Archive for June, 2010

Reflections of a volunteer

Wednesday, June 30th, 2010

My bags are packed.  It’s almost time to go home to the UK after ten months of living here at IBTS.  It’s an emotional time right now – I’m excited about going home and reuniting with family and friends but there have been so many tearful farewells to get through…

Last summer, when I retired from full-time work and made plans to come out to Prague, I wasn’t quite sure what lay ahead of me.  Come to think of it, that was a time of mixed emotions as well – excited anticipation mixed up with nerves.   I needn’t have worried though; I felt warmly welcomed from the outset and could quickly tell I wouldn’t be bored.

Here’s a flavour of my year.

Teaching English to the CAT students was stretching due to my inexperience but turned out to be great fun and rewarding.  Working in the library gave me the chance to get stuck into a project and have the satisfaction of seeing it through to completion; I liked that.  Taking over some conference administration had a different set of challenges and rewards  (“Help, how can we accommodate all these people coming next week?  We don’t seem to have enough rooms!”)  Checking the English in many students’ papers was a privilege and turned out to be very informative and educational!  However, it is the people who will feature at the core of most of my memories.   Oh, and I haven’t even mentioned opera, jazz, art, culture, architecture and everything else the beautiful city of Prague has to offer.

So thank you IBTS.  Thank you for embracing me in this wonderful community.  Doing a ‘gap year’ here has given me the opportunity to live, work and worship in a multi-cultural and international environment.  It has been at various times scary, rich, challenging, fun, satisfying and generally brilliant.  I’ve made friends for life.  How will I ever settle back at home?  Yet I know I will, because God gave me a job to do here for a while, stretched me, challenged me, taught me new things and I am going home a different person as a result.  I wonder what He has for me next.

Barb Binder

IBTS Volunteer 2009/10

We’re Commentable!

Tuesday, June 29th, 2010

Hello to all! So, now you can come back to us with your comments, questions, suggestions, and what not  🙂  -You won’t need to register with WordPress or jump through similar hoops anymore.

It would be great if some of our readers would try it soon, so that we can indeed be sure commenting has become EASY!

– Lina

United Islands of Prague

Sunday, June 27th, 2010

I don’t know what’s the proper name, but I call it ‘the local’s syndrome’: if you live in some place, you are likely to be much lazier in taking advantage of the cultural or other delights that the place presents, than if you were coming for a shorter or longer visit.  I’m reminded of this each time I see one of our volunteers or a student enjoying Prague just as one should!

Well, that’s certainly true about one of the music festivals which was born in the context of the Czech Republic joining the EU and has already taken place in Prague 7 times, called the United Islands of Prague. I’ve known about it for several years already, seeing the adverts and hearing enthusiastic recommendations, but it took our Administrator, Katka, to push me finally to decide that this year, I’m going to make it to the Islands. (It’s called the United Islands because it takes place on the islands of the Vltava river running through Prague.)

So on a lovely and (bearably) hot Saturday afternoon, I enjoyed listening to Kila, an Irish folk-world music band – a tiny fraction of this rather massive festival of more than 100 bands – looking around at the people sitting on the grass or walking around with their beverages, and I thought once again how rich indeed this country is, to offer such things for free. Yet, as many things free, it’s not always as appreciated as it deserves. Once again I want to promise to myself to look at Prague with the eyes of an eager visitor.

– Lina

Cut backs bite deep!

Thursday, June 17th, 2010

All across Europe governments are cutting back on public expenditure in the face of mounting budget deficits brought about by the bankers and their profligate lending and subsequent bailing out by taxpayers like us. Sir Fred Godwin (“Fred the Shred”), former CEO of  the Royal Bank of Scotland and his ilk, still have much to answer for.

For instance, the new Czech government is planning a 10% cut in funding Universities and their Master’s programmes. However, in our case (IBTS) 10% of nothing from the Czech government is not too hard to bear.

Meanwhile, celebrating HM Queen Elizabeth II’s official birthday in the Thun palace (the UK Embassy in Prague) seated comfortably under the gardens of Praha Hrad (Prague castle) the British Government cut backs are very noticeable. That dour Yorkshireman, William Hague  (UK Foreign Secretary in the ConDem coalition government) has obviously decreed a cut in the number of invitees and a cut in the food and drinks served. Gone are the “pigs in blankets” and “prawns in batter”, in are the sponsored foods of Tesco, Marks and Spencer and local “English- style” butcher Robertson.

Now we are true northerners with sausage rolls and small sandwiches made from cut loaves!

Her Excellency, the Ambassador, put a brave face on it all, but things have come to a pretty pass indeed. I guess President Klaus had heard the food was not up to past standards and didn’t show up, but there was still a good turn-out of the military attaches of our allies in NATO and the Commonwealth and the Russian Ambassador was prominent – no doubt he had come to observe the collapse of this former cold war adversary.

– Keith

Climate Change is For Real!

