Posts tagged Lutheran

St. Paul’s Church in Odessa

St Paul's Odessa

St. Paul’s Church in Odessa

Welcome to the St. Paul’s Lutheran Church . ln our city it is known as “Kircha”, the German word for ‘church’, because St. Paul’s is the old German church in Odessa.

The history of this church

At the change of the 18th. to the 19th. century Catherine II and her successor, Tsar Alexander I, invited settlers from Germany to “New Russia”, as they called the region around the Black Sea at that time. Many craftsmen and farmers followed this invitation. They settled in newly founded villages along the Black Sea coast. Under Richelieu they con tributed to the construction of Odessa. ln 1827 they built their first church on this site.

ln the course of the 19th century the congregation grew rapidly. Salesmen and manufacturers moved into the area, as well as officers, civil servants and university teachers. By the end of the 19th century approximately 10,000 Germans lived in Odessa. Their centre was the so-called “Lutheran yard” around the church. Apart from the houses for the pastors and the organist there were also two orphanages, an old people’s home and several school buildings. When the church became too small the Germans built a new, larger church. lt was consecrated in 1897. lts builder was the famous architect, Hermann Scheurembrandt, who also built many other buildings in the city. During the reconstruction works a few years ago the labourers discovered an iron box in the ground containing the foundation stone document with Scheurembrandt’s signature on it. You can see this in one of the display cases.

The new St. Paul’s Church was built in New-Romanesque style. There were large galleries. On the left and right and a further small balcony above the main entrance where the organ was situated. The vault and the galleries were out of dark oak. That is why the in terior of the church was also rather dark. When the Orthodox church was blown up in 1937 the Bolsheviks also closed St. Paul’s Church. During the period of communism the church became very derelict. Also in 1937 the last German pastor was shot without any trial. ln 1941 the organist Theophil Richter, father of the famous pianist Swjatoslaw Richter, suffered the same fate. For many decades there was no church life at all.

Theophil Richter

Theophil Richter, organist martyr of St. Paul’s

After the Second World War the building was used as a sports hall. Toilets and showers were installed where the altar had been. This did the building no good as water leaked into the brickwork, causing big cracks in the walls. The entire building began to tip backwards.

ln 1966 it was planned to pull the church down and replace it by a students’ residence. However, the citizens of Odessa protested – particularly the professors and students of the music conservatory and the university. They did a real sit-in strike around the church. A delegation travelled to Moscow and achieved a decision from the minister of culture that the church would not be demolished. Thus, during the darkest period of our country, the citizens of Odessa saved St. Paul’s church from demolition.

Later the church was due to be changed into a concert hall. However, during the night of 9th May flames came out of the tower. The whole church burnt out. Even today many believe that the church was set to fire on purpose. Ever since then a ruin stood in the centre of Odessa, without a roof, its spires completely gutted by the fire and with destroyed walls. For years it was exposed to wind and weather. On the boards to the right and left of the entrance you can see photos from that time.

ln 1990 the Lutheran congregation was founded again in Odessa. ln 1992 this congregation made an application to retrieve the old people’s home and the ruin. The newly founded German Evangelical Lutheran Church of Ukraine, together with its Bavarian partner church, first of all then rebuilt the old people’s home. The neighbouring “House of the Church” was then opened in 2002. After that the restoration of the church began.

The concept for the rebuilding of St. Paul’s

The outside of the church was reconstructed to a large extent as it had been originally. The interior, however,had been completely destroyed. Therefore, entire new plans had to be created. ln addition, the apse had been so badly damaged that it had to be demolished. ln its place – that was the plan – a new building should be erected, resembling the style of the church outside but containing modern offices inside.

The church interior

History even has its effect on present times. This had to be taken into consideration when redesigning a church like St. Paul’s. Therefore, in memory of the victims of persecution and violence, a commemoration plaque was put up in the entrance hall, under the tower. Representing the many other victims, the names of pastor Karl Vogel and the organist,Theophil Richter, are mentioned – both were shot by Stalin’s henchmen. The carved wooden cross is a present made by Andreas Loquai from Pottmes/Upper Bavaria and the two baroque angels probably come from a catholic church in the Ural. ‘

However, Christian faith does not stagnate in recollections. The big glass door invites one to go further into the church itself. lt greets you, the visitors, with the sentence that the resurrected Jesus said to his disciples: “Peace be with you.” ln eight languages, both ancient and new, from north and south, east and west, this greeting welcomes you. This is the wish of our church for you as guests or citizens of Odessa, the city of 137 nationali ties.

