On April 26, 2020, Vyacheslav Merzlyakov, a 2019 graduate of the ELCIR Theological Institute, was installed as a catechist in the Lembolovo parish church located in Steklyanny, Leningrad Oblast.
The church in Steklyanny was built in an area that has a special significance for The Church of Ingria. Lembolovo is the village where the earliest congregation of the Ingrian Church was founded in 1611, so that in 2011 The Church of Ingria celebrated its 400th anniversary. The parish stretched from Agalatovo to Kirjasalo and from Kuivozi to Termolovo, including such communities as Vaskelovo, Leskolovo, and Steklyanny. The church was located on the shore of Lake Lembolovo. It’s known to have been of impressive proportions and built on an elevation.
The parish of Lembolovo was renowned for its choir. It played an important role, and even in the years of privation and persecution all the choir members wore impeccable white garments during performance.
By the beginning of the 20th century, the congregation of Lembolovo was one of the biggest in The Church of Ingria, numbering several thousand members. Most of its congregants were Ingrians and Finns (the administrative border of the Grand Duchy of Finland, then part of the Russian Empire, was 5 km from the church wall.)
The 1917 Revolution and the Civil War that followed ruined the habitual patterns of life for the dwellers of Lembolovo. The area was in disorder and chaos like the rest of the country. The people attended church for as long as they could, some of them having to cover long distances. In 1930, the authorities arrested the last parish pastor Aatami Kuortti and closed down the church. In 1936, they demolished it down to the foundation. Also in 1936, almost all of those who didn’t leave in time or didn’t want to leave for Finland were deported (mainly to the region of Vologda).
Today, there is a memorial cross erected on the site of the former Lembolovo parish church. It’s the actual cross from the Lembolovo church building. It was found on the site of the destroyed church in the 1990’s. The person who found it is Keijo Korkka, the chairman of the Ingrian Union in Finland. His ancestors were native to this area.
A new congregation in this area was established in the nearby village of Steklyanny at the turn of the 21st century. The church building was inaugurated in December 2000. It was built thanks to the efforts of missionary from Finland Rev. Esko Haapalainen. In those years, he served as the senior pastor of the congregation in Toksovo. The congregation in Steklyanny was established as subsidiary to the congregation in Toksovo. Although the pastor didn’t live in the village itself, he regularly celebrated the divine service on Sunday, organized church members’ trips to sister congregations in Russia and Finland. In addition to that, missionaries from Finland brought humanitarian aid for residents of Steklyanny.
After Pastor Esko returned to Finland, the congregation in Toksovo continued to be responsible for holding worship in Steklyanny, with Deacon Anatoli Arikainen officiating. In 2016, Theological Institute students began to assist in the further development of the congregation. Sometimes, brothers in Christ from the congregation in Yukki also visit Steklyanny.
Currently, most of the church members in Steklyanny are elderly people. Because of the coronavirus self-isolation and the impossibility of holding worship services, the congregation is having financial difficulties. Your financial assistance would be much appreciated.
A short video of the current Lembolovo parish church in Steklyanny taken and commented by Bishop Laptev at https://vk.com/keltto?w=wall4057747_4492 (only in Russian)