The annual «Night of Churches» is a special event on the agenda of Czech Tourism, and on June 10, 2016, more than 1400 churches and chapels throughout the country are expected to welcome visitors with a rich evening program.
In a country where almost 80% of the population are without any religious affiliation, churches and chapels are indeed places where people enter unknown territory. However, the challenge for the churches is not so much to prepare an attractive program for this special day but to be a light in the darkness when there is no «Night of Churches».
The leaders of the «Rainbow Center» in Pilsen, which is one of the diaconal ministries of Maranatha UMC in Pilsen, are aware of this challenge. Last year, they took advantage of the «Night of Churches» and offered a joyful and colorful program in the church garden. But although the program attracted many children and their mothers and was therefore very successful, it is the faithful service throughout the year, which really makes a difference in the lives of both children and parents. This service includes a variety of regular activities for parents only (e.g. lectures of acknowledged experts on medical, pedagogical, psychological, and other issues), for children only (e.g. day-care center), and for parents and their children together (e.g. creative workshops, excursions, and the «Family Week»). Recently, a ministry for children with special needs and their families was started, as well.
The «Rainbow Center» reaches about 250 children and 150 adults each year. They come from Czech, Slovakian, Russian, Moldovan, and Ukrainian families, some of them are Roma, and so they have very different national, ethnic and social backgrounds. For many of them, the «Rainbow» staff members are the first Christians they get in touch with. Children and their parents get to know what special days such as Christmas or Easter really are about. But beyond this, they experience that Christian faith is not as boring and outdated as common prejudices tell them, but that it rather relates to life in a meaningful way. Children and their parents experience unconditional love and appreciation from Christians who put the Gospel into action and who take a stand for healthy, functioning families, where children find support in their parents and parents find it in God. Such experiences are regularly a starting point to deep conversations on the essentials of life.
The «Rainbow Center» in Pilsen is much more than a place where parents know that their children are taken care of while they work fulltime or part-time. It is a place where lives are changed. And where the light of God’s hope still shines bright when the lights of the «Night of Churches» have been switched off long ago.
Source: Fund for Mission in Europe / Urs Schweizer, Zurich
Date: February 9, 2016