Two Sundays ago I had the opportunity to worship and preach at the new Lutheran congregation in Kosice, Slovakia. For much of the recent past, Lutherans had one church in which they could worship in Kosice, the city church downtown. Often things were standing room only, even with multiple Sunday morning services, so the new church up on the hill provides an alternative to the "suburban" community of KVP. Suburbs means something quite different in Kosice- not individual dream houses, but rather panelaky, tall eleven story strucutures in which thousands of the residents of Kosice, along with many millions of people in eastern Europe, abide.
The city of Kosice decided that they would like to have an ecumenical center in KVP, so they provided plots of land for worship space for a number of the churches in the area, including Orthodox, Greek Catholic, Roman Catholic, and Lutheran. The Catholics and Orthodox have already built their churches, but the Lutherans are awaiting the final go-ahead for their groundbreaking.
In the meantime, Ondrej, my friend and colleage in ministry, has been pastoring the newly established congregation in KVP, and they meet in the Biely Dom (White House), the regional capitol building. The irony of their meeting in this place, aside from the strangeness (for an American) of having worship in a government office building, is that the meeting hall in which they worship was a major meeting hall for Communist leaders prior to 1989. The room formerly used by Communists is now on Sunday mornings regularly used for Communion! This irony was not lost on some parishioners, but Ondrej seems to be happy about it, at least from the symbolic side of things, and is especially happy to have a central and comfortable space in which to gather for worship.
There are many things different about Slovak church life from the perspective of an American pastor, including ideas about stewardship and giving, the role of the pastor in the community, etc., and yet at the same time, when Ondrej and I spent the afternoon walking and talking, we found and always find so many things that unite us- how to faithfully respond to the modern demand for the reform of the liturgy, what it means for the church to be "in the community", these questions are eminently on both our minds.