Meeting of Staff from the Omsk Region
Omsk. The annual meeting of staff of the Omsk region took place in the Christ Church Center in Omsk on February 10. Pastors, lay preachers, staff and specialized ministers came together to report on the past year, plan for the year ahead, and have fellowship with one another and with guests from Germany and the USA.
Those in attendance heard about various events in the areas of family ministry and women's ministry, and about the men's seminars that take place twice a year. The people responsible for youth and family ministries in the deanery gave presentations on the summer camp, children's evangelization ministry and the “Together with Mom” project that includes ministry with special-needs children.
Bishop Alexander Scheiermann of the Evangelical Lutheran Church of the Urals, Siberia and Far East greeted those in attendance and passed on greetings from the other regions and congregations of the church; he spoke about his ministry and about the state of affairs in the Church. The main subject of the meeting was a lesson entitled “Inviting Congregations” led by retired ELCUSFE Bishop, Volker Sailer. He spoke about what a hospitable congregation looks like, about church workers and the qualities that they have that can draw people to church (or turn them off to it), about the different types of congregations and about how small and large congregations need different methods for ministry.
Viking Dietrich, regional representative of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America Global Mission was a guest at the meeting; he was accompanied by Pastor Bradn Buerkle, who talked about the “Equipping for Service” educational project that he leads and the distance education program of the Novosaratovka Theological Seminary.
A New Bell Rings Out in Ufa
Ufa. Just before the beginning of Lent, on February 13, a bell was installed in the bell tower of the Lutheran church of Ufa. As congregational pastor, Heinrich Minich, reported, the bell was custom ordered at the Shuvalov Brothers' Yaroslavl Bell Factory.
Lutheran bells have somewhat different characteristics than Orthodox bells. The weight of this bell is 150 kgs. and was installed by congregational members with the help of special equipment. The bell will be on an automatic ringer and manual ringing will be unnecessary. The following words are etched on the outside of the bell: “the Lord is with us until the end of the age.”
The bell was purchased with the help of the “Ural” charitable foundation headed by the former president of Bashkortostan, Murtaza Gubaidullovich Rakhimov.
'Grace. Faith. Freedom.': Presentation of a book of sermons by Archbishop Dietrich Brauer
Moscow. On February 18th in the St. Peter and Paul Cathedral in Moscow Archbishop Dietrich Brauer's 'Grace. Faith. Freedom.' book of sermons was presented.
The book is built around the church year – from Advent to to the period after Trinity including Harvest Festival and Reformation Sunday. The book includes sermons that the Archbishop gave both in Russia and in other countries. The book also has prayers for special holidays and is illustrated with paintings by Hans Memling and Rembrandt.
Martin Luther established the tradition of sermon books. Today, in the words of the Archbishop, these collections remain relevant for the Lutheran Church in Russia: “The Church exists not only in Moscow and St. Petersburg, but in very isolated regions. There are congregations with no pastor and only lay preachers or untrained leaders. Therefore, it is very important to use the chance we have so that there can be materials, books, which could be used in case of need; sermon collections, therefore, can be of great assistance.”
“Grace. Faith. Freedom.” is meant not only for Lutherans: “I tried to make this collection of sermons as accessible as possible for a wide group of readers – not just for those who are our constant congregational members, but also for those who are getting acquainted with the Lutheran tradition for the first time,” the Archbishop said.
After the book presentation Dietrich Brauer answered questions from congregational members and guests at the cathedral. Answering the question about further plans for writing, the Archbishop said that he is working on his next book “Catechism.” At the end of the meeting the author signed his book, which was distributed freely to those who were in attendance.
Christ in the Center
Ufa. A good tradition of hosting theological seminars has been established in the Lutheran church in Ufa. At the end of last year there was such a seminar with participants from Bashirk State Pedagogical University, and recently a week-long seminar on the theme “Christ in the center” was held in the diaconal center of the Ufa kirche. It ran from February 20 to 24 with participants from congregations in Ufa, Sterlitamak, Orenburg, Sol-Iletsk, and the village of Prishib.
Seminary President Anton Tikhomirov spoke about justification, the theology of the Word in Lutheran theology, and the theology of the Cross. Igor Zhuravlev spoke about prayer and an overview of the Gospels of Mark and John. Bradn Buerkle spoke about the synoptic Gospels, diaconal service and Christian ethics. There was a lot of dialog and discussion in these themes, including exercises and watching the films “Winter Light” and “Silence” together.
It seems that during such events the idea of the Reformation that Martin Luther led 500 years ago are brought to life – Christianity as a system of faith becomes no longer the prerogative of the clergy but belongs truly to the people. Through studying together the Word of God becomes clear and understandable to ordinary people and they begin to build all aspects of their life around it.
Meeting of the General Consistory
St. Petersburg. In the last days of February the General Consistory (church council) of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in Russia (ELCR) met for the first time since the registration of the new constitution of the church in June of 2017.
Now all the members of the administration of the Church have the right to vote: Archbishop Dietrich Brauer, his deputy Vladimir Provorov, the Bishop of ELCUSFE Alexander Scheiermann, the President of the General Synod Andrey Dzhamgarov, his deputy Vladimir Vinogradov, the administrator of the Archbishop’s office, Maria Khudenko, Seminary President Anton Tikhomirov, the head of the ELCER administration, Viktor Weber, and the administrator of ELCUSFE, Tatyana Muramtseva.
On February 27 a working group met to discuss the church’s bylaws. The previous edition of these rules dates back to 1999 and needs to be updated. The Archbishop, the head of the administrations of ELCER and ELCUSFE, and the Seminary President were part of that group; they were joined by Bishop Scheiermann as well. They will need to meet twice more in order to finish the text and present it to the General Synod for approval.
On February 28th the meeting of the General Consistory began; two guest from the LWFwere present - the director of the department of mission and development Rev. Dr. Fidon Mwombeki and the director of the European Department, Rev. Dr Ireneusz Lukas - and Dirk Stelter from the Evangelical Church in Germany.
In the second half of the day the guests went with Seminary President Anton Tikhomirov to Novosaratovka, where a seminar for extension students was taking place.
Members of the General Consistory came to the following decision about the LWF: it is important to come to another way of approaching membership insofar as membership as a whole Union of Evangelical Lutheran Churches no longer meets the expectations of the participating churches.
By Easter 2018 Bradn Buerkle, head of the “Equipping for Service” educational project, will prepare the full text of a new liturgical book with the goal of preparing a printed version of the text by the General Synod in 2019.
As with every meeting of the General Consistory reports were given by the Churches, by the Theological Seminary and the “Equipping…” project. The auditors’ commision report was also given. Decisions were made aimed at increasing the effectiveness of the Church’s ministries.