Teaching in Torun
Poland has a population of 40 million and the vast majority are Catholic by profession. As is often the case not all of these regularly practice their faith, but are quick to appeal to their background when presented with any alternative. Protestants therefore make up a very small percentage of the population. These would number about 150,000 with nearly two-thirds being Lutheran – Poland’s equivalent of the Anglican Church. Like the church in Britain some would be evangelical but many are theologically liberal. The remaining one third of Protestants would include Pentecostals (15,000), Baptists, Brethren, Methodists and the Evangelical Christian Church (1,500). It was the latter group that invited me to speak at a one-day conference in the City of Torun.
Torun is situated about 150 miles north west of Warsaw and has a population of 200,000. It was founded over 700 years ago and there is still evidence of that old city which contrasts with its modern parts – including shopping malls and parks.
The Pastor of the Evangelical Christian Church in Torun is Tadeusz Tolwinski. Nearly thirty years ago he came from Warsaw with his wife and parents to plant a church in the city. Seven people began meeting in their home and the numbers grew steadily until in the 80’s they began building the present church building. This was opened free of debt in 1990, due largely to support received from Britain including a substantial gift from Cheddar Baptist Church.
Much of the building work was accomplished by men from the church – as is often the case with East European Christians. We have some evidence of this in the immigrants who came from Poland and contribute so effectively to the construction and maintenance industry in the U.K.
Tadeusz has visible proof of his contribution to the building of the church, having lost a finger during the construction. About seventy now meet regularly for worship and though there are encouragements my conversations with Tadeusz revealed that the church in Poland marked similarities with the evangelical Britain. There is evidence of a lack of real loyalty and commitment. Members are not always present as regularly as they should be. They plead lack of time because of business in other areas of their lives. As well as this, but not unconnected from it, there is a lack of a thorough understanding of the foundations of the faith - a weakness in the knowledge of fundamental doctrines. This leads to compromise in the outworking of their faith because what we believe will always dictate how we behave. Tadeusz told me of a Pentecostal church where there were several women who had divorced their husbands and considered this a positive step which now left them free to look for new husbands.
He was therefore encouraged that at our one-day conference we were to look at some of those gospel foundations – based on Paul’s letter to the Romans. On the Saturday about thirty were present. The lectures were translated by Szymon Matusiak – a fine believer who serves the Lord by interpreting for visiting speakers and translating books and articles.
Some attendees had travelled over 100 miles and there were several Catholics present.
Tadeusz has a vision to encourage and inspire Polish pastors and lay leaders of the church by bringing them to the UK for visits of a few days during which 25 or so will share in the worship and service of evangelical churches. They pay their own travel costs but look for hospitality with local believers. They will listen to teaching from British Bible teachers. Tadeusz indicated that there is a lack of good preachers in Poland. One visit has already taken place to Leicester and he hopes to repeat this again in the future.
They also have more one day conferences planned for Poland.
- Reprinted with permission from Derek Cleave, Philip Street Chapel, Bristol.
Carley has had an association with Tadeusz since the 1980’s when he first came to Leicester to represent the European Missionary Fellowship. During that time he outlined the project in Torun to build an Evangelical Church. Carley responded by raising enough to pay for plastering externally and subsequently to finance part of the amplifying system. Tadeusz has visited since to speak to Carley in appreciation. After Rob retired as the Pastor, he undertook the arrangements for visits by Polish pastors to Harby in Leicestershire and also visited Torun to minister. There is a plaque now displayed on the wall of the foyer.