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20. 12. 2017

Parish congregation of the Evangelical Church of Czech Brethren in Javorník nad Veličkou

Javorník is situated in the south-east of the Czech Republic, in the White Carpathians mountain ridge. It is the seat of the Czech Brethern church. Amidst the catholic region, Javorník was and is nearly entirely protestant village. There is the church dated 1783, belfry 1733, congregation house and parish house for pastor´s family.

Javorník is attractive for its personal atmosphere of the spiritual life of local Protestants, descendants of Czech Brethren living here in the 17th century. The present form of the congregation is given by the folk character of the church with strong traditional elements. So far, for example, during the service one song is sang from Elsner's 1753 hymngbook, printed in Gothic scripture (4 other songs are taken from the modern edition hymnal, however is also contains hymns dating as far as the 13th century).  The Confirmation Ceremony takes place in traditional folk costumes (see our photo albums: http://cce-javornik.rajce.idnes.cz/

History

A group of Czech Brethren was here more than 4 centuries ago, with its own prayer house and belfry. After the defeat of Czech protestants by catholic army in 1620 (see Wikipedia: Battle of White Mountain) the house was destroyed and the local church lived for 160 years without the visible house. It was period of forced recatholization and in Javorník there was hardly any family escaping the persecution.

The village turned to catholic church only outwardly and many fled to nearby Slovakia (then Hungarian Empire). People kept contacts with exiles in Slovakia and when possible they walked 20 miles and more to attend to the services there, especially to the Lord´s Supper. Some preachers used to coming secretly here and people in Javorník held secret meetings in the forests, cellars, hay-sheds and a water mill near the today´s church.

Catholic priest used to come and check for hidden books and services, in 1739 soldiers committed cruelties, took some people to the prison, some were killed or were tortured and died. The border with Slovakia was heavily guarded by thousands of soldiers to prevent people from escaping.

But in the 40ties of the 18th century the catholic missionary Korvín admitted that all his efforts were in vain – he was unable to change people nor in kind ways neither by threats.

In those times some people were willing to pay for one protestant songbook the price equivalent of two of young oxen.

 

In 1781 the „Patent of Toleration (see Wikipedia, also: 1782 Edict of Tolerance) was announced and in the 1782 minutes most of 427 inhabitants declared to belong to the Helvetic (Calvinist) confession, 25 of them responded to be Lutherans since their birth. (modern copy of old minutes is in our archive)

In September 1782 two deputies of the congregation brought the first pastor Breznay from the southern Slovakia – he was the very first pastor to come to Czechia from abroad. As his native language was Hungarian, he needed the dictionary to prepare his sermons. He left after 4 years as the congregation was unable to pay him properly because of extreme poverty, there were people dying from hunger.

But since then congregation was active till the present days and the present pastor is the 15th in the line. The longest active was rev. Procházka, who worked in Javorník for 47 years.

 

The present days

The central point of church life is the Sunday service at 10 a.m., where on average 100-120 believers take part. The presbyters are invited to have the 1st Bible reading and the intercessions after sermon.  (The registry includes about 520 members who were baptised and expressed their wish to remain members.)

Baptism: those who ask for the baptism of their children or their own, have to go through baptismal catechesis. The weddings are prepared in similar way.

Sunday school is held during the time of service, once a month there is so called „family service“ = children stay with parents in the church, special talk with some activity is addressed to them related to the theme of the following sermon. Apart of this there are meetings with program for children and youngsters on Fridays.

The culmination of the year activity is the Christmas Children Celebration – theatre with biblical themes played by children in the church.

Summer camps for children in July combine sports and biblical activities.

For the adults there are biblical lessons on Wednesday evenings plus some Sunday evenings.

The quarterly „Protestant of Javorník“ informs about the events of congregation, the website includes the sermons and their recordings, photos etc.

Quite surprising for the visitors are the funerals where not only family members but most of active congregation members take part at the „good-bye service“ in the evening and the funeral service with procession to the cemetery next afternoon.