the participants on a tour through three decades of Diaconia’s life, from its post-revolution beginnings all the way to the present day. The programme will be interspersed with music and time for meeting up for a chat with friends over a glass of wine or a cup of coffee. We invite all who would like to celebrate Diaconia’s birthday with us: employees, friends, partners of  Diaconia and other people. We look forward to seeing you there! We have also prepared a special website for the celebrations: www.diakonie30.cz. Here, you can see a calendar of the events organised by Diaconia’s centres and schools for this occasion, as well as stories from Diaconia, information about its history and values; the website also offers the opportunity to buy a birthday present for Diaconia. Continue reading Diaconia is Celebrating Its 30th Birthday: What Can We Look Forward To?