День Архангела Михаила и всех Ангелов
A New Church for Lutherans in Kazakhstan – the Church of Christ the Savior has been dedicated!
On September 17 congratulations rang out for the Lutherans of Kazakhstan who, for the first time in their century and a half history, have built and dedicated a new church building.
Among those taking part in the celebration: the Archbishop of the Evangelical Lutheran Church of Russia Dietrich Brauer, the Bishop of the German Evangelical Lutheran Church of Ukraine Serge Mashevski, representatives of the Circle of Friends of Kazakhstan from Mecklenburg Hans-Heinrich Yarkhov and Waldemar Henrich Zabilny, the representative of the Martin Luther Bund and the Gustav Adolf Foundation the Bishop of Halle-Wittenberg Johann Schneider, the representative of the Lutheran World Federation for Europe, Ireneusz Lukas, the representative of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in Northern Germany Dean Parchima in the region of Mecklenburg Pastor Dirk Zauermann, the representative of the Evangelical Church of the Augsburg Confession in Romania Pastor Uve Zaidner, pastors, deacons, members of Lutheran congregations in Kazakhstan, sponsors of the building process.
At the ceremony of dedication representatives of the government were present – the minister of religious affairs and civil society, representatives of the akimat, the committee for religious affairs, parlament, embassies of Germany and Sweden, the Orthodox Church and the Catholic Church.
The new church complex is made up of the cathedral and the church center. The building process began in June of 2015 and was fininshed in only 2 years and 2 months. “It was necessary to take this step” said Albert Rau, the sponsor of the building of the cathedral as he stood by the church gate. “We thank the akimat of the city for their help in providing a property on which to build, and we thank the people of various nationalities and denominations that have given offerings both of money and also of building materials: cement, tiles, bricks. In order for our church to have a future, it needs the right conditions for working with congregational members.”
Bishop Yuri Novgorodov broke tradition a bit by inviting infants to be the first to enter the building.
“It is a blessings and a large honor for me to be here as a guest,” said Ireneusz Lukas in Russian as he greeted the congregation in the name of the Lutheran World Federation's 75 million Lutherans in 145 churches in 98 countries. “You are an important part of this family. While I am here for the first time as a guest, I am not a stranger among strangers. There is no doubt that this Church on a busy street will be not only be part of the beautiful architecture of the capital, but will also contribute significantly to the life of the country. As this church is opening I see two symbolic aspects – the Church will act as a living monument to the victims of repression and also as a new place of Reformation.”
In his sermon on the Good Samaritan Bishop Novgorod quoted the words “and see—we are alive” (2 Cor 6.9); this is also the name of the exhibition in the old church in Astana. “How does the story of the Good Samaritan relate to us? Of 2000 pastors in the Lutheran Church of the Russian Empire, by 1953 there were only thre left alive. In 1955 Evgeny Bachmann led a secret worship service. 90% of those who gave offerings for the building of our cathedral were Kazakhs, Muslims- Good Samaritans.” Bishop Novgorodov thanked the Lord for this happening, for the development of the country and the foundation of its stability, for inter-religious peace and agreement.
Then the chair of the Synod Council Pastor Zhanibek Batenov voiced the decision of the council from August 24: “the name of the newly dedicated Evangelical Lutheran Cathedral in Astana will be the Christ the Savior Cathedral.”
Archbishop Dietrich Brauer reminded those gathered of their common history as he presented the book “Five Centuries of Moscow Lutherans.” “Everything that took place was not in vain. What seemed to be the end became a beginning. Evgeny Bachmann was able to get the congregation registered with the state after all the repressions.”
Bishop of Halle-Wittenberg and representative of Martin Luther Bund and the Gustav Adolf Foundation Johann Schneider presented an altar Bible with the wish that the Word of God will remain forever.
Dean Dirk Zauermann in his speech remarked that it would be impossible to build such a big church campus in such a short time in Germany; this new building was a real breakthrough.
For 23 years Hans Yakharov has made annual trips from Mecklenburg to Kazakhstan: “I am like part of the inventory of this church. Congregational members know me; I've listened to their stories, and I am thankful for these meetings. We have been connected with your church for more than 50 years; we have seen it's growth and strengthening.” He presented the first symbolic organ pipe for the future instrument that could be a part of the church.
At the end of the ceremony of dedication a folk choir gave a concert with German and Russian folk songs. Then all of the participants and guests could continue fellowship in front of the cathedral, take pictures and try out Kazakh food and fruits.
Crimea –Reformation Anniversary Celebrations
The 500th Anniversary of the Reformation provided an opportunity for Lutherans around the world to return to the events of the early 16th century to see what lessons might be learned about theology, church life, and the role of Christians in society. We celebrated the many positive effects of the Reformation and we mourned its unintentional, negative consequences. In the context of the former Soviet Union, it was also a unique time to educate the wider public about who Lutherans are and the historic contributions of our church to the countries in which we live. Church leaders in the Evangelical Lutheran churches in the former Soviet Union took full advantage of the moment, with regular public events held both in central locations and throughout many far-flung regions of the church.
