“The World is in Me, and I am in the World.”
Krasny Yar. The congregations in Tolyatti and Samara held their annual children’s camp during the winter holidays January 3 to 8 in the village of Krasny Yar in the Samara oblast. The theme was chosen deliberately. Many children today ask questions about how faith in God can be integrated into everyday life and how to act so that this faith is spread.
Human life can be divided into, let's say, three social “spheres.” The first has a radius of one meter around the person - we'll call it “I myself.” The second – with a radius of three meters - is “I myself, my friends and relatives.” The radius of the third sphere is endless - “I myself and the world around me: people, animals, nature.” For 5 days the kids thought about how God spreads His love through all these “spheres” and how we can reflect that, how we can influence the world for the better.
On a Snowy Hill with the Apostle Peter
Krasnotyrinsk. From January 8 to 10 a camp was held for Sunday school children of the Krasnoturinsk (Sverdlov oblast) congregation. 12 participants read the Bible together and followed the story of the Apostle Peter.
The lessons touched on a number of important and vibrant episodes in the life of the apostle and his relationship with Jesus Christ. The starting point was “birth” based on Psalm 51.5. Then we went chronologically through the Gospels and Acts of the Apostles: “Meeting Christ – Walking on Water – The Revelation from the Holy Spirit – Denying Christ – Restoration (“Feed my lambs”) – Sermon on Pentecost.”
But the camp went well not just because of the lessons. God blessed us with good weather, and one of the most memorable moments was going to the forest to go sledding down hills.
The Sources of Faith of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in Russia and Kazakhstan
Hamburg. From January 12 to 14 a conference of the Gustav Adolf Werke was held on the theme “The sources of faith of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in Russia and Kazakhstan.” Among those attending were the President of the organization, Gabriele Wulz, General Secretary Enno Haaks, and the head of the organization in northern Germany (former Area Dean in Kaliningrad), Heye Osterwald.
Archbishop Dietrich Brauer of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in Russia gave a paper about the history and contemporary situation of the Lutheran Church in Russia. In particular he emphasized the way the events of the Reformation anniversary were organized with an ecumenical spirit and in constructive cooperation with government authorities.
The conference concluded with Sunday Worship at the Church of the Cross, where Archbishop Brauer gave the sermon.
Volgograd. The “Theatrical Sarepta” festival, which the Lutheran congregation helped organize and in which the congregation took part, was held on January 21-22. The ceremonial opening took place in the kirche and started with a celebratory concert of children's drama groups; locally-trained actors from Marx, Kamyshin and Volgograd presented their own original plays. For example the “Hoffnung” folk theater (led by Svetlana Gelber) put on a skit about Catherine the Great and the residents of the Sarepta Moravian Brotherhood colony which was founded near Tsaritsyno (now Volgograd) in the 18th century.
At the end of the festival a family drama group from the congregation, led by Nelly Tretyakova, put on a play that she had written - “A History of One Poem.” In this play the story revolves around an anonymous poem found in the congregation's porch; the actors showed how an intergenerational family (a grandmother, daughter, granddaughter and two grandsons) reacted to this text and the theme of forgiveness that is at its center. The grandmother helps the younger generation come to a true understanding of forgiveness. Special treats of the day included music by Nelly's grandchildren on the guitar and piano and her homemade traditional German “krebles.”
Congregational Anniversary Year Starts With Book Presentation
Saratov. On January 28th St. Mary's Evangelical Lutheran church in Saratov hosted a book presentation. O.Litsenberger, A. Deryugin and N. Kolomitsev co-authored a book about the Saratov congregation on its 250th anniversary... which will officially take place only in 2020; since historical documents give no exact date of the foundation of the congregation, the date is calculated based on the first time the congregation is referenced in external sources.
The book is entitled “St. Mary's Evangelical Lutheran Church in Saratov at the 250th Anniversary of its Founding.” This publication acts as a follow up to the first book about St. Mary's Lutheran, published 22 years ago, in 1995. It is targeted at historians and others for whom it is interesting to know about the Lutheran church in the city and its influence there throughout the years. The book covers the life of the congregation, its relationship with the government authorities, the difficult fate of those who ministered in the congregation in the 20th century, and the development of the congregation in our days.
