Sunday, June 24, 2018

A True Pastoral Care Giver

From May 2nd to the 7th in the Omsk oblast the women's seminar of the Evangelical Lutheran Church of the Urals, Siberia and Far East - “Jesus Christ – the true caregiver of souls.” This hinted at the broad theme of the seminary – pastoral care and counseling. Sister Louisa, a deaconess from Germany, analyzed Jesus' conversations with people from a pastoral care point of view. Nina Dmitrieva (Vladivostok) and Anastasia Razinkova (Shelekhov, Irkutsk oblast) gave an overview of the upcoming World Day of Prayer for 2019. Tatyana Serevbrova (Krasnoyarsk) introduced the seminar and ed a lesson on women in the Bible. Besides this participants enjoyed the natural pine forest, sang hymns, prayed together and shared a warm atmosphere of fellowship.

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 Long Road of Mourning and Hope

St. Petersburg
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 1918 to 1953 there was a special execution grounds of the NKVD – KGB of the USSR, the so called “Levoshov 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.
Elvira Zheids

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.
Julia Vinogradova

Saturday, June 23, 2018

"Overhaul" - Men's Ministry Seminary for the Union of Evangelical Lutheran Churches

“We’ve been given so much!” This was the feeling that filled those who were blessed to have taken part in the recent (May 23-27) seminar for men’s ministry in the Union of Evangelical Lutheran Church (former ELCROS). A sense of deep gratitude to God for everything that He sends us filled filled these days, and it acts as the basis for our thoughts about how we might use God’s grace for the good of our congregations and for those outside of them.
The central image of the seminar was “overhaul” which combined in a surprising way with the Biblical story of Joseph in such a way that participants could consider the unfulfilled potential in their lives. They “looked under the hood” and made a diagnosis of what needs to be changed, considering what “tools” could be helpful in the road of discipleship.
But during this seminar participants not only sat in chairs, discussing. Despite the cold-for-
spring weather, many activities were organized that helped the participants do something
 physical in order to gain new experience and to meet new challenges (for example, many tried bowling and a ropes course for the first time in this seminar), thereby gaining confidence for everyday life. 
The diversity of participants and teachers were a serious enrichment for the seminar. Christoph Baker (Germany, Apis) led sessions on the specifics of ministry with men, in particular about the relationship of men’s ministry to mission. Bradn Buerkle was the co-organizer of the seminar together with Dean of Siberia for the Evangelical Lutheran Church of the Urals, Siberia and Far East, Vladimir Vinogradov. Bradn was 
responsible for financial questions and for Bible studies, while Vladimir solved many questions related to organizational issues and led interactive exercises related to psychology and pastoral care. Participants came from Bishkek (Kyrgyzstan), Astana (Kazakhstan), Kiev (Ukraine), and from Russia (Vladivostok, Krasnoyarsk, Omsk, the Ulyanovsk deanery and the Northern Caucasus deanery). Unfortunately visa issues got in the way of the increasing the geography of the participants to include Georgia. Some of the participants are long-time leaders in the church, while some were new; just as significantly, the context in each of our churches is quite different.Yet in these days together all of these differences faded into the background as they felt unity with one another, had fun with one another, prayed with one another, thought together with one another about how the Holy Spirit is working in the churches and in each of us. It is rare to have such a chance to get together these days, but such meetings give participants energy and inspiration to try something new in their lives and in the lives of their congregations. 
The organizers and participants of the seminar would like to thank those who made this seminar possible - in supports of the “Equipping for Service” program in the ELCA and ELM. It is the common hope that those who took part in the seminar will able to continue their “overhaul” work back at their homes in order to strengthen the spiritual lives of men and in order to invite others into Christian fellowship.

Guests from India

MoscowOn Pentecost, May 20, at Sts Peter and Paul Cathedral in Moscow there was a guest preacher – Rev. Dr. Christian Samurai, the ambassador for international relations for the Tamil Evangelical Lutheran Church of India.
He came to Moscow together with his wife and daughter at the invitation of the Evangelical Lutheran Church of European Russia. After worship there was a meeting of the congregation with Mr. Samurai. He spoke about the history of the beginnings of Christianity in India, tied with the name of St. Thomas. The guest spoke in detail about the problems of Indian Christians, which experience persecution because of their faith in a country where the majority of believers are Hindu and also emphasized that India and Russia have long-time friendly relations.
The reverend doctor prayed for the blessing of the Holy Spirit on the congregation and asked to pray for Christians in India. In conclusion Dr. Samurai signed copies of the May congregational newsletter with his photo.
A day earlier, on May 19, the guest from India took part in the Pentecost vigil service in the Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception of the Virgin Mary. The Lutheran congregation was also represented at this ecumenical service by the choir of the French-speaking congregation, Preacher Artis Petersons, Dean Elena Bondarenko, and also one other guest – Duverte Kaper (Netherlands).
Julia Vinogradova

Surprising Facts about the Reformation

On May 25 to 27 Dr. Anton Tikhomirov, President of the Novosaratovka Theological Seminary, led a seminar dedicated to the context of Martin Luther and the Reformation. Again and again he surprised his listeners with a view of these events that went beyond the typical, superficial explanations that are heard more commonly.
Participants were able to attend not only from Saratov, but also from congregations in Ulyanovsk, Kazan, Balakov, Marx and from the Saratov oblast.
During the rest of his visit Anton together with area dean Andrey Dzhamgarov visited various congregations and sites around the Saratov region, including congregations in Marx and Zorkino. All the while Anton continued to answer questions put to him by those whom he met, and he was able to explain in an accessible way the nuances of a Lutheran worldview.
Based on the article by Alexander Deryugen