Establishing and growing the UMC congregation for English speakers living in the Czech Republic.
Describe the need affecting community
There is a need for Christian congregations and fellowship in the Czech Republic. The country often ranks in sociological surveys as one of the most atheist countries in the world. Six hundred years ago, the followers of John Hus withstood decades of crusades by Catholic Europe against them. Today, less than 1% of the population identifies themselves within a Protestant tradition, and far fewer of those attend weekly services. It is difficult to find the sort of healthy, multi-generational congregations of believers that can be taken for granted in the US. The challenge is even greater for the tens of thousands of English speaking ex-patriots living near Prague. Many are there for short term (6 months to 3 years). Their needs are unique and greater than they would be in their own country. Expats have moved out of their traditional support networks of friends and family at exactly the same time that culture shock eats away at their sense of self-worth. They need an emotional and spiritual community and sense of belonging more than ever. Given the Czech language is particularly challenging for native English speakers, learning the language fast enough to actively participate in an existing Czech congregation is not an option for most expats.
How will this Advance project help to address the need?
ESUMC – Prague has become the faith home for many, both ex-patriot English speakers and local Czechs. As the only English speaking Methodist church in the country, and with services that combine modern music and traditional hymns. It has been embraced by individuals who find other Prague congregations to be too “high church” or “low church”. Through its physical location as the only congregation located in the east of the city (an hour’s travel from several of the larger English congregations), and by holding services at 4 o’clock in the afternoon, it is also accessible to individuals who might otherwise struggle to attend services. By providing its members with a strong foundation for their faith and the fellowship of a family of believers. ESUMC supports the witness of those individuals in their daily lives. A significant number of expats are exchange students or teachers. Some teachers work in Christian schools, while others teach in public schools or in businesses. They are often the first Christians that their students, or fellow students, have ever encountered. Czechs are very open to discussing or asking about faith, even if they don’t share it. An additional way the project plans to start fostering Christian fellowship is through the introduction of music and praise services. Music is an important characteristic of Czech culture. A traditional saying is that “to be Czech is to be a musician.” Gatherings of friends regularly include singing and guitars. ESUMC has surprisingly strong musical gifts given the size of the congregation and music can both lift up the existing members of the congregation while speaking to new Christians through a medium they understand.
Describe the primary goal of the project
Our goal is to develop disciples of Jesus Christ for the transformation of the world. We aim to live out the biblical principles of God’s special love for foreigners by supporting the spiritual and emotional needs of English speaking ex-patriots in the Czech Republic. At the same time we want to support the spiritual growth of English speaking Czechs in a multinational community of fellowship based on the values of the United Methodist Church.
Describe the change you would like to see in the community as a result of this Advance project
With the support of a family of believers, the faith of English speaking Christians can thrive, and not just survive, while they are in Prague. So that they can reflect God’s love in their every day lives among the people of the Czech Republic.