The book presentation started the process of celebrating two other anniversaries related to the history of Saratov Lutherans. On October 6, 2018, 225 years will have passed since the dedication of the first St. Mary's church in the city, and on November 22 it will be 25 years since the congregation's rebirth. Unfortunately the first building lasted only 83 years
(1793-1876) and was seriously damaged in a fire. The second St Mary's arose 3 years later (1879-1970), but was destroyed during the time of state atheism. It was located on the central city street – German Street (now Kirov) and was built according to the plans of the world-famous architect from Berlin, Johann-Eduard Jakob Stahl.
The logo of the anniversary shows three crosses: the first is black-purple and symbolizes the tragic fate of the first building; the second is red and is a reminder of the sufferings of the period of repression, and the third is a white cross which is a symbol of the contemporary church building which is already 11 years old and the hope for long years of the the triumph of love, goodness and spiritual peace in Saratov and in the country as a whole. The appendixes to the book are also of great value – archival materials and rare photographs.
The President of the ELCR General Synod and Dean of the Saratov area Andrey Dzhamgarov, led the event. Elena Heydt, the representative of the publisher, the regional coordinator of the International Union of German Culture and the chair of the “National-Cultural Group of Russian Germans of the Marx region, personally congratulated those in attendance on the occasion of the anniversary and also read a congratulatory letter from the First Deputy President of the International Union of German Culture, Olga Martens.
Then the congregation and guests heard the letter from the main author of the two books, Professor Olga Litzenberger, Ph.D. “On this significant day I personally and all the authors of the book want to express to you, dear pastors, members of church councils and congregational members, our gratitude for your many years of irreproachable work. I congratulate all of you with the publication of this new book about the Saratov congregation.”
After this the co-authors of the book – church council member Alexander Deryugin and church council member, journalist and linguist Nikolai Kolomiytsev, spoke about how this publication was put together, and in particular drew the attention of readers to three very interesting chapters filled with abundant historical facts.
After this there was a ceremony thanking those who cooperated with the authors - each of the former of which were given a copy of the book and a certificate of thanks. Also a copy of the book was given to each of the two largest regional libraries.
Representatives of the government also were present at this event. Dmitry Konusov, the vice minister of internal affairs and civil society for the Saratov oblast, was in attendance. Elena Poznyakova, the head of the department of relations with cultural institutions for the Saratov oblast, also greeted the congregation and guests of the event.
Representatives of other Christian denominations in the region were also invited to the book presentation. The head priest of St. Clement Roman Catholic Church in Saratov, Andrey Slavik, gave a heartfelt congratulations to all in attendance on the occasion of the publication of the book and the double anniversary of the congregation.
After this those in attendance could ask questions of the authors and also receive signed copies. The day ended with a reception.
Wedding in St. Paul's Church
Vladivostok. On January 21, the last Sunday after Epiphany, the wedding of Pastor Alexander Lapochenko (from St. Luke's Lutheran in Arseniev) and his wife, Oksana, took place in St. Paul's church in Vladivostok.
This event was a great joy for the whole Far East Deanery. Many gathered in the church that day to congratulate the couple.
Alexander Lapochenko has led St. Luke's congregation already almost 10 years; that's where he met his future wife. Oksana has two children and they together with Alexander's mother will form a three-generation family.
For their wedding verse Alexander and Oksana chose 1 Cor 7.3. “The husband should fulfill his marital duty to his wife, and likewise the wife to her husband.” We, too, wish this new family God's blessing! May it also become a blessing for the whole congregation.
'The Sprout' has sprung
Ufa. The Lutheran congregation in Ufa has won a competitive grant from the administration of the President of the Russian Federation for the “Sprout” social service project which prepares 5-6 year old children from underprivileged families for school.
On January 21 there was a meeting between teachers, parents and representatives of the Ministry of Labor and Welfare for the Sovetsky neighborhood of Ufa, and on the 28th of January lessons with children began. The teachers themselves purchases everything needed for the lessons. At the end of the first day the children were filled with joy; they went back to their respective homes with their nice looking school bags, excitedly telling their parents about their impressions.
The teachers Zimfira Valeeva (the director of the project), Ilya Vengele, Nina Tagirova have significant experience working with children and love their life's work; now they will prepare kids for school in different areas – general studies, the basics of English and computer skills, and physical education exercises.
