#ECCB When we in the Chrást congregation tried years ago to articulate the identity and mission of our community (the strategic planners of the church will be pleased to hear this), the image of the congregation as a haven kept coming back to us.
But in doing so, a worm of suspicion also began to gnaw at me. It's nice to see the congregation as a place where we can return and draw strength for the next "voyage," where we can dump our life "loads" and take on some of the burdens of others again. But doesn't this image actually suggest a certain closedness, where it is all about us, the "insiders"? Doesn't it need some refinement?
And so, an idea gradually began to emerge, linked from the beginning to another image, this time a biblical one: refuge. A permanent home we are still looking for. In this world, we meet only in "taverns" for refreshment on the journey of faith. The psalmists often speak of God as their refuge. But the existence of a Christian congregation includes this mission: to be a place of refreshment, fellowship, and strengthening for newcomers (and often only passers-by).
Thus a plan was born to add an addition to the existing rectory, which is the centre of congregational activity and one of the focal points of social and cultural life in the community, with two furnished separate rooms for accommodation. To create a place where people can find support at a difficult time in their lives or just stay in seclusion for a while. To offer a roof over one's head for a time - and to be a shelter for the soul. To show hospitality and walk a part of the journey together with those who need to stop or find a place to start again. To have dignified conditions for those who seek their personal or group "refuge", but also for those who want to offer their time, strength, and gifts to serve others, perhaps as volunteers. The time of the decision to move in this direction was a "coronavirus" time, in which the rectory was indeed becoming, in a variety of ways, a refuge for many of those who could not find a "place under the roof" or their natural family elsewhere.
In our understanding of the sanctuary - and we see this as essential - the social and pastoral, diaconal and spiritual dimensions thus meet. Both belong to the mission of the Church - not as two separate realities, as we often experience, but as one. The German namesake of our eminent practical theologian, Paul Philippi, wrote that in social matters the congregation owes itself to the world. And the orders of our church are in line with this when they say that the centre of gravity of diaconal work is in the congregations because that is where practical help can most naturally go hand in hand with lived community in the Christian faith. And it is this communal aspect, linking communion in prayer with concrete solidarity, that is to be the common denominator of the variable use of new spaces. And perhaps one of the inspiring forms of the search for how to be the church today and tomorrow.
Yes, for the church to serve as a place of refuge, a place of spiritual and practical support and service to others - for this, fundamentally, no buildings are needed. On the other hand, many of us have certainly experienced in our lives how important it can be in some life situations to find a welcoming refuge - also in the form of a roof over our heads. That is why we ask the readers of Český bratr for prayer and we would be happy to work together to create a shelter in Chrást, perhaps as part of this year's Main Gift of Love of Jerome's Unity. For the latest information, please visit chrast.evangnet.cz.
Karel Šimr, pastor in Crást