A newsletter for friends of the Global Mission Institute, Luther Seminary
Global Vision - Spring 2014
View more articles in the Spring 2014 issue.
Kyle Svennungsen, M.Div. Intern, Slovakia
Ahojte—"Hello" in Slovak—from my cozy flat in the Old Town neighborhood of Bratislava, Slovakia! When most Americans hear about countries like Slovakia, many immediately think of Eastern Europe in terms of proximity. And while there is partial truth to that, Slovakia and its capital of Bratislava are closer to Central Europe than they are to Eastern Europe. But as my wife, nna, and I have learned in the short six months we've been here, Slovakia is a beautifully and historically rich country that is close to so many wonderful places in Europe. We have been blessed to live here and learn so much about the culture, and a little something about ourselves as well.
The ELCA has had a long-standing relationship with the Lutheran Church in Slovakia (known as the Evangelical Church of the Augsburg Confession or ECAC). That relationship has taken on many different forms throughout its history, but for many years it has found a way to provide an internship experience each year for one lucky M.Div. student from an ELCA seminary. The internship is unique not only because it is in a beautiful city in a beautiful country with faithful people, but because its responsibilities are two-fold. Part of the internship is devoted to pastoral duties at the Bratislava International Church and the other half to teaching Christian religion to students at the Evanjelickच Lৢceum bilingual school. The Bratislava International Church is made up of ex-patriots from many different countries including, but not limited to: Norway, Denmark, Germany, Hungary, Israel, Iran, New Zealand, Ghana, Nigeria and, of course, the United States.
Even though the country is overwhelmingly Roman Catholic in its religious affiliation, the minority of Protestants—and Lutherans specifically—make their presence known. Our congregation uses a sanctuary referred to as the Malৢ Kostol (small church) that belongs to the ECAC. The church campus is located in the heart of Bratislava's Starच Mesto (old town) and proudly flies Reformation Rose flags outside of its offices and church buildings. This is considered a bold statement in light of the Protestant church history in Slovakia. Of course, in the era of communism, identifying with Christianity or any religion led only to persecution. In the centuries before that, ruling monarchs—being Roman Catholic—tolerated Protestant churches only if they did not have ornate buildings with steeples or were located on major streets. Simply said, Protestant churches could not look like churches from the outside, and the effects of those mandates have lasted to this day.
Before I was asked to write this article, I often reflected on how Luther Seminary was connected to Slovakia through my own experience here. Other than missing the community at Luther Seminary every day, I began to realize how deeply connected these communities are despite being a world apart. It definitely takes time to become accustomed to living in another country with a new language, but there is a lot about being immersed in the religious life of its people that has reminded me of my time at Luther Seminary. They are highly devoted to religious education and fellowship, and they sacrifice nothing to make sure their students receive the best education. This strong devotion to a religious education has resonated with my experience at Luther Seminary, which I have appreciated experiencing in Slovakia as well.
So, when you finally take that trip to Europe you've had on your bucket list, consider coming to Slovakia. Even though you can fit three countries the size of Slovakia into the state of Minnesota, there is plenty of beauty and history to experience here. As my wife describes it, this country truly is a diamond in the rough and a treasure for anyone to find.
This article was originally featured in the Concord, Luther Seminary's student-run publication. Learn more about the Concord on its Facebook page