On March 28, 2020, Bishop Ivan Laptev and Bishop Emeritus Arri Kugappi led a pilot live-stream of the Bishop’s Hour from the sacristy of St. George’s Church in Koltushi. The live stream could be watched via Church of Ingria vk.com and facebook pages. Feedback was by typing comments online where viewers could ask questions or send prayer requests. Since there were several Finns in the audience, Bishop Emeritus Arri Kugappi interpreted the most important information into Finnish.
Here are some of the questions that were asked:
“What spiritual books would you advise to read in this difficult time?” Bishop Emeritus Kugappi advised books by Johann Arndt, Bishop Laptev advised Luther’s books on the Sacraments.
“What new congregations and religious groups are going to be opened in The Church in Ingria in the near future?” The bishops answered there are prospects for opening a congregation in the Kaliningrad Oblast, there is a functioning and developing religious group in Yakutsk, and a short time ago The Church of Ingria admitted a congregation in Novorossiysk into its membership.
“Are there any plans to get back the church building in Venjoki? Answer: There are no funds available to renovate the building, so there are no plans to get it back.
“Is the Theological Institute going to offer any online classes in the current situation?” Bishop and Rector Laptev answered that the orientation session of the extramural bachelor’s program will be conducted online. The Institute is developing online teaching materials.
“Are the congregations going to continue confirmation classes?” Bishop Ivan Laptev: Several congregations are already offering online classes and their materials are available for use.
Of course, the main topic of the conversation was the coronavirus epidemic. The bishops emphasized this was not the first time The Church of Ingria had gone through a trial. In the Soviet time, people had to live without Holy Communion for years. In the 1990’s, the main challenge for the Church was the shortage of pastors.
Bishop Emeritus Kugappi called the congregants to use this situation to enhance their prayer life at home. To the question what his opinion was about locking down churches in St. Petersburg, Arri Kugappi answered, “I have absolutely nothing to say against those decisions because it’s not being done against us, but it’s being done for our own sakes. I’d like to call all people to be patient about what’s going on because it’s not a persecution, it’s being done for the good of our lives, and whatever is done for life, for the human being, in order to save their life, we should be very much approving of that. Therefore, we definitely pay heed to the governmental structures. We are very respectful and attentive to their decisions.”
Bishop Laptev’s position is the same: “No, it’s not a persecution because those measures apply to all organizations and public places. We might do something in our boldness, but someone might get infected because of us.”
Bishop Laptev expressed the hope that the restrictive measures are temporary. He noted that there is no loss without some gain: it’s high time the congregations set up live streams of worship for those who have to stay at home for various reasons. The bishop called to give special care to old people: each congregation should make lists of the needy and build a youth team of assistants. Those lists will be useful also after the epidemic.
An important topic was financial support of congregations that are currently unable to raise funds through music recitals or other public activities. Nevertheless, the congregations still need to keep up their church buildings and pay salaries to their workers. Bishop Laptev called the church members to support their congregations although many of them are financially challenged themselves.
The meeting concluded in a “Bishop’s Quiz”: the questions were about the Bible and the history of the congregation in Koltushi. One of the prizes was a historical 1993 issue of The Church of Ingria Magazine.
The Bishop’s Hour is scheduled to stream live every Saturday at 17:00 Moscow time.
Recorded stream (in Russian and Finnish)