The 2018 meeting of the Annual Conference Czech Republic-Slovakia of The United Methodist Church took place from May 25-27, 2018, in Bratislava (Slovakia).
Part of the Methodist identity is the border-crossing connection. This is, for instance, particularly visible in the joint Annual Conference of the UMC in Czechia and Slovakia. There is a District Conference in both states individually taking care of many administrative issues. As a result, the Annual Conference meetings provide more opportunities for sharing and celebrating together. This year’s meeting in Bratislava was opened by a Communion service focusing on the theme «The earth is full of God’s glory» (Isaiah 6:3).
The reports of the superintendents revealed the different situations in the two districts. Against the background of a highly secularized country, Superintendent Petr Procházka (Czechia) underlined the important role of the ministry with children, youth, young families, and people on the margins of society. Thanks to a study program for lay, there are many committed people taking over responsibility in these areas. It remains, however, an important task to keep the eyes open for new people who might be called for such a ministry.
The very active English-speaking UMC in Prague was added in 2017 by a Russian-speaking congregation, which includes both Russian and Ukrainian citizens and which thus sets an impressive example of reconciliation.
Since the state subsidies decrease year by year according to a respective agreement, the UMC in Czechia is on a journey towards self-sustainability. The local churches were warmly thanked for increasingly covering their expenses themselves and even starting to build up reserves.
The work in Slovakia has, according to Superintendent Pavel Procházka, the character of a mission. The number of members is relatively small, and so is worship attendance, church property, but also local income. The UMC in Slovakia is therefore very grateful for the international solidarity, which helps to run ministries and to cover salary subsidies for pastors, who serve with dedication and commitment in spite of difficult conditions and low wages.
One of the major challenges is the fact that many people migrate from the east to the west of the country – for economic reasons. Actually, there are also people migrating to Slovakia (e.g. from Serbia), but they also prefer the economically stronger areas of the country, hoping to find a job there.
While there are local churches in difficult situations, there are also very encouraging developments. There are also continuing education opportunities for committed co-workers, and communication with the state authorities is good: The voice of the UMC is heard in Slovakia. Finally, the cooperation with other Churches is also very hopeful.
The meeting was closed by another Communion service. In this worship service, Pavel Procházka was celebrated and warmly thanked for his longstanding service as pastor and superintendent of the UMC in Slovakia. The installation of his successor Stefan Rendos took place immediately afterwards. In the first year, the new superintendent will be accompanied by the former superintendent of the UMC in Serbia, Rev. Ana Palik-Kuncak.
Vreni Wirth, lay preacher from Chur (Switzerland) und delegate of the Annual Conference Switzerland-France-North Africa, did not only enjoy the hospitality and the encounters with these brothers and sisters. «I was very impressed by the faithfulness of these people, by the way they kept their faith in difficult times, and by their commitment to give their best in working for God’s Kingdom in both states – to the glory of God».
Quelle: Vreni Wirth, Chur (Switzerland) / Office of Bishop Patrick Streiff, Zurich (Switzerland)
Photo: Miroslava and Pavel Procházka (left), Stefan Rendos (right)