Photo: Conference attendees from 12 countries enjoyed fellowship during coffee breaks in the garden at St. Michael’s church in Prague.
Fall classes have resumed and I am thrilled to have new students. Rev. Tomás Živný, pastor at St. Michael’s Czech congregation, now takes weekly individual English lessons with me. Our discussions are robust; his English is better than I expected, except for the typical pronunciation and grammatical struggles. His wife, Diana, joined my fall Conversational English class that utilizes help from American volunteers online. I continue to tutor another Czech pastor, Rev. Žbanek, weekly, as well as the Bishop of the Spanish Lutheran church, Rev. José Luis de Miguel, twice a week.
The reason that English proficiency is so critical among Lutheran pastors is that it is the common language for most theological conferences and networking opportunities in Europe. On October 17-19, one of these theological conferences was held at St. Michael’s church in Prague. Dr. Jack D. Kilcrease was the keynote presenter on “Justification by the Word: Restoring Sola Fida.” Other presenters included American LCMS missionaries and theological educators, Rev. Dr. David Preus and Rev. Dr. John Bombaro. They all presented in English, as well as Rev. Dr. Marek Říčan, with Czech translation projected on a screen. Professor Jaroslav Vokoun presented in Czech with English translation projected.
The conference attracted 56 attendees, mostly Lutheran pastors, from 12 countries and 18 church bodies. Other countries represented besides the United States and Czech Republic, included Slovakia, Romania, Poland, Ukraine, Germany, Norway, Spain, Italy, Portugal and Israel. The teaching was described by some of the pastors as the best they had ever read or heard on the topic.
When we gathered together each day for Vespers or Matins, we used the Lutheran Service Book (LSB) and the three pastors also preached in English. Because the confessional Lutheran churches in Europe are small and scattered, these conferences offer a unique opportunity for learning and fellowship.
Conversation at the breaks, lunches and dinner was lively and the time together went way too fast. It was good for me to see so many familiar faces and reconnect with people that I have met over the past five years.
I was especially surprised to see two Ukrainian pastors that I knew. One of them preached at Matins and is staying in Wittenberg, Germany, serving a group of Ukrainian refugees there. The other pastor serves as the Bishop of the Ukrainian Lutheran church; I was shocked and thrilled to see him and his wife, Alona, when they greeted me before the conference. I hadn’t seen them since I was in Odesa in 2019. At the end of the conference, Bishop Maschewski thanked the LCMS and our Eurasia Regional Director, Rev. James Krikava, not only for the amazing conference but also for all the help with the war. He said, “When Russia invaded Ukraine, the very first call that we received offering help and support was from our Lutheran friends.” The Bishop’s heartwarming tribute touched everyone and reemphasizes the importance of mission work abroad. We are working together to expand God’s Kingdom and helping those in need.
This month we remember those who are nearing the end of their earthly race, and also my confirmation verse:
Be thou faithful unto death, and I will give thee a crown of life. Revelation 2:10 (KJV)
To read more about my activities this month, including a very special birthday celebration, or to print a copy of the newsletter, please download it.