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

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.
Sergei Rusakov



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

Moscow

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


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.

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

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.
Elvira Hartman

Pastor's 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.
Manfred Brokmann

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, this 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.

“Theatrical Sarepta”

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.”


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 Werk 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.

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.
Evgeny Lukinov

“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.

Tatyana Zhivodyorova

Thursday, March 1, 2018

Christmas 2017

Astana (Kazakhstan)
Grodno (Belarus)
Kazan
Krasnoyarsk
Lozovaya (Ukraine)
Lvov (Ukraine)
Moscow
Omsk
Rustaveli (Georgia)
St. Petersburg
Samara
Saratov
 Tibilisi (Georgia)
 Tomsk
Ulyanovsk
Volgograd (Sarepta)

ELCA Partner Visits

2017 showed that the ELCA continues to remain engaged in partnership with the church in Russia. In February regional representative Arden Haug made a trip to St. Petersburg and Moscow together with Bishop Cindy Halmarson, Global Mission Director for Europe, Middle East and North Africa. As usual they visited the central church administration, Bishop Kugappe of the Ingrian Church, and ELCA Pastor Bradn Buerkle in St. Petersburg, and then in Moscow visited Archbishop Brauer and his staff, the French-speaking congregation, and the Moscow Protestant chaplaincy.This trip came at the conclusion of Arden's many years of faithful service in accompanying the Russian church on the behalf of the ELCA; his knowledge of the situation and his efforts on behalf of our church throughout the years have been very much appreciated.

Northwest Washington delegation with Bishop Brauer
In March a group of 5 people from the Northwest Washington Synod, including Bishop Unti, came to Russa to visit the two capitals and their partner synod (ELCER) and congregations in Yaroslavl and Tolyatti. They were very impressed by what they saw, and they are filled with a desire to strengthen ties further. Eva Mader, who was not able to join the delegation that came in March as she had originally planned, did make a short trip to St. Petersburg in September to attend the service of dedication for the new organ in Petrikirche, the partner congregation of her home Grace Lutheran in Bellevue.
Pastor Gary Teske, Pastor Gleb Pivovarov, and Olga Vinogradova
In September and October, a delegation from the Central States Synod made their first trip to Russia in 5 years; while they might not be frequent, they do cover a lot of ground! They began in St. Petersburg and made stops in Moscow, Omsk, Khabarovsk and Krasnoyarsk before reaching the congregations to which they have been historically tied in the Far East. Their meetings with church leaders along the way helped the delegation get a sense of the challenges the church faces and some of the hope-filled new aspects of church life in ELCUSFE, including the leadership of a new bishop, Alexander Scheiermann, with whom the delegation's leader, Gary Teske, had already become acquainted in Omsk at the bishop's installation in April.

Bishop Halmarson and other church leaders at the Reformation Anniversary
Viking Dietrich, the new ELCA area representative, joined the group in Vladivostok, where they all celebrated together with Dean Manfred Brockmann his 80 birthday and the celebration of 25 years since the congregation has been reborn.
Finally, our church was honored to have Bishop Halmarson with us again for the Reformation anniversary celebrations in Moscow over the last days of October through the beginning of November. Her presence was more than just a reminder that this event is being celebrated world-wide, it was also a chance to gain a deeper understanding of one another and one another's church life.

Wednesday, February 28, 2018

The Doctrine of Justification 500 Years Later – Lutheran/Roman Catholic Conference in Moscow



 From November 21-23 at the St. Thomas Institute the ecumenical seminar “The Doctrine of Justification 500 Years Later” was held. The organizers of the seminar were St. Thomas Catholic Institute and the Evangelical Lutheran Church of European Russia (ELCER).
The St. Thomas Institute has already been in cooperation with the ELCER for quite some time, especially with the Central Deanery. Many of its graduates are working in ELCER congregations. The Rector of the Institute, Father Thomas Garcia, has preached numerous times in our Sts Peter and Paul Cathedral in Moscow. Therefore during one of the meetings between Father Thomas, Father Viktor Zhuk, Dean Elena Bondarenko and Lay Minister Artist Petersons the idea arose to organize a joint theological conference open to the two denominations and to the public during the year of the anniversary of the Reformation.

The idea became incarnate – a three day seminar in St. Thomas Institute with lectures by Father Jose Vegas from the “Mary Queen of the Apostles” Seminary in St. Petersburg and Pastor Anton Tikhomirov, the President of the Novosaratovka Theological Seminary. It ended up being an interesting dialogue between Lutherans and Catholics about sin, justification, salvation and the role of the Church in contemporary life.
At the conclusion of the seminar there was a discussion moderated by Father Zhuk. Dean Bondarenko and lay ministers Artis Petersons and Nikolai Demonov helped in the preparations for the seminar.

