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TORRINGTON, CONN (SZS)  Today marks 15 years since the dedication of the Seminary building where the EBF-UK (Evanjelicka Bohoslovecka Fakulta – Univerzita Komenskeho) is headquartered in Bratislava, Slovakia.

After World War I and the dissolution of the Austrian-Hungarian dual monarchy, it became necessary to reorganize the educational system in the newly established Czechoslovak Republic. The entire Evangelical Church of the Augsburg Confession in the Czechoslovak Republic called for the establishment of a theological institution. The first President of the Czechoslovak Republic, Thomas Masaryk, supported these efforts. The theological school in Bratislava was re-organized and renamed the Slovak Evangelical (Lutheran) Academy. Its first academic year began on October 20, 1919; this date is considered to mark the official founding of the current Theological Faculty. (Interestingly, the Slovak Zion Synod was officially established that very same year.) However, for decades, this Theological Institution was without a centralized facility that it could call home.

In the autumn of 1994, the State offered land in the Bratislava suburb of Machnáč for the purpose of building the new Theological Seminary. In February 1995, the General Presbyterium of the Slovak Evangelical Church of the Augsburg Confession (ECAV) made the final decision to construct a new building on the Machnáč plot. With funding provided by the State, the Lutheran Church in Slovakia, local congregations, the Lutheran World Federation, Lutheran Churches and Synods from Europe and North America, and especially the Slovak Zion Synod of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America, construction began in 1996 and was completed by the summer of 1999. On October 3, 1999 the building was officially dedicated and the Evangelical Theological Faculty – Comenius University was placed into the service of the church.

The Slovak Zion Synod and its members were (and continue to be) major advocates, contributors, and supporters of the Seminary and its programs, aggressively campaigning for financial support of the development of this property. Our close relationship and collaboration over the years with the administration of the Seminary and ECAV in Slovakia provided us with the opportunity to be partners in this important endeavor of making a difference in the theological education of hundreds of seminarians in the last fifteen years and for decades to come. Through the efforts of our Ecumenical & International Relations Committee, chaired by the Rev. Dr. Thomas J. Drobena and the Rev. Wilma S. Kucharek (Our Bishop, present day), the Synod and its congregations and members became one of the seminary’s most vocal advocates and contributors to the project. Through our congregations and some very generous individual donors, including the late Paul Predny of Saints Peter and Paul Lutheran Church in Riverside, IL, our synod has been instrumental in assisting in the completion of the Seminary building, as well as providing for the furnishing of various areas of the seminary, including dormitory rooms.

The EBF-UK continues today to be the main seminary of choice for Lutheran theological students, not just in Slovakia, but for the Lutheran Church in Serbia and the entire region of Eastern Europe. It boasts a faculty of nearly 40, with over 10 doctoral students and hundreds of students every semester. Its academic departments are comprehensive and cover Old Testament, New Testament, Systematic Theology, Church History, Practical Theology, The Institute of Contextual Theology, and The Institute of Sacred Music. The current Dean of the EBF-UK is Lubomir Batka, who himself is an alumnus of the Slovak Zion Synod Student Immersion program that our Synod has been sponsoring in cooperation with the Seminary since long before the construction of the current building was begun. Our Synod will, of course, continue our partnership in this significant joint venture of enhancing the educational experience of theological students from Central and Eastern Europe.

NOW: The Seminary Building (exterior) as it stands today

THEN: The Seminary building (exterior) in the final stages of construction

THEN: The Seminary building (exterior) in the final stages of construction

THEN: One of the classrooms, as the walls and ceiling are being finished

NOW: Bishop Kucharek (right) leads an Asset Mapping seminar for the seminary faculty in the very same classroom, 15 years after it was finished. The current Dean of the seminary, Lubomir Batka (left) co-hosts the session

THEN: The dedication ceremony, held in the worship hall of the seminary building, October 3, 1999

THEN: The then-Bishop of ECAV Slovakia, Julius Filo speaks at the dedication ceremony, held in the worship hall of the seminary building, October 3, 1999

NOW: In the same worship hall, our Synod hosts a conference for alumni of the Student Immersion Program in the summer of 2013