Church Ministry to the People

The Ascension weekend was an opportunity for ten thousands of tourists to visit the wonderful city of Prague and to enjoy the great weather. Close to the very heart of Prague, about 60 members and guests of the Annual Conference of the UMC in the Czech Republic and in Slovakia also gathered.

For some years already, there are only a limited number of reports, which are submitted to the Annual Conference. This leaves more space for sharing, discussions, and mutual learning. The leaders hope that this will help the members of the Annual Conference to get new inspiration for their respective ministries in the local churches and that it will also encourage them to support each other. At this year’s Annual Conference, some selected local churches introduced their ministries. These presentations were received with much appreciation, and there were not only many spontaneous questions but the reports were also closed by a time of prayer for the ministries at the various places. On Saturday afternoon, there were conversations in small groups focusing on the Episcopal Address of Bishop Patrick Streiff to the Central Conference 2017. The delegates split up to groups dealing with the different questions, which can be found in the Episcopal Address, and the conversations proved to be so intensive that the groups needed much more time than it was originally planned. The Episcopal Address can be used in group conversations of different kinds and is already available in several languages (see the website of the Central Conference).

Two pastors joined the UMC after having served as pastors in other Churches for some years. In Slovakia, Dr. Patrik Hipp was welcomed and commissioned as pastor on probation. In the past, he had been working as pastor of a Pentecostal oriented denomination. In the Czech Republic, Lev Shults was commissioned as Local Pastor. He originally came from the Russian Baptists and later founded a Russian-speaking Baptist congregation in Plzen, which met in the facilities of the UMC. When he wanted to start a similar ministry in Prague, the UMC once again was the only Church willing to offer him a room to meet. Because of this openness, his relationship with the UMC deepened, and finally he decided last year to become a United Methodist pastor. Lev Shults is momentarily the chairperson of an interdenominational association of approximately 100 Russian-speaking Protestant churches in the geographical area of the European Union. In Prague alone, there are about 200’000 Russian citizens, and their number is steadily growing.

It was a reason to joy and thankfulness that there are an increasing number of church members willing to be educated and commissioned as Lay Speakers and Lay Preachers. In many congregations they are a most valuable support to the various ministries. The number of professing members has remained stable over the past years, which was only possible because of the regular admission of new members.

Next year, the Annual Conference will meet from May 25 to 27, 2018, in Slovakia.

Source: Bishop Patrick Streiff, Zurich
Date: May 29, 2017