Archive for December 2011

Second Sunday in Advent at Priekulė, Lithuania

The Lutheran Parish in Priekule, Lithuania

This morning we attended worship in Priekulė, Lithuania. It is one of 54 parishes of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in Lithuania. Christianity came to Klaipeda, Lithuania in 1252, while the rest of Lithuania was pagan. In 1525, Klaipeda, then a part of Prussia, became Lutheran. The Lutheran congregation in Vilnius was established in 1555. The majority of the Lutheran congregations were established in the 17th and 18th centuries in Lithuania. The Lutheran congregation in Priekulė, Lithuania, where we worshiped, once had 6,000 members. Now about 50 persons worship in what was the old school house, the original church having been destroyed by the Communists in the Soviet Era. Before WWII, the Lutheran population was more than 200,000. Today, it is around 20,000 persons. The Lutheran congregation in Priekule retains a strong German identity.

Rev. Dr. Darius Petkūnas writes in the Resurgence of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in Lithuania after the Soviet Era, “All Lithuanians love to sing and Lutherans extend this love for music to parish life. From the days of the Reformation the Lithuanian Lutheran Church has been a singing church. The great German hymns were all translated into Lithuanian, and hymns by Lithuanian Lutherans have been added to this treasury,” During worship, we had opportunity to hear this rich musical heritage in the confirmation choir and in the hymnody.

Confirmation Choir Sings During Worship

Watch the video below to hear the Confirmation Choir sing.

Pastor Petkuūnas preached on signs of the end of the world for the Second Sunday of Advent.

After the sermon, the congregation sang, “Kelkitės, šlovingai aidi” (Wake, Awake for Night is Flying or Wachet auf, ruft uns die Stimme in German) by Philipp Nicolai.

Listen to the first stanza in Lithuanian in the video below.

The church is kept warm by an old wood or coal burning stove.

Our visit to Priekulė was very pleasant.

Rev. Daniel Johnson, Rev. Dr. Albert Collver, Juta Galkienė, Rev. Dr. Darius Petkūas

You can read the Resurgence of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in Lithuania after the Soviet Era here:

Resurgence of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in Lithuania After the Soviet Era
–Rev. Dr. Albert B. Collver, Director of Church Relations

Vilnius Evangelical Lutheran Church — Lithuania

Belfry from the Courtyard

On Friday, 2 December 2011, Dr. Timothy Quill, Director of Theological Education, Rev. Daniel Johnson, and Dr. Albert Collver, Director of Church relations arrived in Vilnius for a conference with Lutheran pastors in the Lithuanian and Belarus churches, held at the parish hall of Vilnius Evangelical Lutheran Church. Rev. Johnson presented on Lutheran spirituality, while Dr. Collver spoke on the church’s life under the cross from 1 Corinthians. Bishop Mindaugas Sabutis of the Evangelical Lutheran Church of Lithuania welcomed the LCMS group and explained how the Lutheran Church in Lithuania by the Lord’s grace had been resurrected from death at the hands of Communism. He also encouraged the Missouri Synod to provide strong theological leadership to Lutherans throughout the world.

Conference with Pastors from the Lithuanian and Estonian Churches

Rev. Dr. Darius Petkūnas, Member of the Consistory of the Evangelical Lutheran Church of Lithuania said, “The meeting was very important not only for the Lithuanian church but for the emerging church in Belarus, which is resurgent after many years of Soviet Domination. Acting Bishop Wladimir Meyerson in his report provided information regarding the situation of Lutheranism in Belarus and expressed his wish to strengthen relations with the LCMS through Bishop Sabuitus. He emphasized the need for theological education to train the men for the pastoral ministry. The Lithuania church is also very happy with this meeting, which was rich in theological presentations and conversation. It was very helpful for both churches.”

The Belarusian Lutheran Church is under the spiritual leadership of Bishop Sabutis and functions as an extension of the Evangelical Lutheran Church of Lithuania.

