The Reverend Zbigniew Kaminski’s experiences as a pastor in Poland during and after communist rule demonstrate the value of an interconnected church and faith community.
Zbigniew Kaminski received his first appointment in 1978 in Krakow, Poland, meaning that he spent his first decade as a United Methodist Church pastor serving in a communist country. The experience of living and working for the Church under communist rule left Kaminski with a host of memories he won’t soon forget. “There were always special visitors in our Sunday services and if something not politically accepted was said in the sermon, there would be an invitation to the police on Monday,” Kaminski said. “Everything connected and associated with the West, and especially the U.S., was seen as dangerous.”
Kaminski, who retired in 2018 and receives support from the Central Conference Pensions (CCP), remembers with pride that the Methodists kept their independence from the government throughout these years. More and more Methodists became part of the opposition, he said, and the movement for freedom, which culminated with the dissolution of the communist government and the switch to a democratic government in 1989.
He also recalled with excitement how after the fall of the communist government he went out into the streets to share the gospel and openly invite people to church for the first time. Kaminski also printed brochures and distributed books to aid with evangelization. In addition, he helped shape the Christian message on national radio and TV. For over 20 years, Kaminski served as the ecumenical consultant for Christian programs on Polish TV and chaired the ecumenical commission for Christian broadcasting on radio and TV.
Kaminski was well-suited for the ecumenical roles. His parents were members of the Prussian Union of Churches. Kaminski was confirmed in the Lutheran church, but over time he was drawn more and more to the Methodist church. Kaminski studied theology at the ecumenical Christian Academy in Warsaw where Rev. Witold Benedyktowicz, superintendent of the Methodist Church of Poland, was one of the professors. At Benedyktowicz’s urging, Kaminski spent his Sundays at a Methodist children’s home working with the children while he was in college.
The UMC’s connectional nature proved to be a great source of support for Kaminski.
“I never forget the big UMC effort in Western Europe to send parcels with clothing when we suffered a terrible economic crisis in Poland,” Kaminski said. “I still remember the name of the family in Nuremberg (Germany) who had sent parcels to my family.”
Kaminski sees CCP as having a similar collaborative, supportive mission.
The CCP is one of three sources of income for Kaminski in retirement. In 1960, the Church in Poland created a small social fund to support pastors in retirement and with health benefits that still exists today. At the time, there was no government-sponsored support for pastors in retirement. In addition, in 1989, clergy were added to the government’s social security system. However, they are only able to contribute the minimum, so the creation of CCP was a great relief for pastors in Poland, according to Kaminski.
Kaminski hopes that the UMC in Poland will continue to be part of the Central Conference in Southern and Eastern Europe and the worldwide Methodist connection. “We need each other,” Kaminski said. “We are family.”
Source: www.wespath.org / Thomas Kemper