Statement by Acting Archbishop of the ELCR Dietrich Brauer about the situation in Ukraine.
It is with great concern that we observe the tense situation between the brotherly nations of Russia and Ukraine. Unfortunately, as frequently happens in history, ordinary people become the victims of conflict between political leaders. We see that Christan denominations of both countries are splintering internally over this issue. There is labeling, a radicalization of views, the PR war continues... Both in Russia and in the West there is a one-sided view of Ukraine. Instead of analyzing the real reasons of the crisis in Ukraine, many use stereotypes and even sometimes use the rhetoric of the time of the Cold War.
In the chaotic situation in which the people of Crimea found themselves, they declared their desire to join Russia. As citizens of the Russian Federation and living according to its laws, we accept their decision. But at the same time we cannot be unconcerned by the weakening of trusting relationships between Ukrainians and Russians. We pray to God for wisdom for all who are responsible for making political decisions upon which the future of the two countries will depend. We also express our hope that the unity of our Church Union remains despite these conditions, and we trust that our European and American partners will not let simple people suffer in the situation of tension between Russia and the rest of the world.
As Christians we are called to think outside of the box, but as to be peacemakers for the whole world, preachers of the Good News of Christ and to act with love. As Christ says – “Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid.” (Jn 14.27)
Lutherans in Crimea Look to the Future With Hope
Despite huge political changes, the Evangelical Lutheran congregations of Crimea continued to meet freely for their regular events. After Crimea became a part of Russia, there were (and are) many practical matters that are still unresolved., but many are sure that the standard of living in Russian Crimea will get better, slowly but surely.
“Its just too bad that all the guests and groups from Germany who wanted to visit us this year had to cancel their trips,” says a pastor that was serving in the region. “But maybe it will be possible this year to invite to our international tent youth camp in Kerch in August participants also from the ELCER and ELCUSFE.”
Congregations in Crimea are very thankful for the prayers of many Lutherans for them over the past difficult weeks and months. Crimean Lutherans ask God for peaceful developments both in Ukraine and in Crimea and ask that everyone include this petition in their prayers.
Guests from Tbilisi in Baku
On March 15-17 the Evangelical Lutheran Church of the Savior in Baku was happy to welcome guests from Tbilisi, Pastor Irina Solei and Intern Oleg Tsaitler. Pastor Solei made the trip at the request of Bishop Kiderlen to discuss with the church council a number of important questions, including finances, since this is partially on the shoulders of the ELC of Georgia.
On the 16th of March the congregation's pastor, Menzer Ismailova, led the liturgy, while Pastor Solei preached and Oleg assisted. The sense of spiritual unity and cooperation was felt both during the service and during the traditional tea hour (or, in this case, hours) after the service. During their free time the guests were shown around Baku, which just keeps getting more beautiful from year to year.
There's No Roads or Telephone Connection, but there is the Holy Spirit!
We don't have any time to explain! We're going to Litkovka!
And, like a hurricane, a team of 7 people got together and flew away from Omsk to the north, into the far corner of the oblast (state), where the taiga and the swamp had not yet taken off their coat of snow. Through the kind of drifts that it is hard to imagine in March (though you find such interesting things on the road!) they arrived at their destination, a beloved and favorite place – the village of Litkovka. The word “village” brings up an image, a stereotype that tends to color our vision. What do you imagine a Russian village looks like these days? The harsh 1990s swept through villages with waves of destruction, leaving poverty in its wake. Then there were the 2000s, when unusual circumstances caused everyone to act thinking only about the short-term. Youth did everything they could to move away to the city. Many of those who couldn't find work (even if they were great workers before) turned to drinking. And times goes on and there are no changes for the better.... But all these stereotypes have nothing to do with Litkovka! Nothing at all!
It is a special place. Everyone who comes here understands that. I don't think that it is possible to use words to describe it. Naturally, as with all villages, there was a time when there were certain upheavals here. But you can call it a “village” only if you remember all the positive associations that go together with this word.
