Construction of the Milic of Chremsir/Kromeriz Church Centre of the Evangelical Church of Czech Brethren in Prague - the 'Southern City'.
(Update – October 2004)
Evangelical Church of Czech Brethren, New Church Building and Partnership with Social Service Agency
The ECCB has taken an exciting new step, building a church in the heart of a huge apartment complex (which has about 100,000 residents) and (upon invitation) entering into a partnership with the social service agency that will be the church's next-door neighbour there. The shelter next door provides housing and services for victims of domestic violence, the homeless, refugees, and others in need. The new church building will provide a unique opportunity for its congregation (named after the Czech reformer, Milic of Kromeriz) to minister to a large "neighbourhood" and to the residents of the shelter, for whom the congregation will serve as a kind of bridge to the larger society.
The congregation of the Evangelical Church of Czech Brethren (ECCB) Prague 4 - Sporilov was first established more than fifty years ago. Then, at the beginning of the fifties, in very adverse political circumstances, members of this congregation constructed (with their own hands) a building which is still in regular use. Since then the population and the area covered by this congregation have multiplied many times with the development of a huge housing scheme of panel-block flats - the "Southern City" (of Prague). Today the population of the area is about 100.000 people. Consequently, the church building has become unsuitable for the activities of the congregation because of its size (eighty seats and a small adjacent room for meetings of up to 18 people) and its location - on the very edge of the area. Moreover, the fabric of the building is in urgent need of complete reconstruction.
An idea to build a new church centre was already discussed in the late seventies. The planned centre was also to serve the local community and the project was in the hands of a Dutch partner congregation in Rijswijk. After 1989 (the Velvet Revolution) the local authorities were in favour of this project and were actively helping in looking for a suitable site. This project, however, did not materialise because of other very urgent projects financed by the Dutch, for example in Romania.
The effort of the congregation to be part of the housing scheme did not cease and in 1996 a flat for the minister was bought in one of the blocks of flats. This, however, has not solved the basic problem of a suitable church centre.
In the middle of 1998 a lively co-operation was begun between our ECCB congregation Prague - Sporilov and The Walking Together Centre (for homeless people and asylum-seekers) and we were invited to share in the care of the residents, among whom there are also incomplete families with small children. Their openness and trust towards our congregation is a challenge and means commitment; it cannot be ignored. A proposal to build a church centre in the grounds of The Walking Together Centre was made by the centre itself and the congregation accepted it. And so did the local authorities, which was very important, as the grounds are the property of the local council. An important aspect is that the site of the new church centre is the geographical centre of the area covered by the congregation.
Looking forward in hope
Our initially rising hope has recently subsided a little due to a comment (although relevant) made by the local municipal council, which was: "You cannot build a new church centre adjacent to a building serving homeless people and asylum-seekers without carrying out improvements to that building and extending it." Indeed, we (the congregation) and they (the staff of The Walking Together Centre) want to co-operate. Therefore new plans have been made and approved for the improvement and extension of The Walking Together Centre. This in turn meant that we had to consider again whether we are able to pursue the plan to build and whether it is really necessary to build a new church centre. People living in the housing scheme, as our society in general, seem to be indifferent to what the church does, even to the point of rejecting 'a religion interfering in their privacy', which affects our deliberations. However, in spite of all that, there are several aspects that encourage us to be persistent in our intentions. They are: new members, our young generation and, most of all, The Walking Together Centre.
Although not numerous, there are those who quite unexpectedly approach us and express a wish to join our congregation.
Our pride and joy are our young people who are involved in the life of our congregation and meet regularly. They are sincerely interested in the building preparations and try to play an active part in it.
The Walking Together Centre
The Walking Together Centre is not a church organisation and the staff and volunteers range from those attached to the Roman Catholic or Protestant Church to those who might call themselves 'unbelievers'. The Centre is a NGO established in 1997 and it basically provides these kinds of service:
· Free legal or consumer advice for anybody in need to access important information and advice services to solve their problems. (There are about 1,000 queries a year - in person, by telephone or e-mail.)
· Temporary accommodation for single mothers and families with children and accommodation for people in crisis. The average length of accommodation is 7 months. Last year the total number of residents was 157 (80 adults and 77 children).
