Christian Fellowship Across A Continent

by Gerry Lynch last modified 09 Sep, 2018 11:10 PM

Devizes Service Celebrates 80 Years of Links Between C of E and Baltic Lutherans

Christian Fellowship Across A Continent

The Archdeacon of Sarum gives the blessing with the Dean of Riga, clergy from Jūrmala and Devizes.

A service has been held at St John’s Church in Devizes to celebrate the eightieth anniversary of the first agreement between the Church of England and the Lutheran Churches of Latvia and Estonia.

The service, led by Rector, the Revd Paul Richardson, and the Archdeacon of Sarum, the Ven Alan Jeans, was attended by the Dean of Riga, the Very Revd Elijs Godiņš, as well as all seven clergy from the Deanery of Jūrmala, a city outside Riga, who are on a visit to Devizes Deanery.

The agreement, signed by the Archbishop of Canterbury, Archbishop of Latvia, and Bishop of Estonia in 1938, established mutual recognition of orders between the churches and welcomed members resident in the other countries to partake fully of all sacraments and ministries.

Latvian Clergy with Bishop and Archbishop.jpgEarlier in the day, the Latvian clergy had joined a three-way Christian link, sharing a lunch with the Primate of South Sudan, the Most Revd Justin Badi Arama, currently on a visit to the Diocese, and Bishop Nicholas.

The Ven Alan Jeans, Archdeacon of Sarum, said, “The agreement between our churches was signed at a time of gathering peril in Europe, with the Baltic countries very vulnerable. By 1940, their first period of independence would be snuffed out, and the churches endured a time of real persecution during the Soviet Occupation which lasted until 1991.

“Since then, they have experienced something of a resurrection, and our links have once again flourished, even in the context of some very different approaches to social issues. Latvia is, like the UK, a largely secular country, yet our brothers and sisters in the Evangelical Lutheran Church in Latvia inspire us with their flourishing youth ministries, multigenerational congregations and confidence in the future.”

The Very Revd Elijs Godiņš, Dean of Riga, said, “It was important to remember the beginnings of our relationship in order to celebrate the fellowship and friendship of today, which grew from those beginnings.”

Paul Richardson with Elijs Godins.jpgThe Revd Canon Paul Richardson and Secretary of the Salisbury Latvia Working Party, said, “The agreement was the first step of understanding between Anglicans and the Lutherans of the Baltic. From these small beginnings has grown, for example, the Porvoo Communion.

“Although the Evangelical Lutheran Church of Latvia remains outside the Porvoo Communion, the 1938 agreement still applies, including on our mutual acceptance of the validity of orders and welcome to partake of sacramental ministry. It is notable that the agreement will also be celebrated at the upcoming meeting of the Porvoo Communion in Tallinn.

“There are strong parallels and similarities between our churches – national churches of the Reformation, yet deeply rooted in the historic tradition of Western Christianity. Much can be gained from parish and deanery twinnings with the Baltic churches. Go into their church buildings, which were shamefully treated by the Soviets, to see how they have been restored to being places of beauty and order. That is when one understands their real sense of hope and vision for the future.”

The Revd Andris Krauliņš, who led the delegation from Jūrmala, added, “The link between Latvian Lutherans and the Church of England has brought a number of benefits to us in Latvia. In particular, as the church was restored to freedom after the end of the USSR, Anglican ideas were significant in a move from what had been worship where preaching was the central act to a more sacramental understanding where a weekly Parish Communion became the norm.

“We also adopted ideas like renewal of vows on Maundy Thursday, the use of sacred oils, and, in some parishes, incense from Anglicans. When we moved from a single diocese to three in 2007, we used many Anglican structures as a model.

“We always learn from each other, and also our ecumenical partners are like a mirror. We see ourselves more clearly in them.

“Working together is a way of celebrating our unity in diversity – we can disagree on many things and still be united in Christ.”

Middle photo: clergy from Jūrmala with the Primate of South Sudan and Mama Joyce, Bishop Nicholas, and the Revd Canon Paul Richardson.

Lower Photo: the Dean of Riga, the Very Revd Elijs Godiņš, shares a joke with the Revd Canon Paul Richardson, Rector of St John and St Mary, Devizes and Secretary of the Salisbury Latvia Working Party.

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