Origins of the Evangelical Congregation in Telecí
After The Edict of Toleration had been issued in 1781, 92 families which consisted of above 500 souls joined the Reformed church. In 1782 the congregation in Telecí consisted of 1010 souls to which belonged following villages: Telecí, Kamenec, Sádek, Lačnov, Pustá Rybná, Světy, Kobylí, Betlém, Březiny and later also the city of Polička. In 1783 members of the evangelical congregation in Telecí acquired their first minister Stepan Gallo from the Kingdom of Hungary. The church and the manse were built very quickly that year and later it was shown that unfortunately in a poor quality. Therefore the church has been rebuilt many times in the following years and it was even considered that it should have been demolished and a new church should have been built. Eventually, the manse was pulled down and built again in 1824.
The members of the evangelical church established their own school soon after the foundation of the evangelical congregation in Telecí. At the end of 1785 Josef Filipi gained permission to teach after he had completed a six-week pedagogical course. First, the teaching took place in the teacher’s own cottage, later in another local cabin. Finally, the children gained a new school building in 1841. The evangelical school in Telecí was followed by evangelical schools in Pustá Rybná and Březiny.
The 19th Century
In 1881, when the minister Josef Martinek was in charge of the congregation, the church orphanage was built for “… poor and orphaned boys of the reformed religion at the age of 3 to 14” (A Report from the Reformed Orphanage in Telecí, 1881). In the same time the evangelical congregation suffered from economic emigration to the USA. It was an impact of severe living conditions in Vysočina and extreme poverty of local population. Many members of the evangelical congregation abandoned their homes and many cottages were demolished. Facing poverty, minister Martínek stayed and helped members of the church to handle the travel documents (he was therefore sentenced to pay 5 Gulden by the Austro-Hungarian court).
World War II
Another important milestone in the history of the evangelical congregation in Telecí was influence of minister Otokar Kadlec, who with his wife offered shelter, food and help to people pursued by German invaders. A Western-oriented resistance group was hidden at the manse in Telecí for some time and even minister Kadlec himself escaped by a whisker when he should have been arrested by the Gestapo. After he had been warned by a little boy, he escaped to the woods in January 1945 and he was forced to hide until the end of the war.
The Communist Dictatorship
It is necessary to mention another brave minister from Telecí, Tomas Bisek, who took over the congregation in 1970 soon after the Soviet occupation of Czechoslovakia. Tomas Bisek, as well as Otokar Kadlec, participated in a resistance group, more accurately he was concerned with the intellectual resistance against the communist regime. Tomas Biseksigned Charta 77, he helped dissidents and their families and moreover he cooperated with other anticommunist evangelical ministers in Vysočina. Therefore he was pursued by the State Security (StB) and the telephone tapping, permanent watching of apartments and blackmailing affected not only Tomáš Bílek and the manse, but also lay members of a session. In 1982, Bísek was not allowed to perform the function of an evangelical minister anymore, but he did not give up and after all he began to work as a forester. In 1985, Bísek was forced to go into exile to the United Kingdom and he and his wife were deprived of Czechoslovak citizenship.
The Congregation of Evangelical Church of Czech Brethren in Telecí includes nowadays three villages: Telecí, Pustá Rybná and Březiny. Altogether 198 people claim to belong to the Evangelical Church of Czech Brethren. Worship services take place every Sunday in Telecí, twice a month also in another church in Pustá Rybná. Average attendance at worship services is 20 people. During the school year religion is taught at school and also in the manse’s kitchen. Nowadays, catechesis is in progress among 18 children out of 50 local pupils. In winter time Biblical classes for adults take place in the manse and the average attendance is 5 people. The Congregation of Evangelical Church of Czech Brethren in Telecí is quite a small congregation with a history of several hundred years and it is situated in the middle of a post-communist materialistic countryside. However, the evangelical congregation might be the only alternative for people who want to gain a new perspective on life.