2012 Czech Republic/Slovakia Annual Conference
The Czech Republic/Slovakia Annual Conference, May 11-13, 2012, Michalovce, under the leadership of Bishop Patrick Streiff.
When Czechoslovakia split into two countries in 1993, the annual conference of The United Methodist Church did not separate. Of course, it was necessary to undergo some structural adaptations; however, the annual conference is still organized as one structural body with two districts. This year its meeting took place for the first time in the most eastern part of Slovakia, where several churches are located close to the Ukrainian border.
"No one can lay any other foundation besides the one that is already laid, which is Jesus Christ." In the opening worship service, Bishop Streiff preached about the meaning of this verse from 1 Corinthians 3:11. It is crucial that we build on a solid foundation. However, it is God who has laid this foundation in Jesus Christ; it has not been us. And though we, as Christ's disciples, can contribute to the building, the most important thing remains the foundation. We need to learn over and over to let go of our works in spite of our commitment - trusting that on the same foundation there is space for a huge variety. And trusting that it will be God's decision, which parts of our work will remain.
The United Methodist Church is a small church in the Czech Republic and in Slovakia. But the local churches make a difference at the places where they are. It is not only about worship services. The United Methodist Church is also taking care of the underprivileged Roma. They have established ministries with mothers and children, students and drug addicts. In many cases, these ministries are only drops in the ocean - but they are crucial for the individual people served by the church.
The reports of the district superintendents offered a helpful overview on the most important hopes and concerns of the local churches and the church members. It was repeatedly stated that the situation in both countries is rather different - but that it is worth carefully listening to each other in order to learn from one another.
The statistics show a slight growth in church membership in both countries, and new churches have been established during the past years. The English-speaking United Methodists in Prague (Czech Republic) and the new church in Pezinok (Slovakia) are two examples of these activities. The music groups from the Roma church in Slavkovce shared with their words and their music how God is changing people in the eastern part of Slovakia and how he is reviving the church.
The closing worship service took place in the Reformed Church of Michalovce. In addition to the conference members, guests from surrounding congregations participated, as well. Bishop Streiff summarized the conference with the motto "Being church together." Together we are the body of Christ. Nobody is unneeded. But the body of Christ consists of much more than just our church. Together with others, we are the church - and as long as we are really willing to move together, we are strong. Nothing should separate us: neither a religious separation between Jews and Gentiles, neither an economic separation between the rich and the poor, neither a separation between men and women. In the church, all these separations lose their significance. We are one in Christ. This is the new reality of being church together.
Source: Peter Baur, Interlaken / Office of Bishop Patrick Streiff, Zurich
Date: May 21, 2012