Prague’s ‘Church on a Boat’ tries to bring Czechs back on board with religion

Christian Science Monitor

A Prague church movement is spending $800,000 to turn an old shipping barge into a church boat. The founder says Czechs won’t go to church, but they’ll go to church on a boat or in a go-cart hall.

Here’s the scene: a thumping band, flashing lights, and a fog machine on a Sunday evening in Prague. Where are you? In church.

“We wanted to have a church that was easy to invite people to,” says Dana Janda, a volunteer with Prague’s branch of International Christian Fellowship. “Christians are quite old-fashioned and we wanted to make it cool.”

International Christian Fellowship (ICF) is a European nondenominational Christian movement. The Prague church has been around for more than three years, quite a feat in one of the most atheistic countries in Europe. Mrs. Janda and her husband, Tomáš Janda, helped form this youth-driven church, where the pastor, at 40 years old, is the oldest member. The majority of the 150 or so congregants are between ages 15 and 25, a population the Jandas say isn’t being reached by traditional churches.

“The problem is packaging,” said Mr. Janda. “Churches are still using the form from 300 years ago.”

So ICF decided to go “nonchurchy” and rent a go-cart hall with a warehouse feel and a super light and sound system. Songs are sung in English and the sermon, in Czech, gets kicked up a notch with film clips and other multimedia. The clublike atmosphere provides flexibility.

“It’s no problem to change the structure,” said Mr. Janda. “The content is the same; we just experiment with the form.”

Their newest experiment is Church on a Boat. ICF Prague has acquired an old shipping barge and has just begun to reconstruct it to serve as a worship vessel. They hope to rent it out for weddings and cultural events to introduce people to the church in a nonthreatening way. The project will take nearly three years and around $800,000 to realize their vision of spreading the gospel in Prague through unusual venues.

“It attracts people,” said Mrs. Janda. “We hear, ‘I wouldn’t go to church, but I’d go to a church on a boat.’