What's good in the village? Clean air! That's the first thing that comes to mind. And, yes, the air is really clean! It is a place so far from the city that even all the giant pipes blowing harmful waste into the air cannot reach it with their smoke. Is it really possible to be in the village in the winter and not be enthralled by the huge, white snow drifts? From the early morning the bright sun reflecting that brilliant white fills up all space. You can't see this kind of light in the city. All those who love playing in the snow are filled with limitless delight. And then there's the amazing impression that one gets from fresh produce. It is better than any gourmet restaurant. Amazing natural beauty all around. Forests filled with various kinds of trees. Wide streets, cleaned free of snow, are lined on both sides by rows of well-taken-care-of houses. There is a lot that can be said about the beauty of these places. But it is not the places that makes the person beautiful, as everyone knows, but just the opposite.
Charming people living in Litkovka. As you arrive you feel that you are coming into a big family. And in some sense that is really the case, sine a large part of the population are members of the local Lutheran congregation (one of the biggest congregations of western Siberia.). There is a great deal of mutual support, unity and fellowship. All of them are brothers and sisters in Christ. Always praying, always with the Word of God.
The team of staff from the Omsk congregation was led by ELCUSFE Bishop Otto Schaude; they spent 3 days there in March with a full program – lessons and games with children and teenagers, Bible studies (on the “4 solos” of Lutheran theology) and worship. Through fellowship, prayer and song it was not only was the congregation of Litkovka strengthened; it also strengthen the team from Omsk.
If they say that in Litkovka, in the north of the Omskaya oblast, there are no roads and no phone lines, that'll be true. But it will also be true to say that it is a special place, and that the Holy Spirit also dwells there.
Themes: Children's ministry
Spring Break in the Kirche
Spring has come. And school is out for a week. And a serious problem comes up for parents – what to do with the kids? Unfortunately the local government is unable to provide a high-quality alternative for parents. Therefore our congregation, St. George Lutheran, decided to answer this need, and for the first time advertised in a newspaper that there would be a children's day camp in our church from March 25 to 28.
We were surprised when a large number of kids showed up! But we handled it all well. The program was interesting and productive. The morning started with songs and then children listened to a Bible story. Kids worked up an appetite by playing games outside. It was surprising that the children waited to pray before beginning to eat their lunch.
After lunch there were field trips and workshops in preparation of the Easter program. The watchword was taken from Psalm 121.8: “The Lord will keep your going out and your coming in from this time on and forevermore.” And the Biblical themes were dedicated, of course, to Holy Week and the Resurrection of Jesus Christ. Thanks from all our heart to those who spent so much time on this idea – Tatyana Kuznetsova and Evgeniya Birintsev, Elena Kurmyshova and Olga Temirbulatova showed the world of the Bible; Lukas Hoernig and Anya Agapov ran around together with the kids; Tamara Mikhailova fed everyone with her treats and Tamara Kolesnikova fought to keep everything clean.
Themes: Children's ministry
World Day of Prayer With Children
Many of us love to travel. For some of us it is tied with work; for others it is simply a matter of pleasure. We travel together with colleagues, with friends, with children's groups, with the elderly, with families. Since the fall of the “Iron Curtain” travel abroad has become a typical part of life.
There is another way to get acquainted with various countries; this works well with children in the church – the World Day of Prayer (WDP). The idea of holding WDP especially for children was given to me in Germany when, in the fall of 2012, I was an intern in the “Kirche mit Kindern” program of the Rheinland Union. A pastor from Essen, Michael Banken, told me that for a few years they had been using WDP to help children learn more about countries and their residents through get acquainted with the lies of Christians in those countries.
WDP for children and for “big kids,” is held at the beginning of March at a children's, family, or regular service of the congregation. On the site of WDP (http://www.worlddayofprayer.net/) you can find many things to download – illustrations, Bible texts, songs, recipes, etc. recommended for WDP with children and teens.
And so, inspired by this example and equipped with this knowledge, a few members of the German Evangelical Lutheran congregation of St. Anna and St. Peter in St. Petersburg decided to try to initiate a new tradition bringing various generations together. The children's day was March 2. Together we created an order of service, chose Biblical texts for making skits, songs, crafts and games for children.
While WDP has been held for many years in our congregation, this was the first year in which we involved children, and it was a success. Many thanks to all who took part in its preparation, and we look forward to doing it again next year.