“I was born on July 10, 1929 in Litomyšl as a son of Josef Špak, a town policeman, and his wife Františka, born Votroubková, from nearby Dolní Újezd near Litomyšl. At that time my mom was a custodian of a newly-opened Sokol hall in Litomyšl. She took the custodianship, because dad as a civil servant couldn’t do this job. We lived in a flat in the Sokol hall, it was in the basement, but there was central heating and hot and cold water, which was a real convenience at that time. I have three siblings: Dagmar, Jaroslav and Jitka, and all of us were born in the Sokol hall, my mom gave birth to all of us at home and not in a hospital.”
“In the congregation there were many things I could pick up on. I had many activities there, because the services were held in Suché Vrbné, Mladé, Dobrá Voda, Hodějice and Nedabyly – in five places. I was teaching at three schools: in Suché Vrbné, in Dobrá Voda and Mladé. And on top of that I was teaching in two families, where I was teaching students from Nová Ves, which actually comprised of 22 administrative villages all the way up to Trhové Sviny region. So I was busy. There were many people everywhere.”
“In these daily talks he confided to me what a pastor’s life looked like, and he began: ´Listen, you in the Czechoslovak church will also need good youth and a new generation, which would be spreading the gospel, especially in this time. Wouldn’t you like to go study theology?´ I wanted to study physics or chemistry at that time, and naturally my violin teacher also urged me to study the music academy. But we eventually agreed on it and I consented that I would send my application to the Hussite Czechoslovak Faculty of Theology in Prague. Rector Stříteský thus played an important role in it. I think highly of it that he wasn’t trying to persuade me to become a priest in the Roman Catholic Church, or to join his monastic order, but that he talked openly about our church being in need of pastors and young generation.”
“As a consequence of building the chapel and the parish house in the early 1970s, Mr. regional secretary for church affairs said: ´Bishop, if you don’t transfer him, I’ll cancel his state approval for spiritual service. And you need to transfer him to some place in the České Budějovice region so that I can keep an eye on him.´ It should be Mirovice, which is far away, somewhere near Tábor. Tonička and I thus went to visit Mr. Leo Drozdek, the secretary for church affairs, begging him to postpone the transfer by one year, because Josef began studying grammar school – he wasn’t admitted to the one in České Budějovice, and he had to commute to Trhové Sviny – and Daniela was just studying a nursing institute in České Budějovice. My wife also worked in České Budějovice in a waste recycling centre. We told him: ´Mr. secretary, we’d like to ask you to postpone it by one year at least, so that we can get ready for the move, find a job for my wife and let our son complete at least the first year of grammar school, it will be easier for him then to transfer from one school to another.´ We didn’t even know whether they would admit our son to another school. Anyway, the secretary told us: ´No! You’d come begging again next year!´ We said good-bye and I told it to the council of elders in the church. And aunt Ema, who was among the elders, told me: ´Look, you’re forty-five, you’re healthy, you’re not afraid of work and everyone knows you here in the town, they know who you are and someone should finally let these rascals know that they are not the bosses here. We’ll find you a job and a flat and you’ll stay here in Budějovice, even when you are not a pastor anymore?”
“These meetings naturally provided great encouragement for us. As I said at the beginning, we were not studying theology, we were praying instead. We didn’t make up any theological novelties, but we knew that it was important to focus on prayers for the church, for the situation, so that it would please God to improve it and support it, to find the correct way to keep on. It was probably also influenced by a meeting with German evangelicals, who formed what nearly resembled a monastic community there.”
Josef Špak was born July 10, 1929 in Litomyšl. His father Josef was a town’s policeman and his mother Františka, born Votroubková, worked as a custodian in the Litomyšl Sokol hall, where the family also lived. Josef was baptized in the Roman Catholic Church, but when he was a pupil in the boys’ school in Litomyšl, he was already attending classes of Czechoslovak Hussite catechism. Jaromír Metyš, an important personage of the town of Litomyšl, who was a Csl. Hussite Church pastor and musician, had a profound influence on little Josef. When his father Josef unexpectedly died in 1945, the mother had to take care for the four children by herself. In 1947 the family moved to their uncle in Prague-Ďáblice. Josef however remained alone in Litomyšl in order to finish the last year of his grammar school studies. The rector of the Piarist college in Litomyšl František Ambrož Stříteský became his patron. In the post war years, Josef Špak was also an active scout. Influenced by rector Stříteský he decided to study theology. He was admitted to the Czechoslovak Evangelical Theological faculty in 1948 and he finished his studies at the independent Hussite Czechoslovak Theological faculty, which was established in 1950. A meeting with pastor Václav Mikulecký was a formative experience for Josef during his studies. While at the faculty, Josef also met his future wife Tonička and in 1953 he married her before his pastoral ordination by bishop Šimšík. He was however conscripted for military service soon after.
After his military service was over, Josef Špak began working as a pastor in Suché Vrbné near České Budějovice. Beside pastoral and spiritual work he also devoted time to music - he founded a string quartet and he led a women’s choir. In 1958 he started construction of a chapel and parish house. This risky project successfully culminated in a ceremonial opening of the chapel in 1962. This activity naturally didn’t go unnoticed by the state authorities responsible for churches. Repercussions came ten years later. In the early 1970s the regional secretary for church affairs decided to transfer pastor Špak, and he threatened him with cancelling his approval for pastoral service should he not comply. After consultation with the council of elders, pastor Špak didn’t give in and he lost his official state approval. Before his forced dismissal from service in the ČCSH he joined a group of pastors and lay persons who formed a prayer community within the Csl. Hussite Church, led by Václav Mikulecký, a pastor whose official approval had also been annulled. For several years Josef Špak was leading summer camps for the church children.
In 1974 StB began keeping a signal file on Josef Špak, which was substantiated by his religious activity which Špak performed apart from his pastoral service. Josef Špak did continue to lead Bible studies, he was meeting believers in the choir, etc. After his involuntary resignation from pastoral service his fellow believers found him a flat and employment in a foundry where he was working till his retirement in 1989. The year 1989 was crucial for pastor Špak. His wife died in January, then his mother died in May, and he retired in July. At the same time right in November 1989 he was asked by the bishop to return to pastoral service. He therefore began working as a pastor in the congregation in České Budějovice. In 1990 he married again, clergywoman of ČCSH Jana Švábenská. Following the bishop’s request, he was then put in charge of the congregation in Prague-Old Town, shortly after he was elected the district chairman and in 1994 the church assembly elected him their bishop-patriarch. After seven-year administration he was then serving as the head of the first department in the Office of the Central Council of the ČCSH, before returning to service as a pastor again in a congregation in Prague-Strašnice. Josef Špak passed away on September, the 12th, 2016.