Sunday, May 13, 2007

The Need for Community

Later Friday afternoon, I left for Havlíčkův Brod to visit some friends I made when I sang in the prison, oh, but I guess I didn't tell that story on my blog, so maybe I should give some more background. One of the ministers in our presbytery invited me to visit the Easter service in a women's prison. I thought it would be interesting, mostly because I was eager to spend some more time with his family, but also because I was curious about the life in the prison. So, he then invited me to sing and play my flute, which seemed like a natural question to me. I didn't realize, however, that there was a whole group of youth that provided music. We had two guitars several singers a violin, trumpet, and flute! Quite a lot compared with most services I've been to in our denomination. The service turned out to be abnormal, with lots of disrespectful women speaking during the sermon, songs, and even prayers. They told me afterwards that normally the woman show lots of respect and deeply appreciate the service, however, there was a recent flux of gypsies or, to be politically correct, Romani people in the prison. I thought it was interesting when they said this, because previously I had observed how the women in the prison had significantly darker skin than the Czechs that I see on a normal basis. It is incorrect to say that the Roma are disrespectful, they just have a different culture and other priorities or, rather, perspectives about life. You might say that I'm giving them the benefit of the doubt, but I think there were many issues that could have lead them to feel free to talk and make what normal church goers would call a "ruckus" during the worship. It didn't bother me much; I just prayed that they would still hear the message so that maybe it would stick around inside their brain for later thought. Anyway, I don't know any Romani people personally. I only know about them through other Czechs, so at this point I don't feel like a good source for information about this cultural conflict. I've just been told that they came from Slovakia years ago and took over the towns that were left empty after the Germans were kicked out in the aftermath of the second world war. Knowing the cultural differences between the Czechs and Slovaks(Slovaks have a much more relaxed way of life than the Czechs), I can only imagine that the barrier would be even greater with a nation of people who seem relaxed to the Slovaks. I don't know if I will ever discover more about this issue, because there are not many Roma in this area. Well, at least this experience introduced me to the subject.

Getting back to the story, many of the youth from this worship service were from a congregation in Havlíčkův Brod(and nearby village Horní Krupá). I had a nice conversation with the pastor, David, and he invited me to one of their youth meetings. So this Friday was the long awaited youth meeting. Oh, I had a great time there. David prepared a Bible Study in Czech and English, and I greatly enjoyed the feeling of community in their youth. It actually holds true with our church as a whole, The Evangelic Church of Czech Brethren, which has a relationship with the Presbyterian Church(USA). There are always some jokes at presbytery gatherings about half of the group being related, but that's just it. This denomination is like one big family. I find myself calling it "our church," rather than "our denomination." This has been true for centuries though, because of their prosecution by the Catholics. Everyone in our church feels connected in a special way. I would say I know more people from our Presbytery/Synod in CZ, then I ever did in my Presbytery in OK or WI. I've been to several youth gatherings planned for our presbytery, as well as singing with Vocatus as I mentioned in an earlier post, and, although the number is small, the faith and feeling of community is great.

You know it seems to me that some Czechs don't even care about whether God exists, let alone care about the differences between religions and denominations. I hesitate to even call them Atheists, because then they would be taking a position as to say there is no God, but instead many people, just don't think about it. They "believe in people" as they say. And yet, there are the extreme opposites from these people, who feel rooted in the church, and these people are different from normal Czechs. Their faith and differences from the other Czechs bind them together in their small denomination, kind of in the way that all Czech people feel bound together, the small Czech people in the small country. Their faith is at the center of who they are. They may seem lukewarm to the "Red hot Evangelical," but their roots go deep and their devotion is true. They just don't go around shouting about their faith, because just walking the walk does enough to say, "This is the way I have chosen, and I am satisfied. Choose how you may."

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