· Negotiating with the authorities on behalf of the residents, so that they will get a flat to move in, a job or a work permit and job.
· Courses - remedial teaching, languages, etc.
· Educational Programmes for Romanies
From the regular consultations and discussions with the staff of The Walking Together Centre it emerges that the presence of a Christian congregation may play a vital part in the lives of the homeless families and asylum-seekers resident in the Centre; it may help them to overcome the difficulties they have to face. As members of our congregation are regularly present in The Walking Together Centre, either as organisers of bible classes for both children of the residents and children from the area that our congregation covers, or fortnightly meetings with adults, or attending events organised with or for the residents, we are being encouraged to persevere and try to make the transition from planning to actual building. The Centre has already received funding for the improvement and extension of their building from the Prague city council.
The project is supported by Prague Presbytery and the Synod of our Church (the Evangelical Church of Czech Brethren), who accepted our proposal in 2001. The municipal authorities are positively inclined, too. However, none of these have the resources to make a significant financial contribution.
We, as the congregation of Prague - Sporilov are looking to the future and realise that the life of a congregation is not limited to worship on Sunday and Bible study during the week. Therefore we wish to open our church centre to the wider community and also work together with The Walking Together Centre.
We welcome visitors to both The Walking Together Centre and the congregation so that they see for themselves the work and relationships in the Centre.
Situation on the site
The shell of the building is finished, the windows, water pipes and electricity wires are in, plasterwork has been done in all the rooms but the basement. The next step is the installation of underground pumps which will be part of the heating system.
Contact Persons: Tomas Bisek, Tel. 00420 271910339, e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org
Pavel Hejda, Tel. 00420 272920086, e-mail: email@example.com
Costs (in CZK, incl. VAT)
Architect's, Consultant's and Local authority fees
Furnishings and fittings
Financial situation in August 2004 (in CZK, incl. VAT)
In the bank account
Promised gifts for 2004
- GAW Germany
- Evangelische Kirche in Baden, Germany
Sources of money received so far:
Members and friends of the congregation (Prague - Sporilov)
Jeronymova jednota CCE
Congregations of Prague Presbytery
City of Prague
Gifts from fraternal churches abroad:
Bavarian Lutheran Church, Germany
Pfalz United Church, Germany
Evang.-Lutherisches Landeskirchenamt, Sachsen, Germany
Konsistorium der EK, Sachsen, Germany
Evang. Kirche in Hessen u. Nassau, Germany
Sprengelkollegiums, Gottingen, Germany
Evang. Kirche, Rheinland, Germany
Protestantische Gemeinde, Hochstadt, Germany
The Church of Scotland (World Mission Department)
Dalbeattie Parish Church, Scotland
Verzoeningskerk Rijswijk, the Netherlands
Colonial Church EPINA, Minnessota, USA,
The House of Hope, St. Paul, Minnesota, USA
People's Congregational Church, Bayport, Minn., USA
United Reformed Church, North Thames Synod, England
Nottinghill Methodist Church, London, England
Gifts from organisations abroad:
The Iona Community Family Groups in Edinburgh, Glasgow and Fife, Scotland
The Iona Community Associates' Advisory Group, Scotland
The Iona Community Common Fund, Scotland
Schröterstiftung, Ludwigshafen, Germany
'Konfirmanden Spende', Bremen - Osterholz, Germany
'Konfirmanden Spende', Hasslocher protestantische Kirchengemeinde, Germany
Diakonisches Werk der Evang.-reformierte Kirche, Leer, Germany
Verwaltungsamt, Altenkirchen, Germany
Freundeskreis der Iona Community, Germany
Gifts from private donors abroad:
Mr Beindorf, Rijswijk, The Netherlands
Mr D. Millington, Ludlow, GB
Frau U. Langenhan, Korntal, Germany
Mr Hans van der Horst, The Netherlands
Rev. and Mrs. J. Michael, USA
Mr and Mrs P. Bisek, USA
Rev. Heinz Raulf, Boxberg-Bobstadt, Germany
Bank Account: Ceskoslovenska obchodni banka a.s.
Hlavni pobocka Praha 2 Account No.: 476047613/0300 - Praha Pankrac,
IBAN: CZ03 0300 0000 0004 7604 7613