День Архангела Михаила и всех Ангелов
20 Years Step by Step
“Twenty years – step by step.” That was the name of the celebratory program dedicated to the anniversary of the Diaconal center in Gusev in the Kaliningrad oblast, June 1-3. There were many guests from around the region, from Germany; Archbishop Dietrich Brauer from Moscow was also in attendance.
“The Diaconal Center of Gusev” is an important social ministry project of the Kaliningrad deanery of the Evangelical Lutheran Church of European Russia. At present 5 trained deaconesses care for 23 patients – in general these are handicapped people without families.
The diaconal center was registered on June 1, 1998 and was one of the first such church projects in Russia. The founders were the Kaliningrad deanery and the "Stiftung Salzburger Аnstalt Gumbinnen" foundation from the German city of Bielefeld. The project began with educating women in this area of ministry through the courses lead by deaconess Erica Zeising from Bielefeld.
At that same time a group of people in the congregation took the initiative to make home visits to shut-ins together with Pastor Haye Osterwald and to provide for their basic health needs. At first these congregational members were volunteers; from 2000 it was possible to pay them for their work. But the people who receive the help receive it for free.
Also from 1998 to 2017 lunches for children from needy families from the city were served. And during the summer holidays summer camps are held for single mothers who raise handicapped children.
The “Gusev Diaconal Center” has everything necessary for the care of those who are homebound – from bandages and pampers to creams and gloves as well as crutches and wheelchairs. Much of this has been brought to the center by volunteers from Germany – both individuals and as representatives of various organizations. Over these 20 years these people have supported the center's ministry.
For that reason at the anniversary celebrations there were over 130 people from various places. It is difficult to measure the degree to which the center's sponsors have helped those in need throughout these two decades.
Dean Igor Ronge
New Pastors in the Kaliningrad Deanery
The ordination of Natalia Chizhova and the installation as pastor in the Gusev region Alexei Chizhov were held on June 3 in the Salzburg church. This pastoral couple will serve 8 congregations in the regions. And they will both have responsibilities for pastoral care in the Carl Blume retirement home in the village of Zadorozhye.
Natalia and Alexei are graduates of the full-time program of the Novosaratovka Theological Seminary. During the past years – Alexei served as a pastor and Natalia as a deacon in congregations of the Evangelical Lutheran Church of Ukraine, a member of which Natalia had been since her youth, having grown up in the city of Poltava. Alexei is originally from Kazakhstan and came to the Theological Seminary after he and his family moved to the Volgograd region.
The ordination and installation were led by Archbishop Dietrich Brauer. He was assisted by Igor Ronge and other representatives of the region and guests, including Pastor Haye Osterwald, who for 12 years (1996-2008) served in the Kaliningrad deanery – first as pastor in Gusev and then – from 2002 – as the head of the deanery.
Pastor Elena Kurmyshova who had been serving as the pastor in Gusev will now begin her service in a different region of the deanery – the village of Bolshaya Polyana.
Seminar for Graduates
On June 3 to 5 those seminary graduates who recently passed their final exams were gathered together at Sts Peter and Paul cathedral in Moscow for a seminar.
Artis Petersons (Moscow), Nikolai Demonov (Sol-Iletsk), Valentin Nikolaenko and Alexei Kolosov (St. Petersburg) in conversation directed by the seminary leadership (President Anton Tikhomirov) and dean of the Central Deanery, Elena Bondarenko shared with one another their experience of studies and practical ministry, took part in the worship in the cathedral, and listened to Seminary President Anton Tikhomirov's lectures on homiletics, as well as met ELC Archbishop Dietrich Brauer.
While the internship of participants of the seminar from St. Petersburg is just beginning and for Nikolai Demonov it will continue, Artis Petersons passed his colloquium with very high marks and received his long-awaited seminary diploma.
A pleasant addition to the seminar's program was a visit to the Catholic Institute of St. Thomas and discussions with its rector, Father Stephan Lipke, as well as time spent together in fellowship and walking around the city with one another.
