On October 15, 2021, St. Mary’s Lutheran Cathedral in St. Petersburg hosted the 33rd Synod of The Evangelical Lutheran Church of Ingria.
The Synod opened with a worship service where ELCIR Bishop Ivan Laptev preached on Jn. 4:7-14, stressing that the Church’s task is to proclaim salvation in Christ to sinners.
In his report, ELCIR Chief Secretary Pastor Mikhail Ivanov also reminded us that we must be willing to serve and open our gates. Congregations and their officers often complain they are short of resources, but when they join their efforts it gives a result. Pastor Ivanov reminded us of the capabilities of network technologies. For example, by uploading a video on their YouTube channel, the pastor continues to preach even during their sleep or lunch break. Thus, during the previous week, the YouTube channel of St. Mary was visited by 14,500 people, of whom around 300 watched more than one video spending around 40 minutes on each.
Nikolai Minenkov, the head of the ELCIR Children & Youth Department, shared that in spite of the pandemic the department has been able to organize many meetings and retreats. The department offers ELCIR congregations ideas, materials and provides them with training and even financial support to conduct various activities, however it is the congregations themselves that must make available the “hands” to accomplish the plans. One plan is to appoint a coordinator in each of the ELCIR deaneries, who will support and encourage the workers of this ministry. Such coordinators already work in the Uralic and the St. Petersburg Deaneries.
Pastor Valeri Antipov, the dean of the ELCIR Southern Deanery, shared family ministry news. Today, this ministry is under the auspices of the ELCIR Children & Youth Department.
Aleksandr Smirnov, the head of the ELCIR Diaconal Department, presented a report about the progress of social ministry in The ELCIR. The diaconal department has auspices over many social good organizations, which, for example, give aid to single mothers and disabled children and distribute humanitarian aid. All those organizations have been established in order to help the interaction of the Church and society.
Pastor Ivan Hutter, the dean of the ELCIR St. Petersburg Deanery, reminded us that the congregations themselves should come forward communicating to the church departments their needs for specific kinds of assistance and cooperation. During the past year, Pastor Hutter has been helping conduct diaconal seminars aimed at training and encouraging the congregations to assist the needy.
In his video greeting, Deacon Yevgeni Raskatov, the head of the ELCIR Mission Department, updated the assembly on the many new opportunities the past year has opened. In collaboration with The Lutheran Heritage Foundation, the department has been able to distribute a great deal of religious literature. Not only St. Anne’s Church, but also other congregations have hosted music concerts, exhibitions, and tour programs, all of which has borne a lot of fruit. Deacon Raskatov asked for special prayers about the ministry in Israel and shared about his plans to attend all of the joint meetings of clergy and lay officers in each deanery to discuss the specific types of assistance that are needed by the local congregations. Oleg Belezhenko shared about the work of Anna Pomogayet Charity Cluster.
Darya Shkurlyatyeva, the head of the ELCIR Information Department, presented the new Synod Herald whose center spread features the info graphic “The Territorial Structure of The Church of Ingria.” Ms. Shkurlyatyeva emphasized that the departments of the Church Headquarters should seek to interact with each of the 121 ELCIR congregations located in 30 subjects of The Russian Federation. During the past year, the Information Department has been doing two churchwide projects covering a large territory: “The Churchwide Prayer for the End of the Pandemic” (involving 50 participants from all of the deaneries) and “The Online Church Diary” (involving 40 participants from all of the deaneries). In 2022, the Information Department is ready to help any of the congregations create their online audio guides on the izi.TRAVEL platform. Click here to check out the audio guide for the Vyborg Congregation: https://izi.travel/…/57fb-zaglyanem-v-lyuteranskuyu…/ru
This was the first synod whose order of business included the report of the ELCIR Church Music Committee. Committee Head Marina Väisä reported. Officially, the committee is only one year old, however the ELCIR has been training church cantors for many years. Although the cantor course has been suspended during the pandemic as most of the classes are practical and can’t be taught online, the training will be resumed at first opportunity. Ms. Väisä sees it as an important task to preserve the Lutheran musical tradition in the congregations. A website for church cantors is planned to be created in 2022. The Synod Herald contains the results of a poll which involved 31 cantors. Music ministry in the ELCIR congregations is manifold. For instance, cantors Yana Trombinskaya and Irina Sorokina at Toksovo and Kingisepp do “Hymn Marathons.” A similar churchwide Marathon might be held this next summer.
ELCIR Financial Director Tatiana Strumentova shared about the Church’s economy. According to the financial report, the areas where the expenses have increased the most are taxes, bank services, and the upkeep of real property. Income has increased as the congregations have become more responsible about paying membership dues to the Headquarters and more active in supporting the work of the Church’s departments.
Yekaterina Sokolova, the chairperson of the ELCIR Auditing Commission, presented a report on the financial audit of the ELCIR activities. According to the report, the Church prepares tax and accounting reports as required by the laws of the Russian Federations and submits them in due time. Ms. Sokolova proposed minor improvements in records management.
ELCIR Assessor Pastor Dmitri Rozet walked the assembly through the amendments to the Church’s Statute proposed by the ELCIR Theological Commission. The amendments concern the ministry of catechists, organization of confirmation trainings, and communing Christians of other denominations in an emergency.
In his concluding speech, ELCIR Bishop Ivan Laptev emphasized the importance of following the Development Strategy of The Church of Ingria and pointed out the usefulness of congregations joining their efforts. He called the ELCIR congregations to create good internet content and keep the doors of their churches open. The pandemic has already shown us how fruitful this approach is. For example, at Koltushi, six people came to join confirmation class the next day after a tour!
The next Synod of The Church of Ingria is scheduled to convene on October 14, 2022.
Liliann Keskinen, Darya Shkurlyatyeva
Photo credit: Liliann Keskinen