František Štěch as Gambrinus Fellow
The cTPM researcher František Štěch was awarded the prestigious “Gambrinus Fellowhisp” of the Technical University Dortmund in Germany and became a visiting professor at its Faculty of Humanities and Theology for the period of one month (November 2017). The following lines are František’s personal sharing about this remarkable experience.
The fact that I got the Gambrinus fellowship was a result of my longer cooperation with people in Dortmund, especially with prof. Hubertus Roebben, who discovered a possibility to get this fellowship and encouraged me and the faculty officials to run for it. Regrettably, just a few months prior my arrival, he relocated himself professionally to Bonn. This fact, however, added a new dimension to my stay in Germany. Thanks to prof. Roebben, I was invited also to deliver a special guest lecture at the University of Bonn, Faculty of Catholic Theology, which was a great experience. But first things first.
Straight after my arrival to Dortmund, I was impressed by German preciseness. On my way to the faculty office, I passed the door labelled already with my name and position within the faculty. What a warm welcome! I knew my office waits for me. All the initial formalities were sorted within a couple of hours. I had my flat (in the walking distance from University), I had my office, and the next day I was able to start working. It was a stunning experience of how administration should work. Many thanks must go to the staff of the faculty! The condition of the visiting professorship via Gambrinus Fellowship was to deliver one public lecture, which I did on Friday, November 17. The lecture entitled “Christianity after Christendom: Theology, Philosophy and Media Theory in Conversation about the Future of Christianity” was well attended. If the audience was great on Friday the 17th it was huge on Monday, November 20, when I delivered a lecture for the Department of Political Sciences in a great hall for nearly 500 people. For a theologian who is used to teach mostly smaller groups of students, this is certainly a unique experience. The topic “Religion and Politics: Modus Vivendi Yesterday and Today (the example of the Czech Republic)” won its listeners even though the failure of coalition negotiations about the future German government was announced a night before. After the lecture, there was a place for a debate and this hot topic appeared on its agenda too.
Next rainy day, Tuesday, November 22, I travelled early morning to Bonn. My lecture was supposed to start already at 9 a.m. After a little fight with my characteristic laziness, I managed to get out of my apartment on time to catch the train at 5:59. And here I encountered a different face of German preciseness. The train was cancelled without substitute and, what was worse, the next one too. I was lucky enough to find a taxi in the dark empty campus which took me to the main station, where I was able to complain and get a new ticket for the next connection to Bonn. However, this morning adventure had a happy end, and at 9.a.m. accompanied by prof. Roebben, I walked into the lecture room. The topic for that day was the relationship between systematic and practical theology. After the exposition of both disciplines, I provoked students with proposing “unsystematic” theology and managed to get their full attention again. Discussion after the class was great, and one of the students even asked for further consultation after the class. I was available, so we had a nice discussion for almost an hour. It is always pleasant to meet students who are not shy to approach a professor, to disagree, to argue and debate. German students from Dortmund and Bonn have my respect for that, and I am very grateful for all the encounters and discussions we had. The same day, I returned to Dortmund, where I had another lecture on Friday, November 24. I introduced my reflections on “Theology of the Landscape”. Besides preparing my lectures and actual lecturing, I had a chance to meet a lot of interesting colleagues from TU Dortmund and discuss synergies in our research.
All in all, Faculty of Humanities and Theology has a vibrant atmosphere, sound research and strong international ambitions. This is, I believe, especially thanks to the dean Christoph Schuck and his team lead by the faculty manager Matthias Heise. Therefore, I was really happy to hear that my visit in Dortmund moved the cooperation between Prague and Dortmund a step forward. I was even happier when the dean announced his wish to come to Prague next year to strengthen the partnership between our faculties. I strongly supported his decision because I think it will be beneficial not only to our centre but to the whole faculty as well. Weather in Nordrhein-Westfalen region was typical for that period of the year, which was at the end a blessing for my working moral. I enjoyed the warmth of my office as well as a delicious coffee from the bar in the faculty hallway and was able to continue working on my research. From this point of view, my stay in Dortmund was really fruitful and I am looking forward to the next academic adventure with the colleagues from Dortmund.