Women’s Ministry Seminar in Kazan
From June 8 to 12 a seminar on women’s ministry led by the husband and wife team of Gotthild and Erika Stein was held in Kazan. More than 20 women from various cities around Russia (Kamyshin, Cheboksary, Orenburg, Moscow, Samara, St. Petersburg, Ufa, Naberezhny Chelnov and Saratov) took part. There were also, of course, members from St. Catherine’s Lutheran in Kazan, as well as a participant from Vinnitsa (Ukraine). Her participation was an important sign of the unity of Evangelical Lutheran christians in Russia and Ukraine. Many have known each other for many years insofar as the tradition of women’s seminars has been preserved already for 15 years; four cycles of the “Life Stages” seminar have been held, and yet are constantly in demand.
During the first day everyone got acquainted with one another and found a place to stay in the dormitory of the Roman Catholic congregation of the Holy Cross.
The seminar itself began on the second day with teachers Pastor Gotthilf and Erika Stein from Stuttgart. Pastor Stein is retired, and Erika leads the “Life Stages” Bible study in her retirement. Ruth Stubenitzky, the translator for the Novosaratovka Theological Seminary, prepared the materials and interpreted for the seminar.
The theme of the seminar was God’s blessing and was based on the Old Testament story of Jacob. For the whole seminar Erika led us through his life story. We met his parents (Isaac and Rebecca), his brother Esau, his wives Lila and Rachel, and his children, through whom God established the 12 tribes of Israel. Together with Jacob we felt both the joy of God’s blessing and reckoning for the deception of his father, felt banishment from home, saw the staircase to heaven on which the Lord Himself was standing and gave Jacob a new promise. We experienced many other twists and turns in Jacob’s life (from blessing to hopelessness, from hopelessness to new blessing) during the seminar. This happened thanks to the well-thought-out and heartfelt work of Erika Stein. She presented the whole Biblical story of Jacob in the memorable form of installations. Step by step together with Jacob we went along his path and learned to recognize God’s blessing running through our whole lives and remaining relevant even during the most difficult times. Erika used this example to show us that God knows our names and cares about every one of us, as He knew and cared for Jacob. Both during the seminar and during one-on-one discussions Erika attempted to show God’s limitless love for us, the heavens opened up for believers, and living faith in the Lord.
During the breaks between lessons and in the evening we walked around Kazan, a city we liked very much and which impressed us very much with the beauty of its streets, parks and buildings. On Sunday we took part in worship with Holy Communion at St. Catherine’s Lutheran, presided at by Pastor David Gorn with the sermon by Pastor Gotthild Stein. Many thanks are due to the hosts - the congregation members of St. Catherine’s, for the organization of the excursion around Kazan, for their work in organizing breaks during the seminar, and for their kindness and tireless care.
We thank the organizers of the seminar: the Dean of the Samara Deanery Olga Temirbulatova and the Dean of the Central Denery Elena Bondarenko. Their preparatory work ensured that the seminar could take place.
We are thankful to brothers and sisters in Gustav Adolph Worke foundation who provided support for the seminar. The Committee on Women’s Work for the foundation has already supported these seminars and other ministries for 15 years, including this year. This support has done much to assist women in the Evangelical Lutheran Church in European Russia.
The Long Road of Mourning and Hope
Levashovo is not far from the city now. Right beyond the green fence are dachas and picturesque places of rest for city residents. For many years the fence protected people from the secret evil which inevitably comes from death, pain and treachery.
In the village of Levashovo near Leningrad from 1937 to 1953 there was a special execution grounds of the NKVD – KGB of the USSR, the so called “Levashovo wasteland.” Bodies were buried right here where they were shot. Levashovo is the the largest secret burial ground of victims of Stalinist repression in the Leningrad oblast and one of the largest in the whole former Soviet Union.