Perhaps you were surprised on entering the church; maybe you expected something completely different. Within the historical walls one finds a modern, light church which was designed by the Swabian artist, Tobias Kammerer (born in 1968). Straightaway you will notice the large surfaces in different colours. They have to be so big in order to give their effect as the church has very large walls. Do not try to recognize any figures immediately. First of all, just let the colours make their impression on you.

The red and gold colours are dominant on the wall behind the altar. The windows are mainly governed by the colours yellow, white and orange. And finally, on the ceiling, you see predominantly the colour blue. This choice of colours is based on Christian colour symbolism, as is also to be found in the Orthodox Church.


Red and gold behind the altar. ln old times these were the colours of the king’s coat. Red symbolizes suffering and death, gold the victory and the abundance. The cross of Jesus Christ on the wall behind the altar is placed on a red surface, but is surrounded by gold. White, silver and orange in the big opal glass windows. When the sun falls into the church, in the morning from the left and in the afternoon from the right, these colours intensify and symbolize the light, the sun, God’s creation and thus refer to the creator himself. The blue on the ceiling. Blue: this is, of course, the colour of the sky and the sea. The artist leaves it open to your imagination. What do · you see? The open heavens with the radiant golden cross as a sign of hope of redemption and eternal life; the sea and the contour lines of a ship with sails, a ship where people enter in.


The ship is an old symbol for the church. The people there above us are perhaps the Christians of older times who belonged to the church before us. But they are also those of today who are invited into this ship. Christian community bridges time and space. lt is the community which is led by God’s spirit. So three colours dominate the whole of the church. They stand for the three persons of the Holy Trinity. The white-yellow-orange of the windows stands for God, the Father, the red and gold for Christ, the Redeemer, and the blue for the Holy Spirit. This colour concept thus reflects the old Christian statement of faith: “Glory to the Father and to the Son and to the Holy Spirit … “

An Orthodox church must always be decorated in accordance with the valid canonic rules. This is different in the western churches. We like to put something of our presentday approach to life into our churches. Here the artist did this by creating a bright, lightflooded room in which he used rich and beautiful colours.


Tobias Kammerer has included traditional elements in his modern artistic concept. When you enter the church, you see the big crucifix on the wall behind the altar: Jesus Christ, who died for us on the cross and whom God raised from death, is in the centre of the Evangelical Lutheran faith. This carving of Christ is about 250 years old. lt dates from the baroque period,such as the two wooden figures to the left. They depict the apostles Peter and Paul. The figures were donated by the catholic diocese of Regensburg – a wonderful gesture of ecumenical fellowship.

lf you look closer at the wall behind the altar you will not only see thin but also broader coloured lines, both around the cross and starting from the cross outwards. Take notice of the wide blue ribbon to the left of the cross. lt leads down to the ground between the two apostles, then changes into high-grade steel and ends at the baptismal font. There the people are joined with Jesus Christ for ever by the sacrament of baptism. This blue and white shining ribbon symbolizes the baptismal water which joins the baptised person directly with Jesus Christ. ln the corner to the right of the entrance there is an icon of the Mother of God from the Western Ukraine. An old woman saved it from a burning village church during the revolution and kept it in her house until a few years ago. When she became old and her daughter’s life was saved after surviving a very severe accident she then donated this precious icon to St. Paul’s. ln front of the icon is a good place for praying and lighting a candle. Take your time to let the room and its artistic decoration make its impression on you. Explore with your eyes and your fantasy.

The organ was donated by a Lutheran congregation in Nurnberg. lt has 1674 pipes, distributed in 27 stops over 2 manuals and pedal. lt was constructed in 1965 by the Bavarian firm named Steinmeyer. Music and the singing of hymns in church is very important for our Evangelical-Lutheran tradition. With this organ St. Paul’s has a big concert organ which is suitable for both accompanying church services and playing at concerts. A word about the bells: The four bells were cast in a foundry in Bavaria and are named St. Mary’s, St. Peter’s, St. Paul’s and Christ’s bell. Bells are ringing again in the tower of St. Paul’s after more than 70 years. Finally, a short remark about the display cases on the left and the boards on the wall at the back. They tell you about the history of the Germans, our congregation and the reconstruction of the church.

