–By Rev. Daniel Johnson, OIM Catechist
The 2015 Summer theological seminars of partner church body, The Siberian Evangelical Lutheran Church (SELC), were held in Siberia in July/August in Ekaterinburg (Ural Region) and in Novosibirsk and Tomsk.
Rev. Larry Beane, pastor at Salem Lutheran Church in Gretna, Louisiana accompanied Eurasia missionary Rev. Daniel S. Johnson on to the seminars in Siberia. He had previously traveled with Rev. Johnson to Siberia in 2011, to lecture at the summer seminars. Bishop Vsevolod Lytkin of The Siberian Evangelical Lutheran Church (SELC) invited him to return for the 2015 SELC summer theological seminars. They each flew from their respective cities in America to meet at the Starbucks in the Frankfurt airport. After a coffee they continued to travel together until the end of the seminars in Siberia.
Rev. Beane lectured on the Augsburg Confession and Rev. Johnson lectured on the liturgical canticles in St. Luke and on the topic of How to Pray the Catechism. Rev. Beane is a most popular lecturer and those who had remembered him from his 2011 lecture series were eager to hear him speak again.
This year a music seminar was added to the theological seminars. Eurasia missionary Rev. Dr. Christopher Ahlman of Leipzig, Germany was invited to give lectures, a workshop and a short recital in Novosibirsk and Tomsk. His lectures were very well received and requests have been made for him to return for future seminars or special workshops. The Siberian Lutherans are a very musically talented people. They found Dr. Ahlman’s topics to be very pertinent and interesting.
“It was my great privilege to travel to Siberia and enhance the churchly life of the SELC in this special way,” says Dr. Ahlman. “I always enjoy going to new places and meeting new people who are deeply interested in the performance of music in the Church, in service to Word and Sacrament in their own locales. There are few things better in this world than to be able to work with dedicated people to quickly enhance their musical ability in ways that they never before thought possible, all in honor of God and in service to another. I’m glad to have been able to serve in this capacity, and I pray God’s continued blessings upon the work of the SELC.”
Following the seminars in Tomsk and in Novosibirsk, Dr. Ahlman returned to Leipzig and Rev’s Beane and Johnson remained in Siberia for an extra week. During this time they received invitations to visit a house church and various homes of parishioners of the Siberian Evangelical Lutheran Church. They even accompanied the bishop on a home communion visit to an elderly shut-in couple. At one home, they were offered the treat of experiencing a Russian banya (a Russian steam sauna and bath), followed by a typical Siberian feast of soup, shashlik, vegetables and various Russian salads. On one occasion they were even invited to join in a formal Siberian-style toast (with real Russian vodka, of course!). “It was a delightful experience!” which Rev. Johnson says he always enjoys after “Two or three weeks of seminars and hard travel on Siberian roads!” At other Siberian homes, they were also shown Siberian hospitality with various delicious dishes and hors d’oeuvres and stimulating conversation.
The seminars were considered a successful event with many parishioners and guests visiting. The SELC now looks forward to next years’ seminars. Next year is significant because it will mark the 20th anniversary of the first seminars in Siberia.
“Whenever I travel to Siberia I am treated as one of them. I greatly cherish the close bonds which have nurtured over the past 16 years,” says Rev. Johnson.
Johnson continues, “Now, ‘Father Larry,’ as he is called by the Siberian Lutherans, is no longer considered just a visitor. He is now a friend of Siberia! This is true of many others who have traveled to Siberia, and returned, to visit the congregations of the Siberian Evangelical Lutheran Church or lecture at the summer seminars. The practice of Siberian hospitality is unique…You simply must visit Siberia to know Siberian hospitality. It cannot be described — it must be experienced!”