Typical for such conferences on a local level was one held in Crimea in September - “Lutherans in Crimea: History and Contemporary Situation.” Attending were students and teachers of the religious studies department of the state university, members of local Christian congregations and of Lutheran congregations from throughout Crimea, as well as local government officials. It was a joy to see this wide engagement and to attempt to answer the questions that were raised.
Papers were presented by guests, students, and local leaders, including pastor Sergei Matiukh and the lay preacher from the congregation in Simferopol, Maria Gusarova, who spoke about the contribution of Lutherans to the history of their region. Music from the 16th century helped set the tone of the day.
The conferences and ecumenical events held throughout the past year have done much to increase understanding of our church; when understanding increases, fear decreases and this is so important for helping people open up to consider their faith commitments. The challenge for the church now will be to maximize the positive effects of these public events in order to strengthen its ministry of spreading the message Christ's love to our neighbors.
Together with One Another and with Christ
From September 22-24 in the Sts. Peter and Paul Cathedral in Moscow a youth conference was held on the theme “Reformation: Yesterday, Today, Tomorrow,” dedicated to the 500th anniversary of the Reformation. More than 60 people took part from Lutheran congregations in Russia, Belarus, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Georgia and Slovakia.
The main goal of the conference was to study the history of the Reformation together, to discuss the historical and theological nuances of the broad process. However the conference was not just a series of seminars, discussions and meetings – everything that is associated with the word “conference.” Instead young people created a comfortable, warm, you could even say home-like atmosphere in fellowship with one another.
The first day of the conference was dedicated to studying the past, the history of the Reformation itself. After prayer, the conference began its work. The question of the basis of Christian life was discussed – what is the foundation that a person builds his life on? Why is the question of a person’s relationship to God still relevant? Using skits young Christians took a creative approach to remembering those historical people who walked the path of Reformation, the path of a relationship with God. All the events of this day were mixed with energetic games that were in one way or another tied with questions of faith, Reformation and the service of God and one's neighbor. After supper there was a small excursion to the tourist sites near to the cathedral. Participants walked along the quiet, curvy streets and alleys of the Kitai-Gorod neighborhood and after supper even went on a Lutheran quest in the center of Moscow. The first day ended with a Taize prayer.
During the second day contemporary questions were raised - in particular how the Reformation as a spiritual transformation touches each of us. Participants shared with one another their visions of this issue, after which a skit prepared by the Lutheran congregation in Smolensk was performed in the chapel next to the cathedral. The name of the skit was “Martin Luther” and was dedicated to family values in the life of a Christian. Those in attendance noted the actors skills, in particular the person who played Martin Luther, whose character was portrayed very subtly and movingly. The second day ended with a prayer service led by the youth leader of the Moscow congregation, Vladislav Telegin and the preacher of the French-speaking congregation in Moscow, Mamy Rakotonitama, originally from Madagascar.
During the third and final day of the conference participants together with congregational members from the cathedral took part in Sunday worship during which the hymn of the conference (“God called us from various peoples”) was sung. Also during the second half of the day on Sunday there was an ecumenical youth worship service during with a number of participants took part together with representatives of other Protestant movements in Moscow.
During these days of work the participants also had the opportunity to spend their free time in an interesting way – some explored the city, others worked on crafts, others still played either board or sports-based games. The conference came to a close with a picnic in the yard of the cathedral.
All the participants could feel the spirit of true Christian unity, learn how congregations live in various parts of our country and neighboring countries, sharing with one another personal experience and cooperative work in various spheres of church life – from children’s ministry to to pastoral ministry. They expressed their desire to maintain their connections with one another and to work together on cooperative projects in the future. And there was even a note of melancholy which participants felt in the last hours of the conference, but this could not destroy the joy that filled their heart and the thankfulness to the Lord they felt from the recognition of very simple and clear fact – we are the present and future of the church. We have seen each other face to face; we are together with one another and with Christ.
Natalia Shetsel, Vladimir Kazantsev
Getting men involved in our communities of faith has proven to be a challenge. It was a blessing, then, when early this fall fourteen men left their homes in cities as far west as Crimea and as far east as Krasnoyarsk in order to meet in Omsk for a seminar for leaders of men's ministry.
The theme of the seminar - “Brotherhood” - was highlighted by former ELCUSFE Bishop, Volker Sailer, during Bible studies, while Pastor and Area Dean for Siberia Vladimir Vinogradov put together an interesting program with practical and team-building exercises that not only were effective for the group, they also served as an example for what could be done in other locations. Together the men were able to open up about their experiences as disciples of Christ, as sons, husbands and fathers, and to support one another. As one of the participants put it, when they left they had a renewed sense that taking responsibility for the church's life is “not something that should be hoisted onto the shoulders of our mothers, grandmothers, and sisters;” it is important that men carry their share.
It is my conviction that restoring a sense of balance and of mutual responsibility will do much to improve the health of our congregations. We still have some way to go. Two of our aims with this seminar – that we would bring together those already highly experienced in the field and that we could bring in participants from other countries – went unrealized. We've decided to do one more push in this direction 2018 – we hope that in May more participants from the former USSR will be able to attend and that we can come together to work on a concrete program of activities that the leaders will then be able to replicate in their home regions.