Visitation with Representatives from the Norwegian Lutheran Mission (NLM)


Pictured (left to right): Hjalmar Bø, Øyvind Åsland, Albert Collver

On 19 August 2015, Øyvin Åsland, Executive Director of Norwegian Lutheran Mission (NLM), and Hjalmar Bø, Director NLM International Department, came to Saint Louis to visit with the Missouri Synod and to learn more about the International Lutheran Council (ILC). The Norwegian Lutheran Mission (NLM) was formed in 1891 as Det Norske Lutherske Kinamisjonsforbund (the Norwegian Lutheran Federation for Mission in China).  NLM is connected to the revival movements in Norway and adheres to the Holy Scriptures, the Ecumenical Creeds, the Augsburg Confession and the Small and Large Catechisms. NLM’s slogan is “The World for Christ.” The Norwegian Lutheran Mission operates in several of the same countries where the Missouri Synod also operates. For instance, the Norwegian Lutheran Missionaries established Tabor Evangelical College in Ethiopia. Currently, some of the faculty from Tabor Evangelical College are attending doctorate classes at Concordia Seminary in Saint Louis. Missionaries from NLM have frequent contact with Missouri Synod missionaries in places such as Hong Kong, Taiwan, Latin America, and Africa. Although there have been many informal contacts through the years, this is the first time that the Norwegian Lutheran Mission has sought official contacts with the Missouri Synod and with the International Lutheran Council.


Øyvind Åsland and Hjalmar Bø at Concordia Publishing House

Since 1891 (three years before the Missouri Synod engaged in international mission work), the Norwegian Lutheran Mission has been seeking to plant Lutheran churches around the world. NLM always has been a movement within but not under the Church of Norway and has been primarily a lay movement that sought to engage in missions. The Norwegian Lutheran Mission does not support the ordination of women. Most recently, the Norwegian Lutheran Mission voted to “establish religious communities” by a vote of 548 in favor to 121 against.


The vote for the Norwegian Lutheran Mission (NLM) to establish “religious communities” is rather significant as it marks the shift of NLM from being purely a mission agency to also a church. As such NLM has begun to wrestle with the implications of this decision, such as how it will relate to other churches in the world and what sorts of relationships it will seek.


Pictured (left to right): Rev. Paul McCain, Dr. Albert Collver, Jonathan Schulz, Øyvind Åsland and Hjalmar Bø

At Concordia Publishing House, the representatives from the Norwegian Lutheran Mission received an overview of CPH products that might be of interest to the mission field. In the past, NLM has translated a few books from CPH into Norwegian. They also received a tour of the facilities.


After visiting Concordia Publishing House, the NLM representatives had the opportunity to visit Concordia Seminary, Saint Louis. Once again, the Norwegian Lutheran Mission is familiar with Concordia Seminary as some of their missionaries and leaders have studied there in the past.


Dr. Jeff Kloha Provides An Overview of the Campus

At Concordia Seminary, the representatives from NLM saw highlights of the campus including the rare book room, where they saw the Bach Bible and Codex Vaticanus. The representatives from NLM noted how it is amazing that an institution remained faithful to the Scriptures and Lutheran Confessions for 175 years, which only happens by the grace of God.

The first formal visit with the Norwegian Lutheran Mission went well and we are looking forward to more visits in the future.

— Rev. Albert B. Collver, Ph.D., Director of Church Relations

Deaconess Conference for Lutheran Church of Nigeria

The Lutheran Church of Nigeria held a deaconess conference with the LCMS on the theme, “Deaconesses in Mission.” Approximately 200 women attended.


The women were very eager to join the conference.


Deaconess Grace Rao spoke about the role of women in the church.


Dr. Collver reflected on the Lutheran Church of Nigeria’s Theme, “Christ Lives in Me,” and used the Gospel of Mark to describe the Christ that lives in you, while tying it to mercy works.