About the History of Islam and Orthodoxy in Kazan
Kazan.On January 27 in the lilac-colored room of St. Catherine's Church in Kazan a telebridge between Kazan and partners in Germany was established for a second time. Participants included pastors from the territory of Palatinate, the former deans of Tatarstan Christian Hermann and Norbert Hussong and congregants from Kazan, led by Pastor David Gorn.
Our partners from Germany were interested in such questions as “the Lutheran Church in the Muslim Republic of Tatarstan,” “politics and government authorities,” “the religious situation (history and contemporary),” “inter-ethnic relationships in Tatarstan on all levels,” “Muslim ministers,” “the building of mosques and Orthodox cathedrals in Kazan and Tatarstan as a whole,” “mixed marriages.” We invited professionals to the discussion - the deacon of the theological department of the Russian Islamic Institute Robert Shangaraev, and the head of extension education for the Orthodox Spiritual Seminary in Kazan, priest Alexander Danilov. The telebridge began with our “calling card” - a number of hymns in German and Russian. Then there was a prayer from Palatinate, after which Pastor David Gorn from Kazan led a prayer. The "Freude" singing group led by Tatyana Fel sang "Herr, deine Güte" in German.
Our guest Robert Shangaraev told the history of Islam in the territory of Tatarstan. Volga Bulgaria was founded in 922 with the acceptance of Islam by a number of related nomadic tribes. This helped to unite the divided tribes, improved relations with the Muslim East, introduced the Arabic alphabet and the construction of mosques began. But in the 13th century Batu Khan of the Golden Horde destroyed the settlements and incorporated the land of Bulgaria into the territory of the Horde and Volga Bulgaria ceased to exist. Part of the Bulgars migrated to the banks of the Volga and Kama rivers. In the 15th century the Golden Horde ceased to exist and as a result of the victory of Russia over them some of the land of former Bulgaria comes under the authority of Moscow, while the rest became part of the Kazan khanate. In 1552 Ivan the Terrible incorporated Kazan and the Kazan khanate into Russia. Catherine the Great allowed the building of mosques and in this way won the respect and love of the Tartar people. Karl Fuchs, a German and a professor at Kazan University, was the first to describe the life and customs and the Kazan Tatars. In the Soviet times, Muslim ministers, like all ministers in the USSR, were repressed, mosques were destroyed. Around 30 years ago the rebirth of Islam began. Old mosques were restored and new ones were built. Today in Tatarstan there are around 1600 of them; there are educational institutions – medrase - and the Bulgarian Islamic Academy has begun to work. The goal of the academy is to build and form a local Islamic theology school (Tartar academic theologians include Mardzhani Shigabutdin, Abd An-Nasir Kursavi, Gataull Bayazitov and others) and to encourage the maintenance of peace and concord in the country.
Priest Alexander Danilov spoke about the history of Orthodoxy in Kazan. It was the same as in all the rest of Russia: 90% of the ministers were repressed or destroyed in the Soviet Times. He spoke about how today the seminary in working on new methods of communication between their students and students of other confessions. A new course is being established on the basics of Islam, and there are already intramural sporting competitions between students of the seminary and the Islamic Academy. The Christian churches host together a festival of spiritual music.
During the meeting participants shared their own personal stories. Rafael, a teacher at the university, spoke about how he became Orthodox. He read the Gospels just out of curiosity 25 years ago, and he recognized his sinfulness and came to the church, where he saw and continues to see miracles. Eduard Gansky, a German Russian, spoke about his mixed marriage. He told about his life with his Tartar wife, with whom he has been married for 10 years. He loves her, his family and his Muslim relatives very much. They've never had any conflict on religious grounds. From the very beginning they agreed that they wouldn't talk about their religious beliefs. Eduard wished his German friends similar results in their country. A duet from the "Renaissance" chamber orchestra performed the piece written by congregational member Rudolph Brening, “At the Edge of Kazan.” The evening also was enhanced by songs from the vocal group “Kubanskoe Podvore” led by Elena Tarasova. At the end of the evening the participants of the conversation sang a hymn in two languages and prayed the Lord's Prayer.