Theme: Building/ renovations
“In the House of the Lord Forever”
On the August 30-31 St. Catherine's Lutheran Church in Kazan celebrated the end of restoration work there with a re-dedication of the building. Pastors, Deans and the Bishop of the ELCER led worship, with Bishop Dietrich Brauer preaching and leading prayer for the building.
The original St. Catherine's was founded in 1767 by ethnically German settlers; it was in that year that Catherine the Great visited the city and brought an pastor (serving in the imperial armed forces) with her. That building burnt down in the Pugachev rebellion of 1774, but already by 1777 the congregation had built a stone kirche. Later the growth of the congregation led to the need for expansion and in 1862-1865 a brick church was built on the site of the former stone one. It is this building which is still standing today. In December of 1929 it was confiscated from the congregation by the Soviet Ministry of Internal Affairs; this was the end of congregational life until its rebirth in 1990. In 1996 the mayor of Kazan symbolically returned the keys to ELCER Bishop Sigfried Springer, but at that time the building was in complete disrepair. Thanks to the help of the Gustaf Adolf Fund the facade and roof were repaired in 2005 and temporary fixes were made in the interior. The full restoration of the church was possible thanks to funds from the local government administration. In the words of Bishop Brauer, this was a unique example of the Lutheran church receiving assistance from the state. This can be taken as a sign that there are places in Russia where Lutheranism is understood to be an integral part of this country and not as something foreign. Unfortunately, this is an exception from the rule.
Representatives from the office of President of Tatarstan, of the Kazan city government, of the local (majority) Muslim community and of the ambassador of Germany, among others, congratulated the congregation. The theme of the day was set in the words of Bishop Brauer's sermon – “the stone that the builders rejected has become the chief cornerstone.” (Mk 12.10). A church is always founded on the cornerstone who is Jesus Christ, who gives the world his love. This love, given to each Christian, requires responsibility on our part. In this difficult time the mission of the Church is to bring reconciliation and forgiveness.
The Evangelical Lutheran Church of St. Catherine in Kazan has arisen to shine again – this is a history of grace and of God's miracles. As the centuries go on, again and again in the walls of the kirche the words of David's psalm will ring out – “Surely your goodness and love will follow me all the days of my life, and I will dwell in the house of the Lord forever.” (Ps. 23.6)
Introduction to Christian Spirituality
From August 14 to 22 a course entitled “Introduction to the Spiritual Life” was held in the ELC Theological Seminary in Novosaratovka for students of the distance education program. A short introduction was made by the Seminary President Anton Tikhomirov; then Acting Archbishop Dietrich Brauer addressed the students, underlining that way have responsibility before the Lord for the knowledge and gifts we have been given.
Anton Tikhomirov's cycle of lectures dove into the enchanting and rather terrifying world of the mystical theology of Rudolf Otto. The ideas of the “masks of God” and of numinosity were compared in the works of Otto, Luther, Meister Eckhart. In his lectures Dr. Tichomirov united the question “what is spirituality?” with such diverse themes as “call,” “church state relations,” “orthodoxy and its limits,” and “pietism.” We asked questions such as - “is the material world sinful or does sin strike the spirit of fallen man? Is it possible to “wrestle with God” and then receive a blessing? What are the apophatic and cataphatic approaches to theology, and what was Bonhoeffer talking about when he spoke of “religionless Christianity?” Thanks to a masterful way of teaching, we students did not feel like we were the “objects” of the educational process, but subjects seeking out the deepest spiritual mysteries.
Bradn Buerkle took turns leading lectures with the Seminary President. He spoke about the development of monasticism (especially in its western European forms), and told stories of various orders' foundations... all of this was interesting to those listening. It was also interesting for us to consider a Lutheran approach to monasticism. Before leaving students came together for a departing feast, games, skits and songs. That was a great way to end the seminar. There was only one problem that the students noticed – it came to an end too soon.
Like Wild Carnations
At the end of the summer the Kaliningrad deanery became a place filled with lively activity - meetings, prayers, and theological discussions. From the 28th to 31st of August a seminar for women theologians of ELCER was held in Svetlogorsk (Raushene) on the Baltic Sea coast. The first such meeting took place in 2010 in Erfurt, then in 2011 in Samara, 2012 in Kazan. The leader of the seminar was the pastor of the Emmaus congregation at the German consulate in Moscow Kristina Schnepel. Participants came from Moscow, Samara, Tolyatti, Kazan, Baku, Krasnoyarsk, St. Petersburg and Kaliningrad to discuss the meaning of the Reformation breakthrough for pastoral care in a church setting; in addition, they also took place in events throughout the deanery. For the first time two new women pastors took part – Sofia Tikhomirova and Svetlana Yanchurkina, ordained not long before this meeting, on August 24th.
The coordinator of diaconal ministry in the ELCER, Elena Kurmyshova, also came to this meeting. In two months she will finish her internship in Samara and will set off to serve in the congregation in Gusev and in the Karl Blume Home for the Elderly. The committee of the Kaliningrad deanery approved her candidacy and at the end of the seminar, on August 31st, she visited Gusev in order to get acquainted with her new place of ministry. On the 30th of August the women theologians took part in the deanery-wide meeting. Pastor Thomas Vieweg, who at present is acting as the dean of the region, warmly welcomed the women theologians. The President of the ELCER executive committee, Olga Temirbulatova, led morning prayer. In her reflections she reminded us that we are to serve in that place that God has planted us, just as we sometimes find wild carnations among weeds and thorns. After the deanery meeting a seminar for “lectors” was held. “Lectors” are congregational members in rural and small congregations without a pastor; they have been given the responsibility to lead a liturgy of the worship and read sermons prepared by pastors. This seminar for the preparation of lectors was prepared by the Dean of the Central Deanery, Elena Bondarenko and Pastor Thomas Passauer.
This seminar was very eventful and the women who participated are especially thankful to Gustav Adolf Work for help in running in the seminar and for the possibility to gather on the Baltic Sea theologians from Siberia to Azerbaijan to Kaliningrad and Chernyakhovsk.
Theme: Buildings and renovations
Angel for Petrikirche (cont).
In August an agreement was made with renovations specialists that they might give and estimate of repair costs. They made their conclusions and the report was submitted to the city monuments committee for review.