First Anniversary in Prague

Bridges over the Vltava River, Prague, as seen from Letna © Ricky Yates

Bridges over the Vltava River, Prague, as seen from Letna © Ricky Yates

Today, Saturday 19th September 2009, is a significant date. It marks the first anniversary of my arrival in the Czech Republic, together with my wife Sybille and Oscar the cat. In the late afternoon of Friday 19th September 2008, we arrived outside our Chaplaincy flat in Prague 6, at the end of a two day, 885 miles/1416 km drive across six countries + an English Channel ferry crossing. One year on, I’ve spent the last few days doing a little bit of reflection about how I feel about the move and all that has happened these past twelve months.

Firstly, I have no regrets about making the move. Fifteen and a half years was long enough to spend looking after ten Churches in North Oxfordshire. If I’m honest, probably two or three years longer than I would have wanted to be there. But God has his timings and I am convinced now, difficult though it was at the time, that it was worth waiting for the right move even though I had to wait more than two years and several interviews before being appointed to a new post. I’m also pleased that, nearly twelve months after I left, my former parishes finally have a new Rector. May she, (Yes – I’ve been suceeded by a lady!) take those parishes forward, building on what, under God, I and my Ministry Team colleagues, began.

Secondly, it is wonderful to no longer have responsibility for ten mediaeval Church buildings and their associated churchyards. Despite what so many people think, the Church is not a building or even an organisation. Rather, it is the people of God. Of course, mediaeval Church buildings do speak of God – they are holy stones and places where people do find space to be quiet and to pray and to worship. And I’m not a Philistine – such buildings need to be maintained and preserved. However, sometimes the conservation lobby needs to be reminded that Churches were built for Christian worship which should remain their prime purpose, rather than insisting that they become museums to the whims of the way Victorians thought they should look.

Here in Prague, the building we worship in isn’t ours – it belongs to the Evangelical Church of Czech Brethren Ceskobratrské Církve Evangelické. The CCE are a joint Lutheran – Reformed denomination formed in 1918 and are by far the largest protestant grouping in the Czech Republic. Their congregation meet for worship at 9.30am each Sunday hence our service is at 11am. We pay them a modest rent for the use of their Church building and the facilities at Klimentská 18. In 2008, this amounted to around 48,000 Kc (about £1,600.00). As a result, we have no heating or electricity bills, no building insurance to pay, and no building repairs and maintenance to have to be concerned about. Instead, we can get on with being ‘Church’ without any concerns for the Church building.

However, just occasionally I do get frustrated at not owning our own Church building. Back in May when a member of the congregation died, it took two whole days before I could get confirmation from our hosts, that I could have the use of the Church building for a particular time and date in order to conduct a funeral service. The next of kin were left in complete limbo whereas, back in Oxfordshire, I could have immediately confirmed a date and time without reference to anyone else.

More recently, when our Sunday School was due to resume meeting on Sunday 6th September after the summer break, we discovered on the day, that our Sunday School room in Klimentská 18 was unavailable. Our hosts hadn’t thought to tell us earlier! But these minor irritations aside, to be able to spend time and energy on people rather than buildings, is a great joy.

What lies ahead? That is a big question. There is a saying amongst clergy that when you move to a new parish or situation, “The first year you can’t do anything wrong – the second year, you can’t do anything right!” So far, people have, almost without exception, been very supportive. But I’m about to enter my second year……! Watch this space!!!!

5 comments to First Anniversary in Prague

  • What an impact you have had on people in just one year! I predict more expats will discover St. Clement’s because you have succeeded in creating such wonderful community. Congratulations on such a great first year.

  • Ricky

    Karen – you are too kind! Thanks.

  • Belated best wishes on your anniversary, Ricky. Hope the second year’s even better. Can well understand your frustration about not having your own premises, and can only imagine how that affects so many aspects of your work. Still, I suppose it draws your attention – however teeth-grindingly! – to the idea that a church consists of people, as opposed of just a building. Lovely stuff, though, thanks!

  • PS Forgot to say how beautiful the pic is – am a huge fan of riverine views, and this one’s a beauty.

  • Ricky

    Minnie – Thank you for you comment & the PS! Letna Park, from where I took the picture, is a wonderful place to walk with amazing views across the River Vltava and the city of Prague.