The Bishop Has Departed. Long Live the Bishop!
After his election at the synod assembly of the German Evangelical Lutheran Church of Ukraine (GELCU) in October of 2013 Sergei Mashevsky, pastor of the Dnepropetrovsk congregation, was officially installed as bishop on February 15, 2014.
Congregational members, pastors of the GELCU, bishops from the Union of Evangelical Lutheran churches (ELC), bishops and ministers of foreign Lutheran churches, ecumenical and diplomatic guests attended the installation; presiding was the chairman of the Union of Evangelical Lutheran Churches, the bishop of Kyrgyzstan, Alfred Eicholtz. A day earlier Sergey Mashevsky's predecessor, Uland Spalinger, whose contract had expired, gave up his responsibilities as bishop. Upon his return to the Evangelical Lutheran Church in Bavaria Pastor Spalinger took became Dean of the Dinkelsbuhl deanery.
Around the world people noticed the installation of a new bishop in GELCU. Greetings from the General Secretary of the Lutheran World Federation Martin Junge were read in Odessa by the Bishop of the Lutheran church in Slovakia, Miloš Klátik. Participating in the installation were representatives of the Evangelical Lutheran Church of Slovakia, the Evangelical Church of the Augsburg Confession in Poland (including Bishop Jerzy Samiec), and the Evangelical Church of the Augsburg Confession in the Czech Republic (vice-bishop, pastor Tomas Tyrlik.) This strengthening of relationships with Lutheran churches in neighboring European countries demonstrates a recent trend in GELCU. At the end of the worship service people united in prayer about Ukraine, there were youth songs in Ukrainian also sung.
Theme: Ukraine, Children's ministry
Children filled up the sanctuary until it was stuffed full. The noise of children's lack of patience while waiting does not quit for a minute until the day's emcee begins to speak. The children sang0 songs – “God Gave Me So Much” and “God is Good and Loves All Children.” Everyone sang with great enthusiasm – not only the children, but also the adults who brought them there.
On Feb. 22 in the village of Petrodolinskoe in the Odessa oblast there was a charity event. It's goal was to help kids from at-risk families. Village children were given invitations to take home, and those who were interested came to the local Lutheran congregation. The International Bible School (MBS) headed by Pastor Alexander Gross was responsible for organizing the event; Alexandra Reshetova, an employee of the school, led the program.
After entertainment and dancing young participants went on an excursion. Everyone ended up agreeing that Petrodolinskoe has become its own “planet.” This “discovery” by young researchers could clearly compete for this year's Nobel prize... besides which it brought a lot of laughter to those who attended; they, in turn, gave lots of applause. Whatever way you look at it, the cumulation of the event was the phrase – “All right, that's the end. And now – presents!” Then the kids made the noise of a mountain stream and flowed over the stage where the presents were waiting for them.
A similar event was held later in the village of Novogradovka. All together the events in the two villages were attended by 130 children. This current project is not a one-off thing, but part of the on-going work with children, teaching them Christian values. These lessons continued until April 2014; those who finished the course had the chance to attend the “Gloria” camp which takes place every summer on the banks of the Black Sea.
Theme: Buildings/renovations, Petrikirche
Help for the Angel
The angel on top of St. Peter and Paul's church in St Petersburg, a central symbol of our church, is in need of serious repair. Congregations throughout the former Soviet Union have contributed funds to cover expenses. A campaign began in early 2014 and by June 110,000 rubles had been gathered. This was enough to pay for the expert analysis and repair plans.
May God bless all those took part in this important common task!
Theme: Evangelical Lutheran Church in Georgia
Luther Days in Tbilisi
The value of human life and the heavy price of sin were the themes of “Luther Days 2014” at the Church of Reconciliation in Tbilisi (Georgia). Bishop Hans-Joachim Kiderlen, Pastors Viktor Mirioshnichenko, Irina Solei and Albina Zotova were heavily involved, as were members of the local church council and ecumenical guests.
Every evening 20-30 members of the congregation gathered to take part. Themes included were: “The Biblical basis for the central aspects of Luther's 'grace alone' and 'faith alone'”; “Money Can't Buy You Creation!”; “Money Can't Buy You People!”; “The Congregation and the Church that live according the Principles 'grace alone' and 'faith alone.'”
The discussion that followed confirmed the fact that these are important themes for our church and our country and how important that it is that our congregations be a “light unto the world” as we support one another, sharing the talents that God has given to us. (Mt 10.8)
Theme: Pastors Recognized
Pastors Temirbulatova and Brockmann Recognized with Medals
Pastor Olga Temirbulatova received a medal from the Ministry of Regional Development of the Russian Federation for her significant contribution to the rebirth and development of the Lutheran congregation in Samara and, by this, for supporting the German diaspora and the region. On Christmas Eve 2013 she was presented the limited addition medal dedicated to the 250th anniversary of the German settlement of the region.
On October 6th the Consul General of the Federal Republic of Germany, acting in the name of the German President, presented Dean Manfred Brockmann with the country's highest civilian medal – “For services rendered to the Federal Republic of Germany” for his “many years of service for the development of German-Russian relations.”
Among the many letters of congratulation that came in from various corners of the world, two stood out particularly for Dean Brockmann – the letter of the retired Consul General of German in Russia and of the Archbishop of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in Russia, Dietrich Brauer.
