On the Feast of the Conversion of St. Paul

St. Clement's Church, Prague on a winter's evening © Ricky Yates

St. Clement’s Church, Prague on a winter’s evening © Ricky Yates

Today, 25th January, is kept in the Christian calendar as the Feast of the Conversion of St. Paul. This year, 25th January is a Sunday, and Church practice is that the readings set for a Feast Day, normally take precedence over those set for the Sunday – in this case, those set for the Third Sunday of Epiphany. So it was that this morning, we celebrated the Feast of the Conversion of St. Paul, with the account of his conversion recorded in the Acts of the Apostles chapter 9, being our first reading. And if you want to listen to my sermon from today, you can do here.

This is the second time during my time in Prague, that the the Feast of the Conversion of St. Paul has fallen on a Sunday. The previous occasion was six years ago on 25th January 2009, a few months after my arrival here in late September 2008. That service six years ago, has remained long in my memory for reasons I will explain.

Being an English-speaking congregation based at a central location in a popular tourist destination, nearly every Sunday we have visitors from across the world, joining us for worship. Frequently among the visitors, are fellow ordained priests and ministers. But because they are nearly always in mufti, unsurprisingly since they are on holiday, I only get to know of their presence when speaking to them at the Church door after the service when they usually reveal themselves :-)

Almost without exception, they express great appreciation for the service and the pleasure for once of being able to be part of the congregation, rather than being up-front. If married, the pleasure of being able to worship sitting alongside their spouse. The latter sentiment is one Sybille and I fully concur with as it is something we both enjoy on the rare occasions we are able to do so.

However, Sunday 25th January 2009, when the Feast of the Conversion of St. Paul previously fell on a Sunday, was the occasion when I had to preach with two bishops in the congregation – Bishop Mike Klusmeyer of the Episcopal Diocese of West Virginia, and Bishop Jonathan Gledhill, the Church of England Bishop of Lichfield. The only consolation was that I did know of their presence in advance of the service, though in the case of Bishop Jonathan, only ten minutes beforehand.

But as well as being episcopally listened to and observed, the events of that day and the week that followed, were the catalyst for the beginning of this blog. The first post describing what happened, wasn’t finally published until ten days after that Sunday. But in many respects, rather than ten days hence on 4th February 2015, today is the sixth birthday of ‘Ricky Yates – An Anglican in Prague’.

Little did I know what I was starting and I now look back in staggered amazement at what has happened here, over the past six years. This is post number 304. The blog now attracts between 70 – 90 visitors a day. When there is a new post, visitor numbers promptly rise – for example on 19th January when I last published a new post here, there were 140 visitors.

I’ve met people at the Church door who have told me that they came to Church because they’ve read my blog. I’ve met a couple of people in one of our local bar-restaurants, who on discovering my name, immediately told me that they read my blog. Six years ago, not in my wildest dreams did I ever expect any of this to happen.

So on the Feast of the Conversion of St. Paul 2015, I thank God for his life, teaching and example. I also thank God for Ananias, for his faithfulness and obedience, without which, Paul’s conversion would not have happened. And I thank God for the way this blog has both become such an important component of my life and how it is appreciated and enjoyed by so many people.

Twenty-five years on from the Velvet Revolution

Havel navždy – Havel forever. © Ricky Yates

I had originally planned to write a blog post on this topic back in November 2014, immediately following the ‘Struggle for Freedom and Democracy Day’ public holiday on Monday 17th November, which officially marked the twenty-fifth anniversary of the beginning of the Velvet Revolution on 17th November 1989. But rather than write an immediate reaction, I eventually decided that it was better to wait somewhat longer and give myself a little more time for both research and for reflection.

For although the events of 17th November 1989 were what initially triggered the Velvet Revolution, it took several weeks before on 29th December 1989, the previously Communist Party controlled rubber stamp Czechoslovak parliament, voted dissident playwright Václav Havel, to be the new President of Czechoslovakia with the promise of holding truly democratic parliamentary elections in . . . → Read More: Twenty-five years on from the Velvet Revolution

Looking ahead into 2015

Prague © Ricky Yates

Since the beginning of this new year, aided by the ‘Forward Planner’ in my new Church Book & Desk Diary 2015, I’ve been looking ahead at what is in store for me and what I want to achieve in the coming year. In the past, I’ve frequently not been the best at forward planning, so with the new year comes a determination to do better.

In particular, I’ve been trying to decide when I can and want to take my annual leave, allowing for Easter and Christmas when I have to be in Prague, weddings at which I have agreed to officiate, and the Eastern Archdeaconry Synod and the ICS Chaplains Conference, at which my attendance is expected. By the end of this week, I want to have something firmly booked and begin organising cover for the . . . → Read More: Looking ahead into 2015

Christmas 2014

The altar at St Clement’s at the end of our worship on the Fourth Sunday of Advent © Ricky Yates

This Christmas was our seventh in Prague. As I have explained in a previous post, each year a large number of our regular congregation head off to their home countries for the Christmas – New Year period, in order to celebrate with their wider family and friends. This is further exacerbated by the fact that many in the congregation either teach in one of the various international schools in Prague and/or have children who attend one of these schools. The three week Christmas school holidays, together with summer months of July and August, provide the only real opportunity for a trip back ‘home’.

However, although we held our Service of Lessons and Carols on the evening of Sunday 14th December, in advance of . . . → Read More: Christmas 2014

Bringing the Church of England into the 21st century

The Parish Church of St. Mary the Virgin, Wilby © Ricky Yates

Yesterday, I realised that the next post that I would write on this blog would be post number three hundred! I went to bed last night, trying to decide what on earth would be the most appropriate topic to tackle for such significant landmark in the life of ‘Ricky Yates – an Anglican in Prague’.

Then this morning came the announcement of the appointment of the first ever female bishop in the Church of England – the Rev’d Elizabeth ‘Libby’ Lane, to be the next Suffragan Bishop of Stockport in the Diocese of Chester. Rather than write about ‘Ricky Yates’ or ‘Prague’, why not write about the other noun in my blog title – ‘Anglican’?

I, along with the vast majority of the clergy and people of . . . → Read More: Bringing the Church of England into the 21st century