By Darya Shkurlyatyeva, ELCIR Press Service
The Advisory Board of The Evangelical Lutheran Church of Ingria and The Evangelical Lutheran Church of Finland met online on April 16, 2021.
The key item on the order of business was the prolongation of the cooperation agreement between the two church bodies. Both parties expressed their desire to prolong the agreement, keeping its text unaltered.
The meeting opened with prayer and the greetings of Bishop Seppo Häkkinen of the Diocese of Mikkeli, ELCF. Bishop Häkkinen said that a photo of a lady in the Ingrian national costume (the costume of the Ingrian parish of Tuutari in Leningrad Oblast, Russia) and in single-use gloves was named the best photo published in Finnish magazines in 2020. “This photo reminds us about the historical closeness of the Ingrian and the Finnish peoples and at the same time about the fact that the pandemic still continues hindering our contact,” said the bishop, pointing out the special importance of inter-church dialog in the current situation.
Kimmo Kääriäinen, Director of the ELCF Foreign Affairs Department, shared about the state of affairs in The ELCF. During the pandemic, many church organizations had to cut staff or send staff members on unpaid leave due to a decrease in donations. Nevertheless, the work goes on. One of the recent developments is the Path Project to help people stay in the church after confirmation, baptizing their children and “making their life journey on the church’s path.” As regards the church & state relationship, this work is now focused on legislation: the Parliament of Finland is insisting that the text of the Church Law should be shortened by allowing the church to regulate a number of matters (such as the employer-employee relationship) in their local bylaws.
Pastor Ari Ojell, an expert with the ELCF Foreign Affairs Dept., expressed the hope that the sister congregations in Russia and Finland would be able to keep up the good relationship. To liven up communications, one idea is to start exchanging letters, sharing congregational news, taking and sending videos to each other about the life of the congregations, etc. A frequent problem is that contact was taking place through a specific person – a Finnish missionary or an old church member who had retired. It’s important to pass the baton. Bishop Ivan Laptev noted that the friendships are especially effective where there is not only a sister congregation relationship, but also town twinning (like Rzhev, Russia, and Salo, Finland.)
Riikka Porkola, a representative of the ELCF Foreign Affairs Dept., shared about a book she is writing about The Church of Ingria. The 300-page book is estimated to be published in the fall. The research is based on 30 interviews with workers and members of The Church of Ingria. Its main goal is to help Finns who want to cooperate with The Church of Ingria to get a holistic idea about the partner organization. According to Riikka, “The Church of Ingria is a unique church dear to the hearts of Finns.”
For the Russian part, Bishop Ivan Laptev presented a report. He shared about the life of The Church of Ingria during the pandemic, the changes in its polity, the implementation of its development strategy, the training of its clergy and lay servants, its international and interconfessional relations, and its relationship with government structures. The bishop ended his presentation by saying, “We’d like to cordially thank The Evangelical Lutheran Church of Finland as our long-standing partners for supporting our ministry, we’re praying for the speedy end of the pandemic and the ability to meet in person and do activities together!”
The next meeting of the Advisory Board is scheduled for 2022. The parties expressed the hope that they would meet in person. In the concluding prayer, Bishop Emeritus Arri Kugappi prayed that the pandemic ends soon and in-person contact resumes.
Rev. Tomi Karttunen, ThD, the leading specialist with the ELCF Church Board, and Rev. Mikhail Ivanov, ThM, ELCIR Chief Secretary, agreed upon the topic of the theological reports that would be presented at the Advisory Board’s next meeting: “The Attitude to the Holy Scripture and the View of the Bible in the Modern World.” The topic is in tune with the document which the ELCIR Theological Commission is working on and which is estimated to be approved by the ELCIR synod (convention) in the fall of 2021.
The Evangelical Lutheran Church of Finland:
Bishop Seppo Häkkinen of the Diocese of Mikkeli, representatives of the Foreign Affairs Dept. Pastor Kimmo Kääriäinen, Pastor Ari Ojell, Riikka Porkola, representative of the Church Board Pastor Tomi Karttunen.
The Evangelical Lutheran Church of Ingria: Bishop Ivan Laptev, Bishop Emeritus Arri Kugappi, Bishop’s Vicar Pastor Konstantin Subbotin, Chief Secretary Pastor Mikhail Ivanov, representatives of the ELCIR Headquarters Juha Saari and Merja Kramsu, representatives of the ELCIR Information Dept. Liliann Keskinen and Darya Shkurlyatyeva.
Official interpreter for the meeting: Yaroslava Novikova
Photo credits: Liliann Keskinen