The Consul General in Russia from 1995-2002, wrote: “for me it is a great joy that you received this medal. You are uniquely deserving of this honor... Your life and activities in this city and in the Far East brought Germany closer to those living in the region; you contributed significantly to reconciliation between our peoples...Your tireless personal participation in all of your areas of responsibility and your positive spirit is an example of how people can act for the good of Germany anywhere in the world.”
Archbishop Brauer was born in Vladivostok and at one time had an internship there. He wrote “your ministry is a clear witness to the world that God sends out his love to all people and uses for that purposes various means and languages. These means can be liturgy, music or architecture...and also cultural days and educational seminars. God has given you gifts generously, and you with boundless energy serve and “witness to many.” (1 Tim 6.12).
Probst Brockman, reflecting on his ministry here, says that “yes, it is a country where nothing is easy. But it is for this very reason that Russia is so rich in human and religious experience; and it is possible to wholly agree with the words Sigfried Springer used for the title of his book about ministry here –”Heaven is closer in Russia.”
A Church Destroyed During the Blockade is Resurrected in Memory
On an overcast February evening 3 pastors and a few dozen parishioners from Lutheran congregations in the city gathered near a blue construction fence; the media were there, as were children who held candles in their hands. Passers by stopped as they heard the voices saying prayers and singing hymns. Our people were gathered in memory of St. Mary's Church in the Petrogradskaya region of the city. This congregation was organized in 1866; the wooden church that stood on the site was dedicated in 1874. The congregation had a school, an orphanage and a home for widows. It was a beautiful church. For the first time Petersburg architects used a Baltic approach to building a church, giving Medieval-like details. It had a 32.5 meter high bell tower and was located prominently at an intersection of two streets, not far from the Peter and Paul Fortress. For the most part working class people from the neighborhood made up the congregation's membership.
The congregation's last pastor, Christian Zemke, was arrested and executed in 1935. In the years following, the church was closed... but served the city, just the same, when it was dismantled and its wood used for heating during the blockade of Leningrad.
The site is currently under construction; a business center is planned to be built there. But Pastor Dmitry Zenchenko has organized the “Brotherhood of St. Mary” which aims to honor the spiritual,
Acting Archbishop Dietrich Brauer took part in the service and during his remarks said: “the living and the dead are together in Christ's church; we honor their memory. The graves found here are of those people who built this city – Finns, Russians, Swedes, Lutherans and Orthodox. They remind us of our moral and historical duty to honor them.”
Pastor Dmitri Zenchenko said, “today we honor the memory of the martyrs that belonged to St. Mary's of the Petrogradskaya region. Among them were not only the executed pastors Lev Schultz and Christian Zemke; there were also many congregational members of our church. They give us an example of personal bravery and patient carrying of the crossing. They knew that the path to resurrection from the dead always goes through Golgatha.”
Perhaps it is not utopian to dream about building a small memorial chapel next to the business center? We'll be praying about it.
Reconstruction in Grodno (combination of various articles)
On Feb 17th Ambassador of Germany in Belarus, Wolfram Maas, made an official visit to St. John's Lutheran congregation of Grodno, which is undergoing major renovations. Mr. Maas underlined that the building is not only a place of worship but a part of Belarusia's and Germany's cultural heritage.
Pastor Vladimir Tatarnkiov informed Ambassador Maas about the repairs to this, the only functioning Lutheran church building in the country. State and local governments are helping with efforts along with two local companies, “ConteSPA” and “Grodnopromstroj.”
As part of the reconstruction efforts, the congregation is striving toward environmental responsibility. Their efforts were rewarded when they received the “White Stork” and “Green Rooster” certificates related to the ecological management of their buildings. “We understand that saving our environment is one of our foundational responsibilities” – said Pastor Vladimir Tatarnikov during his report at the meeting of 8 various non-governmental organizations from Belarus and Germany that are striving to introduce a program of environmental protection to Belarus. Pastor Tatarnikov also represented the congregation as it received the “Green Rooster” certificate in Germany; there he spoke with representatives of the Evangelical Lutheran Church of Central Germany and the Lutheran World Federation about further cooperative work in this area.
One of the most significant additions to the church is its new “lungs” – a real organ to replace the previous one, destroyed in the mid-1940s. It was brought from Frankfurt-on-Main to Grodno on April 5th. This mechanical concert organ, built in 1960, had been in a Lutheran church building that was subsequently sold to the Serbian Orthodox Church. That congregation decided to sell the organ, and former President of the Theological Seminary in Novosaratovka, Godeke von Bremen, was instrumental in helping the congregation in Grodno get a hold of it.
Once the truck brought the organ, the work on its installation began immediately. The organ has 23 registers, 2 manuals and 1500 pipes; it's not surprising that it took over 900 intensive hours of work to put together! Of course such a project would have been impossible were it not for sponsors, including the German-Belarusian Economic Club, The Evangelical Church of Germany, the Gustav Adolf Fund, the Martin Luther Union, and the Economic Club of Russia. The organ was dedicated on June 7th, and the building was completely full for the first concert. Local residents, representatives from sponsoring organizations and from churches had the joy of hearing professional musicians from Germany and Belarus perform.
Unfortunately, there are no local musicians with the skills to give professional concerts on this organ (though it will be possible to find an accompanist for the services). All the same, a series of concerts by professional organists from Poland and Russia was planned. These concerts would be a stimulus for people to enter the church for the first time, and, in addition, offerings gathered at concerts would help pay for the continuing repair work in the church.