New Bishop for the Evangelical Lutheran Church of the Southern Caucasus

Tbilisi, Georgia

November 12 was a memorable day in the history of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in Georgia and Southern Caucasus (ELCG). A new bishop was installed at Sunday worship at the Church of the Reconciliation. Pastor of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in Wortemburg, Markus Schock became the 5th bishop of the ELCG. His predecessor, Hans-Joachim Kiderlein, was the head of Georgian Lutherans from 2008 to 2017.
The installation service was led by the Bishop of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in Kyrgyzstan, Alfred Eicholtz; he was assisted by Bishop Hans - Joachim Kiderlen, the Bishop Emeritus of the Evangelical Lutheran Church of Latvia Abroad Elmars Rozitis, Bishop Emeritus of the ELG Johannes Launhardt, Klaus Rieth from the Evangelical Lutheran Church of Wurttemberg, Dean Olga Timurbulatova, Pastor Irina Solei and Pastor Viktor Miroshnichenko.
The 51 year old Schock was elected bishop at the synod assembly of the ELCG a year ago, in November 2016. Bishop Schock is familiar with ministry in the post-Soviet context; he worked for 5 years as the pastor of the German Evangelical Lutheran congregation in Latvia, and earlier (beginning in 2000) he had worked for 4 years as the pastor of St. Georgia's in Samara (Russia).
The new bishop was greeted by representatives from other confessions, from government structures, from the German embassy and the partner church in Wurttemberg. Klaus Rit from the Wurttemberg church inspired the small Georgian church to be a “lighthouse for society.” Bishop Eicholtz, representing the Union of Evangelical Lutheran Churches – mentioned that it was a special blessing for him to take part in this installation insofar as he himself is a direct descendant of the Swabian emigrates who founded the first Lutheran congregations in Georgia. He quoted 1 Cor 4.15 as he reminded Bishop Schock of the need to love the church that has been entrusted to him and to lead it like a father.
The Area Dean for Samara Olga Temirbulatova read the congratulations written by the Archbishop of the ELCR, Dietrich Brauer, and added on her own that she has been acquainted with Pastor Schock for a long time, and knows that he is very capable of building on past developments and has the gift of consolidation and reconciliation. She sees him as a person “with a big heart,” and sees it as a blessing that he is serving in this new capacity.

Church Dedication in Ekaterinburg

The first Lutheran congregation in Ekaterinburg was founded in 1723. The first Lutherans were engineers, craftsmen and mining experts who came from Europe. After the war between Russia and Sweden in 1741-43, many parishioners were prisoners of war from Sweden and Finland.
In 1791 the first Lutheran wooden church was destroyed, and a new Orthodox church was built on the square. Until 1872 services were celebrated in various places in the city. In 1873 the new stone church was dedicated. The money for the construction was donated by church members (Germans and Swedes).
Congregational life was re-established in 1999 after the end of the Communist era. Now for the first time, after many trials, the congregation has its own space.  On November 26, 2017, the congregation's building was consecrated. 


The pastor of the congregation, Raikin Dürr, writes:
In the summer of last year, after many years of effort, we were finally allowed to buy a congregational center. The renovation work then lasted for over a year until we could celebrate the official dedication.
We are grateful to all friends and donors, but above all to our church members and staff who have not left us alone throughout the years.
On November 26, 2017, our newly renovated parish hall with an altar and pulpit was dedicated by Area Dean Valdemar Jesse. Brothers and sisters from different Lutheran congregations in the Urals visited us for this event. Representatives of the Liebenzell Mission also came to Ekaterinburg for the occasion. It was so crowded that people even had to sit in the cry room and there was no room left for the children - almost like the time when Jesus was born.
In his sermon Bishop Alexander Scheiermann reminded us of the heavenly hope that God offers to us Christians. We understand very well that with ownership comes responsibility.
And so, as Lutheran Christians in Ekaterinburg, we want to tell the people of our city the saving message of Jesus. We want to help the poor with diaconal ministry. And we want to invite people to join us for worship at church services where we hear His Word. 
We very much hope that God sends people from our midst to be co-workers in His kingdom to serve in the most diverse fields. 


Women's Ministry in Vladivostok


Sometimes it seems that the church is too interested in the question of what is appropriate for women to do in the church and what is not appropriate (e.g., the type of clothing that is worn, wearing a scarf or not, whether or not women can preach in the church). Even in the Lutheran church where we officially recognize the equality of men and women to serve at the altar and where wearing a scarf is not required, all the same people discuss and make judgements that, sometimes, even go so far as to humiliate a woman – a sister in Christ.
  Women are freely offered all sorts of work – from washing floors to working with kids in Sunday school, from preparing snacks to taking care of the homebound. This work is familiar to every woman and women do it well. But can any woman listen to a brother or sister who is weighed down with sin and bring them comfort, praying together with them and saying “The Lord loves you. He takes on your sin, you are forgiven through the blood of Christ. He died for you?” If there is such a woman in a congregation, this is a gift from the Lord! It's not very helpful at that moment to hurriedly quote Paul's Letter to the Corinthians where he speaks about scarfs and haircuts (the latter not only for women, by the way).
Women are happy to lovingly prepare feasts, to take care of children and to help the sick. But if God gave her the gift to preach the Good News and to teachs, it is not good to “close” her mouth and say that you are forbidden to do that. Why do we trust women to raise our children in faith, but we don't allow them to speak from the pulpit? It seems that it is a larger responsibility to work with children, who are vulnerable and sincerely trust the adults that work with them.
  These and other questions interested me and I wanted to speak about them with my sisters in order to support them, to raise their self-esteem and their importance – in fact, sometimes their indispensability in the congregation. I suggested that they lead “women's ministry meetings” and on Sunday after worship the women of St. Paul's Lutheran gathered for fellowship in our comfortable ship cabin (that is what we call the balcony in the kirche). It wasn't very difficult to find a theme for our meeting: “Church (Lutheran) holidays.”
  The women were interested in hearing about the church calendar, about the holidays of the church year, about the decorating of the church during those times as well as food and other traditions. There weren't many of us, but they listened attentively to what I had to say and added their own contributions, especially when we spoke about traditions and special foods.
We closed our meeting by drinking tea together; instead of traditional cookies, we ate a snack from the German-Russian tradition – krebel. Those who knew the recipe shared with those who wanted to know how to make them themselves. 
  The time went spent together went by quickly, and as we parted we agreed to “get together more frequently.” We do, after all, have lots of things to think about and discuss!
I am thankful to God  that he has given me the courage to work with women and strengthens me in this ministry! I am thankful to my sisters who came to the meeting and gave me support!
Nina Dmitrieva