Dr. David Erber assisted with the conference.


Nigeria in the rainy season.


Opportunities in Africa (Ethiopia) for Theological Education (GSI)

Opportunities in Africa (Ethiopia in this case) abound for theological education. Opportunities exist both for a person who wants to travel overseas to teach a class and for students who are taught at a local insinuation or who receive a scholarship to study at Concordia Theological Seminary, Fort Wayne, or Concordia Seminary, Saint Louis.

The video highlights how the Global Seminary Initiative (GSI) is helping connect qualified volunteers with teaching opportunities overseas and students with opportunities to study locally or possibility at an LCMS seminary. Two students are interviewed: a future deaconess who has been accepted to Concordia Theological Seminary in Fort Wayne and a PhD student who has been accepted for study at Concordia Seminary in Saint Louis. Two instructors are interviewed about their experience at Mekane Yesus Seminary. Finally, Rev. Shauen Trump, Area Director for East Africa, speaks about how theological education is the single largest request he receives in Africa.

For more information about the Global Seminary Initiative please visit:


Palanga Lutheran Church Dedication


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Palanga Lutheran Church
On 14 July 2012, the Evangelical Lutheran Church of Lithuania dedicated the recently completed church in Palanga, Lithuania. Nearly seven years ago, on 30 July 2005, the corner stone for the Palanga Lutheran church was laid, after the Iowa East District of the Lutheran Church – Missouri Synod formed a partnership with the Evangelical Lutheran Church of Lithuania. The Lutheran Church in Palanga burned down in 1938, and during Soviet times the congregation disbanded with her members relocating to other cities.
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The service began at a private house on Maironis street, where the congregation had gathered since the fall of communism in 1993. After the gathering of the cross and altar ware the home was deconsecrated with the brief service and singing of hymns. From the former prayer house, the pastors and congregation processed down the street about a mile to the location of the new church.
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The procession had police escort from the prayer house to the new location of Palanga Lutheran Church. Along the way people gathered in these street to watch the procession. Some people stood from their apartment balconies and took photographs of the procession.
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Upon arriving at the church, approximately 350 people waited outside the church for the bishop to arrive and open the doors of the church.
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Bishop Mingdaugas Sabutis opened the church doors and gave the keys of the church to Pastor Dr. Darius Petkūnis. More than twenty pastors, from Lithuania, Latvia, Germany, and the United States, filed into the church along with the rest of the congregation.
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Bishop Sabutis and Pastor Dr. Darius Petkūnis conduct the divine service and consecrate the church building. In his sermon based upon the encounter of the Samaritan woman with Jesus in John 4:19 – 26, Bishop Sabutis said that the Lutherans in Lithuania know what it means to be a “little flock.” He noted that the Lutheran church returned to Palanga just 15 years ago, after the Lutheran church had been persecuted, deported, and exterminated in Lithuania. During the time of communism, only 6 Lutheran pastors remained in Lithuania. Sabitus gave thanks to the Lord who is merciful and to all the people both in Lithuania and in the United States who made it possible for the construction of the church in Palanga. He gave special thanks to the people of the Lutheran Church – Missouri Synod, especially to the Iowa East District.
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Bishop Sabutis and the pastors assisting with Holy Communion practice the ancient custom of kneeling before the consecrated hosts on the altar. Although this custom is not commonly practiced by Lutherans in the United States, its practice goes back to the days of Dr. Martin Luther and comes to the Lithuanian Lutheran Church from the Saxon Church Agenda (the ones used by the congregations near Wittenberg in the time of Martin Luther).
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After the service, honored guests presented to the congregation. Bishop Sabutis retorted that he knew the congregation would appreciate a five minute speech from each of the twenty plus pastors, but he would have to disappoint them by limiting the remarks to a few honored guests. The first to present was Rev. Dr. Gary Arp, President Emertius of the Iowa East District of the Lutheran Church – Missouri Synod. He spoke how President Matthew Harrison, then Executive Director for LCMS World Relief and Human Care, approached him in 2003 to see if his district would be interested in helping the Lithuanian Lutheran Church build a church and mercy center. President Arp indicated that he and his district were interested. In 2005, President Arp participated in the laying of the corner stone of Palanga Lutheran Church. President Arp also brought official greetings from President Harrison to the assembled congregation.
Dedication Plaques
President Arp presented two plaques (one in Lithuanian and the other in English) to the congregation. The plaque read, “From the Cedar River to the Baltic Sea, The Palanga Evangelical Lutheran Parish. This facility was made possible by the generous support of the Lutheran Church Missouri Synod World Relief & Human Care, St. Louis, Missouri, USA and The members of Iowa District East, Marion, Iowa USA, Mr. Kurtas Velius, and other distinguished benefactors, dedicated to the Glory of God the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit 14 July 2012. In Him the whole structure, being joined together, grows into a holy temple in the Lord. In him you also are being built together into a dwelling place for God by the Spirit. Ephesians 2:21-22.”
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After President Arp presented the plaques, Rev. Dr. Albert Collver, LCMS Director of Church Relations – Assistant to the President, brought additional greetings.
“Bishop Sabutis, Pastor Petkūnas, honored clergy and brothers and sisters in Christ.

