A very special Sunday morning

Silvia (Slovak), Karen (American), Ata (Iranian), Yours Truly (English) Jack (Irish) © Sybille Yates

Silvia (Slovak), Karen (American), Ata (Iranian), Yours Truly (English) Jack (Irish) © Sybille Yates

To worship at St. Clement’s, Prague on any Sunday is always a great joy, with the possible exception of a few occasions in the depths of winter when coping with the cold can be a little difficult 🙁 But our worship yesterday morning was particularly special for two reasons.

Firstly, my good friend and ministerial colleague, Rev’d Dr Karen Moritz, was our preacher. As I have explained in two previous blog posts, ‘Welcome to another Karen‘ and ‘Pentecost in Prague‘, Karen is an ordained minister of word and sacrament in the Presbyterian Church (USA), and since September 2010 has been a Mission Co-worker with the Ceskobratrská církve evangelické / Evangelical Church of Czech Brethren, (Lutheran – Presbyterian), working in the Ecumenical Department at their denominational headquarters. The CCE / ECCB, are the largest Protestant denomination in the Czech Republic and are also the owners of Kostel sv Kliment where we worship.

Karen is licensed under the Ecumenical Canons of the Church of England, to preach, help in the administration of Holy Communion and to lead non-Eucharistic worship. She is a much loved member of the St. Clement’s congregation and a great support to my ministry. As always, it was wonderful to be spiritually fed by her preaching, rather than to always be giving out myself. You can listen to her sermon from yesterday by following this link to our Church website.

The second reason that this morning’s worship was so special was because I conducted the baptism of an adult young man named Ata. Ata is an Iranian Christian who, because of his adoption of the Christian faith, has had to flee his home country and is currently seeking asylum here in the Czech Republic. He has been worshipping with us for several weeks, supported by two female friends, Darina (Czech) and Silvia (Slovak), both of whom also speak Farsi.

It has been a privilege to spend time with Ata, preparing him for baptism, aided by Silvia who has translated into Farsi when Ata has had any problems in understanding my English. One of the many things that has impressed me about Ata, is the way he brings his Farsi New Testament with him to Church, so he can follow the Epistle and Gospel readings and improve his English at the same time. Ata also has a most engaging smile as you can see in the photograph at the beginning of this post.

It was very moving to hear Ata publicly declare his Christian faith before the multi-national St. Clement’s congregation yesterday morning – by my calculation we had at least twelve different nationalities present. Following his baptism and Ata receiving his baptism candle representing the light of Christ, the congregation burst out into a spontaneous and long round of applause. He also received many warm greetings at the Peace.

Ata and Silvia added one final nice touch to a very special Sunday morning, by bringing various Iranian specialities which they shared with us at Coffee Hour following the service. May Ata continue to ‘shine as a light in the world to the glory of God the Father’.

10 comments to A very special Sunday morning

  • Now that really was a special day, Ricky. I think it’s great that you and Karen works so closely together and was very touched by your account of Ata’s baptism. To see someone who has given up so much for the sake of his faith is very humbling to us ‘comfortable’ Christians.

    • Ricky

      It was indeed a special day, Perpetua. Karen & I get on extremely well together and the regular congregation very much appreciate her ministry. She is also very kindly going to lead our Lent course this year, about which no doubt, they’ll be a post here in due course 🙂

      Yes – Ata’s situation is very different to that of Western Christians. If he doesn’t win his asylum appeal in two weeks time & is sent back to Iran, he faces almost certain imprisonment or possibly death.

  • How exciting to have a Sunday morning adult baptism, on the Sunday before Ash Wednesday no less! And the congregation is even more trans-national and multi-cultural than would be expected. How difficult or time-consuming will it be for Ata to win asylum in the Czech Republic?

    • Ricky

      Very exciting indeed, Stephen. And the congregation is far from being ‘the Brit’s abroad’, as so many people assume. Our Church Electoral Roll (official membership) of 61, boasts 18 different nationalities!

      To answer your second question, it will not be easy though he does now have a good lawyer to represent him. His initial assylum application was rejected and his appeal hearing begins two weeks today. Providing evidence that he is a Christian has been part of the problem & therefore an official signed & stamped certificate of baptism from our Baptism Register, will hopefully go towards solving this problem. In typical Czech bureaucratic style, that certificate will now need to be translated into Czech by an official translator & then the translated document will have to be notarised. We hope and pray for a successful outcome.

  • Basically, what Perpetua said. Ata will certainly be in my prayers.

    • Ricky

      Indeed Hana – as a member of the CCE / ECCB, I was sure you would approve of my close cooperation with one of your ministers 🙂 Thank you for your prayers for Ata. They are much appreciated.

  • Sean Mccann

    Hi Ricky,
    Congratulations to Ata and yourself and your colleagues on his baptism. Coming as I do from Ireland I am familiar with religious bigotry (on a much smaller scale than that suffered by that brave young man) and I am saddened and dismayed that people can’t just agree to disagree on all matters of religion or politics. We are all human and that is the greatest single unifying factor between us all. Wishing you, your colleagues and your congregation every success and blessing.

    • Ricky

      Thank you Sean – I share your sadness. Freedom to express & practice one’s religious faith should be an inalienable human right.

  • Praying for Ata and your congregation. Thanks for sharing.