Dr. Timothy Quill remarked, “It was personally heartwarming to listen to the Belarusian pastors report on the progress of the BELC. It was ten years ago to the day, on December 2, 2001, that I attended the constituting synod of the Belarusian Evangelical Lutheran Church that took place in Vitibsk. It has been a difficult time for the faithful Lutherans trying to establish Lutheranism in a country where the Church was totally destroyed by the Communists. Leading their Notruf (plea for help) was a request for theological education to build a strong clergy. They inquired if the Seminary of the Siberian Evangelical Lutheran Church in Novosibirsk, Russia could help train pastors and they encouraged the continuation of regular courses organized by Bishop Mindaugis Sabutis and Dr. Charles Evanson (LCMS theological educator in the Baltics and consultant to the ELCL). They also requested help in producing a Belarusian Lutheran liturgy and agenda. The Lithuanian and Belarusian Lutheran Churches share a common geographical and ecclesiastical history. BELC pastor Sergi Heil explained, ‘The BELC is a young church in desperate need of its own liturgy, yet a liturgy that expresses her common tradition with Lithuania.’ Pastor Heil asked if Lithuania could assist in this task. The ELCL is blessed to be home to Dr. Charles Evanson and Dr. Darius Petkunas who are not only recognized scholars in the area of the history of the Baltic and Russian liturgies, but key members of the ELCL liturgical commission that recently produced the new Lithuanian agenda.”

The Parish Seal of the Vilnius Evangelical Lutheran Church

The first evangelical Lutheran church in Vilnius, Lithuania, was established in 1552 with the completion of the church building in 1555. The parish has had its own seal since 1560 wich depicts the Lamb of God with the inscription, “Diligite Veritatem Et Pacem” (“Value Truth and Peace”). Over the years the church building suffered a number of fires. The current structure had its foundation placed on 3 August 1739. The church was designed by Johann Christopher Glaubitz.

The altar piece consists of four sections that depicts the life of Christ. The scenes from lowest to highest portray the birth of Jesus, the Lord’s Supper, the Crucifixion, and the Ascension of Christ. On either side of the life of Christ are statues of the four evangelists. During the period of Soviet oppression, the Christian symbolism on the altar area was removed and replaced with communist idols. The nativity scene was replaced with the Red Star. The Lord’s Supper scene was replaced with images of Karl Marx, Lenin, and Stalin (the unholy trinity of the Soviet State). The crucifix and ascension scenes were removed. The sanctuary was partitioned into two floors, the lower level being a worship and the upper level a basketball court.
The Organ

Another view of the sanctuary.

– Rev. Dr. Albert B. Collver, Director of Church Relations – Assistant to the President

Sermon from LCEF Conference

Listen to an exceptional sermon preached at November’s LCEF Conference in Raleigh, NC by Dr. Jon Diefenthaler, President of the LCMS Southestern District.

Dr. Jon T. Diefenthaler from Parabolic Media on Vimeo.

The Question of the Church's Unity on the Mission Field

The season of Advent frequently is a time when congregations consider anew mission work. Some resources to consider during this time of mediation on Christ’s advent and on mission work. One such article is Hermann Sasse,  “The Question of the Church’s Unity on the Mission Field.” Translated by Matthew C. Harrison. Logia 7, no. 3 (1998): 53-60.

In this essay, Dr. Sasse takes up how the mission field raised the question of the unity of the church. He notes, “There is no unity of Christianity without deep and serious wrestling over the truth.” (pg. 59) The Witness of the Church goes hand in hand with the Church’s Confession.

In the previous post, “Lutheran Mission Must Lead to Lutheran Congregations,”  Sasse’s essay provided below is referenced. May this serve for fruitful reflection on mission during the Advent season.

Question of the Church’s Unity on the Mission Field From 07-3 Missions

Lutheran Missions Must Lead to Lutheran Congregations

In 1998, President Harrison, then pastor at Zion Lutheran in Fort Wayne, wrote an article for Logia titled, “Lutheran Missions Must Lead to Lutheran Congregations.” The events told in the essay below recently were shared with the Program and Regional Directors of the Office of International Mission in Raleigh, North  Carolina. The essay is reproduced below.

* EDITOR’S NOTE: The author of the article below notes, “The following was written some five years ago in early 1993. Since then I have not kept track of LAMP’s activities or programs. I have recently heard unofficial reports that LAMP is making an effort at a more forthrightly Lutheran missiological approach, something I would applaud and support in every way. I bear no animosity to any of the participants mentioned in this article and have made every effort to keep their identity anonymous. Above all, I offer what follows as a case study of Sasse’s essay on Lutheran missiology found in this issue of LOGIA.”

It should be noted that LAMP-US today is not as it was described in the article below. The point of the article is to provide a specific example from around 1993 (a historical snapshot) on how Lutheran Missions Did Not Lead to the formation of Lutheran Congregations. It serves as a cautionary function and an encouragement for ongoing Lutheran Mission efforts to have the goal of leading to the formation of Lutheran Congregations or the strengthening of existing congregations.

Lutheran Missions Lutheran Congregations MCH Logia 07-3 1998