This year's gathering of the Czech and Slovak Republics Annual Conference was dedicated to the 100th anniversary of The United Methodist Church in the Czech Republic. Actually, it was already 100+1 years, because the anniversary celebration had to be postponed several times due to the COVID-19 pandemic and even now could be held only with a reduced number of visitors.
As in Poland and in Belgium, missionaries of the Methodist Episcopal Church, South (USA) came after World War I to what was then Czechoslovakia. Their aim was to help the war-stricken population. Thus, the church began its work with extensive social activity including soup kitchens, children's aid and orphanages. From what is now the Czech Republic, the work was extended a little later to what is now Slovakia.
At the anniversary celebrations in Prague, the first interview guest was Vlastislav Malac, the oldest living Methodist, the son of a Methodist preacher and long active in the church in publications. He is still spry, even climbing the many stairs to attend services. He will celebrate his 100th birthday later this year and recounted his own experiences in the 1930s and during World War II. The anniversary day brought insights into the missionary and social work of the church with interviews and videos. In a varied and lively manner, the current work of the church was presented in connection with the past. The focus was on the Czech Republic. With the surprising visit of the former Slovakian superintendent Robert Zachar, however, an arc was drawn at the same time to the British Methodist Church, where he is now active as a pastor.
The anniversary day was concluded with a festive ecumenical service which, with many official guests from other churches, made visible the close, long-standing cooperation of the UMC in the Czech Republic with other churches of Catholic and Protestant tradition.
The conference session was deliberately kept short and took place on Friday, before the anniversary day. An important part of the discussion was devoted to a round of questions about developments in the worldwide Church and in the Central Conference of Central and Southern Europe, as well as to proposals for a peaceful separation and formation of a new traditional Methodist church. A pastor in the Czech Republic became a probationary member of the conference. One pastor each from the Czech Republic and Slovakia could be admitted to full connection with the Annual Conference. The two ordinations then took place on Sunday in the closing service.
The next Annual Conference is scheduled for May 20-22, 2022, in Bratislava (Slovakia).
Bishop Patrick Streiff, Zurich/Switzerland
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