-By Elizabeth Ahlman
On Sunday, October 2, 2016, Rev. Clinton Hoff was installed as the pastor of the English Language congregation at St. Michael’s Lutheran Church, Prague, Czech Republic. Rev. Hoff and his family arrived in Prague in early August 2016. Since their arrival, in addition to settling in and starting Czech lessons, Rev. Hoff has been serving the congregation as the pastor-elect leading up to his official installation.
Rev. Hoff and his family – his wife Lalita, and their 8 children: Violette, Cosette, Kenny, Evie, Bernadette, Dietrich, Ezra and Silas – previously lived in Wisconsin where he was serving as a dual-parish pastor at St. Matthew Lutheran Church, Almena, Wis., and Silver Creek Lutheran Church, Clayton, Wis. (2010-2015).
On Sunday, in the sanctuary bedecked for the Czech harvest festival, Regional Director, Rev. James Krikava, installed Rev. Hoff. This was a particular joy for Pastor Krikava as he had been serving for some time as the interim pastor for St. Michael’s.
“Pr. Hoff’s installation marks another step forward not only for St. Michael’s congregation but for our Eurasia region’s strategic plan,” explains Krikava. “For the congregation it means a long awaited full time pastor who can devote all of his energy to the flock as well as reaching out to the extensive English speaking community in Prague.”
He added that Pastor Hoff’s “full time presence will also allow the RD to begin a region wide visitation of our regional missions partner churches on Sundays so that we can see first hand what our Lutheran church looks like in our various fields.”
Krikava was assisted by Rev. Dr. Christopher S. Ahlman, an LCMS Missionary based in Leipzig, Germany, and by Rev. Marian Cop, Superintendent for The Evangelical Church of the Augsburg Confession (ECAV), a church body with which the LCMS has a working agreement. The congregation of St. Michael’s in Prague is a part of the Czech church body, which consists of a Slovak-speaking congregation, the English-speaking congregation, and several Czech congregations.
During the Installation Rite, Rev. Cop, who also serves as the pastor of the Slovak-speaking congregation of the ECAV, chanted Psalm 119:124-135 in Slovak and offered his blessing for Pastor Hoff in Slovak. Rev. Hoff pledged to serve the congregation faithfully and to uphold the confidentiality of his office.
Just prior to the Installation Rite, Pastor Hoff preached a sermon on the text for the day, the healing of the paralytic lowered into the house where Jesus was speaking. Jesus forgives the sins of the paralytic. Rev. Hoff used this as an opportunity to speak about Private Confession and Absolution, a fitting theme as he was installed to serve the congregation by carrying out the Office of the Keys. During the week, Pastor Hoff will offer opportunities for Private Confession and Absolution on Thursdays and Saturdays.
In addition to caring for the expatriate community which attends the English language worship service, Rev. Hoff is tasked with learning Czech in order to also proclaim Christ crucified to the Czech residents of Prague, with the hope of helping to plant new Czech Lutheran churches. In this aspect, he will work closely with the ECAV.
Within the congregation, Pastor Hoff has begun confirmation classes once again. He notes that the work there “includes the same duties as a parish pastor in the USA: preaching, visiting, evangelism.” He adds, “One big hope I have for the future is for a St. Michael Lutheran School. Schools have a very important role to play in Lutheran catechesis.”
The family has been adjusting well, Pastor Hoff shared. “The kids have had no problems coping (they have lots of playmates with each other).” The biggest challenge is learning the Czech language alongside other duties and responsibilities, such as the children’s school work. However, they have found that the Czech people they are meeting are gentle and kind.
Krikava observes: “Pr. Hoff is stepping into his role very quickly. His family is so supportive of his work, and that is a very important component to a successful tenure. I could not be more pleased and grateful to our gracious Lord for sending him to us. Please pray for Pr. Hoff and family that the Lord will use them that His name may be hallowed among us and that His kingdom may come and be expanded among us.”