Saturday, June 12th, 2010

Professor Alistair Macintosh spoke to the 8th ECEN Assembly about the reality and dangers of human-induced climate change. Of the 100 most recent scientific papers all confirm the trajectory of Global warming.  Scientists now generally agree without urgent action we are on track for a 3 degree rise by 2080. Macintosh argued we have been colonized by the powers that drive climate change. Modern marketing drives consumption in excess of what is needed for dignified living.

Macintosh took hold of the insights of Walter Wink – we must name, unmask and engage the Powers. We have to see the interiority of the present outer structures. So we have to engage consumption with Christian spirituality opening our spiritual eye – the courage of opening the heart to community with the Trinity, creation, one another.

Macintosh was engaging and provoking. We have bought his books for the library!

– Keith

(More on this assembly of ECEN can be found here.)

ECEN at IBTS

Thursday, June 10th, 2010

IBTS is playing host to the European Christian Environmental Network (ECEN) this week as they hold their 8th Assembly. ECEN is a network which IBTS has been involved in for several years. Now it is our delight to  welcome people here. There are about 75 delegates from most parts of Europe.

Reflecting on the theme “Our Daily Bread: Living in a Time of Climate Change,” the Assembly has opted for a vegetarian diet – itself an unusual feature in central Europe, where meat is the main part of any diet and cooked vegetables, certainly, are an after thought. (In fact, when you go to a restaurant in Prague, you may still see the vegetarian section of the menu titled as ‘Meatless dishes’!)

Climate change issues continue to be in the focus, but differently from last assembly, participants are exploring the connections between climate change and food – our patterns, our attitudes, the complexities  involved in food industry, etc.

Debates go on with great intensity about mobility – issues of transport, the place of renewable energy and the place of animals in the whole created order. We Baptists certainly have much to learn and only a limited amount to contribute to the debate.

On the other hand, Orthodox Christians help us understand better the sanctification of all of creation. On Thursday this Orthodox theology was helpfully explored for us by Metropolitan Krystof of the Czech and Slovak Orthodox Church. He talked with us about Christians as ‘priests of creation” and how humanity has generally ignored the teaching of the church about our  relationship with creation. Now we must share in some of the pain of creation through our acts of despoiling. In a moving pastoral approach the Metropolitan called upon us to use all our senses in worship and in daily life. This is an important insight from Orthodoxy we Baptists ought to ponder.

– Keith and Lina

‘Comments here,’ but not really, apparently

Sunday, June 6th, 2010

This is actually an apology – seems it has become impossible to leave a comment on entries at IBTSCommunityblog. So if you tried and had to give up, it wasn’t your skills at fault!

Once again, sorry. It’ll take a few days to get this fixed, and if in the meantime you are burning with desire to comment, just forward it to me.

From very hot campus –

Lina

Dressing up

Tuesday, June 1st, 2010

Dressing up is good fun – and everyone at IBTS got in on the act recently. Even the chapel was festooned in “IBTS purple” looking its festive best when we celebrated the conclusion of our 61st Academic Year with the annual Graduation Ceremony.Olha Navchuk (Student President) had a question for me as we lined up in the Dining Room beforehand to process into chapel. What was the difference between the long academic robes, the black “Cambridge pattern” Masters being worn by many, the IBTS academic team gowns, the crimson red doctoral robes. Then why were the hoods different colours – purple, Mazarin blue shot red, black with red edging, yellow and white, blue and yellow etc. Thus followed an impromptu seminar on academic dress. Of course if you are really interested you should join the Burgon Society but even if you are note, our academic procession was colourful and varied!

The Chapel was full for the ceremony and for the first time in memory we had students physically present graduating in all the main programmes of IBTS – Doctor of Philosophy, Magister in Theology, Master of Theology, and Certificate in Applied Theology and Certificate in Intensive English. Most of our part-time students cannot get back for this event, so we had a special treat this year.

Our guests included representatives of Baptist Unions in countries with graduating students, other educational institutions in Prague, including Charles University and friends and family members of those graduating.

In his Graduation address, Dr David Goodbourn (President, the Partnership for Theological Education, Manchester, United Kingdom) said he had looked at countless such Graduation addresses and found they fell basically into three categories – the morally improving, the whimsical and the ironic. Drawing on insights from Ephesians chapter 4 Dr Goodbourn referred to all three styles. In an engaging way David offered illustrations of all three styles and how they might apply to the experience of having been a student at IBTS, but concluded – “if your achievement here has given you hope that you can achieve more with others in the future; if the friendships you have made here, across cultural barriers, across language barriers, across theological disagreements, have given you faith that all human barriers can be broken down with God; if today, you are yearning to help others experience the growth in faith and understanding you have experienced yourself – then you go as bearers of hope. And hope is the most precious gift.”

Well, that seems right doesn’t it? IBTS models many things to our students, but certainly I echo David’s encouragement that our leaving students might go as bearers of hope.

– Keith