The Annual Conference of the United Methodist Church (UMC) in Czechia and Slovakia met in Bratislava from May 19-22, 2022, under the motto: "Strengthen the feeble hands, steady the knees that give way!" (Isaiah 35:3).
"We can meet here in peace, but we know not far from here things look very different." With these words, Bishop Patrick Streiff greeted the 50 conference members and thanked them for the enormous commitment that the congregations are making to the war refugees and those in need in Ukraine.
The joy of being able to meet physically again without restriction was great, yet overshadowed by the consternation caused by the nearby war - but also by the question of whether there will still be a joint Annual Conference of the two districts in the future.
Superintendent Ivana Prochazkova (Czechia) emphasized the hope for a common path within the worldwide United Methodist Church. She would like to see crises, even though they may reveal weaknesses, as opportunities to lay down burdens and focus on essentials. During the pandemic and since the outbreak of the war, the congregations and their pastors have shown that they are capable of this. She hopes that this experience will also bear fruit in the future when it comes to giving hands and feet to the good news.
Superintendent Stefan Rendos (Slovakia) also thanked the congregations for their dedicated service during the pandemic and since the outbreak of the war. He also reported that despite financial support from the state, the personnel strategy would be adjusted: fewer employees, but with higher stints and higher salaries. And as far as the separation issues are concerned: nothing has been decided yet, but - according to Superintendent Rendos - the Slovak district will probably change to the Global Methodist Church (GMC).
The commission, which had compared in detail the Discipline of the GMC founded on May 1, 2022, with the current Book of Discipline of the UMC in the Central Conference of Central and Southern Europe, advised the conference to wait with the decision until open questions, for example on the employment of pastors, on the adaptation possibilities of the church order or also on the administration of assets in the GMC, had been clarified. How the ordinary procedure for a change of church would look administratively would be worked out in time for the extraordinary Central Conference in November 2022, the bishop explained.
Josef Cervenak was retired. He has helped shape the EMC in the Czech Republic, having served as pastor for 44 years, including 20 years as superintendent. Petr Mazur was elected as the new local pastor, who received a ministry assignment for the Roma parish in Gerlachov (Slovakia).
On Saturday evening, guests shared their experiences in humanitarian work. One youth said. "When I see refugees carrying just the bare necessities, I realize how good I have it."
Bishop Streiff encouraged loving attention in his homily on Sunday. For it is not only the how and what that decides, but the why. What is decisive, he said, is a heartbeat that is not driven by fear or anger, but by God's love, which builds relationships and helps to endure difficulties. Without this heartbeat of love, feet and hands would grow tired.
The next meeting of the Annual Conference will be held May 12-14, 2023, in the Czech Republic (probably in Prague).
Source: Rev. Andrea Brunner-Wyss, Kloten-Glattbrugg (Switzerland)