At a time when populism threatens European togetherness, it is especially important that European Christian leaders celebrate and deepen their ties with each other.
The Old Catholic Church is represented in half a dozen, mainly Germanic, countries in Europe. The Old Catholics have been in full communion with the Anglican church worldwide since the Bonn Agreement of 1931. On April 1st 2017, a group of Anglican bishops joined with our Old Catholic brothers in Prague to consecrate a new bishop for the Old Catholics in the Czech Republic. We worshipped for nearly three hours in Czech and German: a test in humility for us English-speakers!
The ordination and consecration was conducted in a very special place. The Brevnov Monastery is the oldest monastery in the Czech lands, dating from the 10th century. It was recently returned to the Church following its confiscation in the Communist era.
New bishop, Pavel Benedikt Stransky, is in his 30s, so he is likely going to be the leader of Czech Old Catholics for a good long time to come. The Anglican Church in the Czech Republic has a Covenant with the Old Catholics. Under that agreement, St. Clements Prague is both a fully signed up Anglican parish and a fully signed up Old Catholic parish. Chaplains are proposed by the Bishop of the Diocese in Europe but licensed by the Old Catholic bishop. So Bishop Stransky is a particularly important person for our Czech congregation.
Having shared in consecrating their new bishop on the Saturday, it was natural to visit St. Clements, Prague on the Sunday. This was another important occasion, as it was the last confirmation service for chaplain Ricky Yates before he retires from Prague at the end of this month.
Ricky came to St. Clements in 2008. He has been supported in his ministry by his German wife, Sybille. Over his time he has learned an impressive amount of the (difficult) Czech language. Members of the congregation spoke warmly to me of Ricky’s ministry. He has built a strong relationship with the Old Catholic church. He has attracted new families to St. Clements. His pastoral care for individuals has been greatly valued. Under his ministry, the finances of the church have strengthened. He will be enjoying a well-earned retirement in a rural part of the Czech Republic. His departure marks a huge change for St. Clements, and he will be greatly missed.
Sunday’s confirmation candidates represented a gloriously international community. Sebastian, aged 14, has a British father and a Slovak mother. To prepare for his confirmation, he has been working his way through James Jones’s ‘Following Jesus’, and he described to me how his faith has grown through this. Radka is Czech and is married to Charles who is British. The couple started attending St. Clements in 2015 after finding the church on Google. John is British and married to Yelly, who is Dutch. John is a musician and a poet: he kindly gave me a CD of a ‘Rock Mass’ he has recorded with the Karlovy Vary symphony orchestra.
After the confirmation, we had a bring ‘n’ share lunch. Ricky then departed for the Anglican congregation in Brno, two and a half hours away, whilst I met with the Council. I was impressed with a small Council who discharged the business before them with a wonderful mixture of serious attention and appropriate humour. It is so encouraging to see a Council that works well and is blessed with a highly able team of church officers.
So I headed off to the airport and said farewell to the lovely city of Prague. During the interregnum, The Revd. Nathanial Nathanial will be locum priest at St. Clements. Nathanial comes from the Church of North India and is married with baby twins. Do pray for him as he ministers to our international community in Prague over the coming months. And do join with me in thanking God for Ricky’s ministry and in praying for the success of the appointments process which we now begin.