On June 6 this year Synodal Senior Daniel Ženatý, head of the ecumenical department of the Central Church Office Oliver Engelhardt, and the deputy director of the ECCB Diaconia Štěpan Brodský, set off on a multi-week trip through the USA.
The story of our connection with this church dates back to 2016, when the La Crosse Area Synod in Wisconsin sought a new partnership with a member church of the Lutheran World Federation in Central Europe. After getting to know each other through telephone encounters and electronic communication, the first visit of a delegation took place in 2017. The delegation from the La Crosse Synod visited the Czech Republic in June 2017. The guests gave a very positive assessment of their trip, during which they learned about the past and present of the ECCB. This increased their interest in deepening contacts in the future. So they invited an ECCB delegation to their home territory.
During the assembly of the La Crosse Synod, an official partnership agreement was signed between the two churches. It formulates the interest to get to know each other better and to work together in different ways.
‘My hope is, that our churches may deepen our relationship, may inspire each other and may learn from each other about being disciples of Jesus Christ. And if we succeed in doing so, our companionship may serve not only each other, but may serve in a broader sense. Our world is moving towards more individualism and more selfishness. Let’s be a part of an alternative way,’ said Synodal Senior Ženatý in his greeting. He gave Bishop Arends a glass replica of a chalice, which was used by Czech exiles in Zittau in the 17th century.
The Czech delegation joined Hana Jindříšková, who is currently participating in a three-month International Camp Counselor Program and works at the Sugar Creek Bible Camp in the La Crosse area. For the first time, this concrete form of on-site cooperation was able to be combined with an official delegation from the ECCB.
The journey continued, with encounters in communities that have different connections to the Czech Protestant tradition. Daniel Ženatý visited e.g. the Theological Seminary in Austin (Texas). Oliver Engelhardt visited various congregations of the Presbyterian Church (USA) in Maryland and New York. The aim of this part of the journey was to build on Czech Protestant traces in the United States and to work with the Czech Mission Network within the PCUSA. Topics of the talks and events were Czech-American relations since the times of the Unity of Brethren (history, culture, confession), the centenary of the ECCB, and the importance of democracy in church and society. Daniel Ženatý attended the assembly of the Presbyterian Church in St. Louis at the end of the journey.