Germans, Finns, Ingermanlanders, Estonians, Latvians, Lithuanians, Belarusians, Ukrainians, Moldovans, Jews, Assyrians, Tatars, Norwegians, Italians, Poles, Russians... People who spoke various languages and people who could not speak at all or not near, but living in peace with one another. They lay together here in common graves, well-covered from seeking eyes by trees and the sea sand that was brought here. They waited. They waited for their descendants to remember them and for the truth to prove stronger than the “top secret” stamps of the soulless state.
On June 13th Lutherans made their traditional visit: pastors and congregational members of St. Catherine's church whose ancestors – Latvians and Estonians – were victims of repressions of the 1930s and the deportation campaign of the 1940s-50s. On June 13, 1941 the Commissar of Internal Affairs L.Beria signed the “Plan of events for the transport, housing and labor of special populations subject to deportation from the Lithuanian, Latvian, Estonian and Moldovan Soviet Republics.”
Janis Ritvars in his article on these repressions gives the horrifying statistics of the loss: “as a result of two campaigns held in 1941 and 1949, 58557 people were deported from Latvia without investigation or trial. In then end at least 189931 people from Latvia were repressed for political reasons.” Many families still feel the pain of loss and are carrying with them the results of their loss of human rights and citizenship, of being orphaned, abused, and left without education, of being denied their native language and traditions.
Various civil groups such as “Memorial,” ethnic clubs, the museum of genocide, the museum of the History of the GULAG, historians' books, plays and poems, memories of surviving pastors, personal witness of congregational members and our guests and friends from Latvia and Estonia as well as documental and artistic films have worked together to not let this memory be forgotten, despite universal fear and silence.
The number of burials in Levashovo varies in various sources – from 19450 to around 46000. They were officers and soldiers of the First World War, scientists, poets and authors, politicians, doctors, church workers and congregational members, musicians, workers, teachers... These were “social aliens” in society, educated, active and, therefore, dangerous.
Our congregation lost 23 people here. Perhaps more. As the Ukrainian consul put it very exactly when speak about this place - it is a bloody spiderweb of cemeteries. At present we are continuing to carry out historical research in order to better remember our brothers and sisters who were touched by and sometimes destroyed by repression.
Dedication of Prayer House in Volchansk (Ural Deanery)
On June 17th in Volchansk (Northern Urals, Sverlodvsk oblast ) the dedication of the prayer house of the congregation took place. For a long time the congregation, which has more than 40 members, waited for this event. Now they have their own property - a space which, before becoming a grocery story, had been a regular apartment in a 5-story residential building.
Bishop of the Evangelical Lutheran Church of the Urals, Siberia and Far East, Alexander Scheiermann presided at the dedication; the sermon was given by the Dean of the Urals Woldemar Jesse (Chelyabinsk). Dean Vladimir Vinogradov (Omsk) and Pastor Matias Schindler (Nizhny Tagil) also took part.
The administrator of the ELCUSFE Tatyana Muramtseva also addressed congregation with congratulations. Church Council President Andrey Gubashov and head of the Sunday School Svetlana Janzer, speaking for the whole congregation, thanked everyone who helped with their prayers, with their work and their finances.
One of the most memorable moments from the celebration was the reading of the poem for the occasion by Elvira Schmidt. She was the one who began the work of rebirth of the congregation and for many years served in it; she was called away to the Lord a week before the dedication took place.
We wish the congregation and their new space to be light and salt for those around them.
Pastor Evgeny Lukinov
The Congregation in Bolshaya Polyana Invites You to Visit!
Those who would like to have a vacation in the Baltic region have an excellent chance to do so in the building of the Evangelical Lutheran congregation in Bolshaya Polyana of the Kaliningrad oblast. In the guest rooms there is a space for 5-6 people. There is a kitchen and bathroom, and the building is surrounded by a fruit tree orchard. Nearby are tourist attractions and historical buildings from the time of Eastern Prussia. Bicycle tours are possible and it's 60 km to the Baltic sea. There are good bus routes throughout the oblast and the Gvardeisk train station is not far away. There are weekly worship services on Saturdays at 12. Payment for staying there can be in the form of help in the restoration of the building, work in the garden or offerings. Contact Pastor Elena Kurmysova: firstname.lastname@example.org