Last evening, President Matthew C. Harrison asked me to bring additional greetings to you here in Palanga and to the Lutherans in Lithuania on his behalf and on that of the people of the Missouri Synod in the Name of Jesus! It is a great privilege and honor to be here among you today. It is a joy to see this church completed and ready to be used in worship.

For as long as I have served with President Harrison (both as President and when he worked as the director of Diakonia for the LCMS), he has spoken of the need to help our brothers and sisters in Christ who suffered under communism. He said we need to help them, to show mercy to them. Today, we heard Bishop Sabutis say, “This is a house of mercy.” Indeed it is. It is the place the Lord comes and shows mercy.

It is a privilege and honor that the Lord allowed the people of the Lutheran Church – Missouri Synod, in particular the Iowa East District, to participate in the building of this church in Palanga. It brings us joy to see this day.

We also heard how after the corner stone was laid in July 2005 how plans were made to dedicate this church in 2007. Yet those plans were delayed and now 5 years later we celebrate the opening of this church. Some may have thought the promise to build the church would not come true. Some may have even thought the Lord failed his promises. Hear this word of Scripture after Solomon finished building the temple, he “Blessed be the Lord who has given rest to his people Israel, according to all that he promised. Not one word has failed of all his good promise.” (1 Kings 8:56)

Indeed, today the Lord has given rest to his people as he has promised. Today he has given you rest in his promises. Not one word of the Lord has failed you. The Lord has given you his precious Gospel and his forgiving gifts. He has given you this sanctuary to worship him.

Today, we celebrate and rejoice with you at the completion of the Lutheran Church in Palanga. We pray that it will be blessing to you and to the people here. Remember that the Lord is faithful to his promise. He will never fail you. It is our duty to given him thanks and praise, for his Gospel and for this place of worship.

The Blessing of God, the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit be with you. Amen.”

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Rev. Dr. Brian Saunders, District President of Iowa East District, brought greetings to the congregation in Palanga. President Saunders also preached on Sunday morning (15 July 2012).
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Rev. Dr. Charles Evangson (pictured above) has played a significant role in the Lutheran church of Lithuania for the past 14 years. He was sent to Kaipedia, Lithuania, by Concordia Theological Seminary in Fort Wayne, in the late 1990s to assist in the instruction of pastors. He along with Rev. Dr. Darius Petkūnis, pastor of the Palanga Lutheran Church, have played a significant role in the development of the Lithuanian hymnal and agenda, primarily working to restore the liturgy that existed pre-communism. Dr. Evanson participated in the dedication service, reading the Epistle lesson in Lithuanian and English and assisted in Holy Communion. He also regularly assists in Lutheran congregations in Lithuania. Bishop Sabutis honored Dr. Evanson by counting him among the members of the Lithuanian clergy. Currently, Dr. Evanson serves in Lithuania under the aspics of the LCMS Office of International Mission.
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All of the pastors gather outside of the church after the dedication for a photo.
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Rev. Dr. Albert Collver speaks with Rev. Dr. Darius Petkūnis during the reception held after the dedication.
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— Posted by Rev. Dr. Albert Collver, Director of Church Relations in Vilnius, Lithuania on 15 July 2012.
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