Saturday, June 23, 2018

Dedication of St. Mary's Church in Saratov

Archbishop Dietrich Brauer spoke about the church's dedication on May 13th and the events that took place preceding it in the following interview:

“The dedication of St. Mary's in Saratov is a long-awaited and happy event. 225 years have passed since the dedication of the first St. Mary's, which was located in the center of the city and was barbarically destroyed when it was blown up in 1971. The history of Lutherans in Saratov was interrupted for quite some time. Later the congregation was organized and began to meet in various places. On Sundays congregational members met in basements, and for big holidays they rented halls in order to fit in all those who wanted to attend.
Then the congregation began to build a new church; 25 years have passed since the congregation was reborn, and for more than 10 years now the new church has been under construction. The work was done only by fellow believers, both Russian Germans and others who show their care and concern. Both individuals and church groups have taken part in this good deed. The process of construction stretched out throughout the years, and even now the work isn't done, but the main work has been completed.
At the end of this stage we decided to dedicate the building in order that the congregation could feel that it was already in a fully-functioning church building. It can hold up to 200 people. Worship services are already held in the sanctuary, and there are many spaces for use by the Sunday school, for other ministries and even a small fireside room which creates a special atmosphere for meetings and discussions.
It was quite impressive that the Ambassador of the Federal Republic of Germany, Rüdiger von Fritsch, came to Saratov for the dedication of the building. Every year he visits one of the Russian regions, and he came to Saratov specially for the the dedication of the church and the celebratory worship.  What is more, he came not strictly as a government official, but as a preacher. Rüdiger von Fritsch is not only an ambassador, he is a theologian and is blessed as a preacher in the Lutheran Church. He has preached, for example, in the Bavarian Lutheran church when he was the ambassador in Poland and was happy to agree to give the sermon at the celebratory worship service in St. Mary's church. 
In his sermon the ambassador spoke about the New Covenant of God with man, the covenant based on the blood of Jesus Christ, His grace, His mercy. The preacher placed this imagine in the context of the event, in the context of Russian Lutherans and the Saratov congregation, which lost its building, lost hoped, but did not lose faith. This faith and the faithfulness of God, His faithfulness to the covenant that He once made with his people, saved and strengthened people during all times. “Today, during the dedication of the new St. Mary's church, the faithfulness of God to his covenant has been fully shown;” with these words the German ambassador brought his sermon to a close.
The participation of the ambassador of Germany in the events in Saratov drew attention not only to his person, but also to the problems of Russian Lutherans, to the needs of congregations. We are very thankful to Ambassador Rüdiger von Fritsch, for his attentiveness  to and interest in Russian Lutherans, for his active participation in the finding solutions to many important problems. In our days people frequently speak in the language of confrontation, of sanctions and threats. And the fact that a person can speak in a different language, heart to heart, the language of spirituality, the language of faith – it is very inspiring!
As he noted in his conversation with local journalists, the Ambassador’s main goal of this visit was to be present at the dedication and worship service, but many other events were also organized for him. He enjoyed visiting the city and oblast very much and spoke of his intention to visit again on a personal trip together with his wife.
It is a joy that three church buildings  in the region are being restored at once: the new St. Mary's, and two historical buildings in Zorkino and in Marx. In the former local businessman Karl Loor has led the efforts, while in Marx it is brothers Alexander and Viktor Schmidt.
During this visit we visited the wonderful, old church in Marx. It was a nice to see that the city itself is being transformed around the restored church – the embankment has been done, the territory was groomed – the city is awakening together with the church! The same thing happened in Zorkino. When from ruins a beautiful church was raised, everything around started to change, too. A new school and a hospital have appeared. People try to meet the standard of beauty that now surrounds them. I think that when the construction of St. Mary's in Saratov is finished, the industrial neighborhood where it is located will also begin to be transformed.”

Julia Vinogradova

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