Saturday, April 7, 2018

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.
The next meeting of the  General Consistory will be in October-November 2018. 

Christ in the Center

 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.
Sergei Rusakov

'Grace. Faith. Freedom.': Presentation of a Book of Sermons by Archbishop Dietrich Brauer


On February 18th in the Sts 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.
Julia Vinogradov

A New Bell Rings Out in Ufa

Just before the beginning of Lent, on February 13, a bell was installed in the belltower 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.
Sergey Rusakov

Meeting of Staff from the Omsk Region

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.

Learning with Partners about the History of Islam and Orthodoxy in 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.
Vera Muzafaraova

'The Sprout' Has Sprung

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.
Elvira Hartman