Rev. Alexander Furs (pastor on the left) with St. John’s Evangelical Lutheran church members in Saratov, Russia.
Note: The LCMS supports Rev. Alexander Furs’ work through projects in collaboration with the ELCIR. This post was shared by the ELCIR.
On August 28, 2011, St. John’s Evangelical Lutheran Congregation in Saratov, Russia, celebrated the 400th anniversary of the Evangelical Lutheran Church of Ingria in Russia (ELCIR) and the 10th anniversary of St. John’s. In the week leading up to the the celebration day, Rev. Alexander Furs, the ELCIR pastor at St. John’s, invited many of the congregation’s educational and NGO partners in Saratov to attend the celebration worship service. As a result, 25 to 27 non-Lutherans joined the church members to attend the Sunday liturgy where Rev. Furs preached a sermon. After church, the congregational choir performed a program which included spiritual songs and chorales in Russian, English, German and Finnish. After the choir program, Rev. Furs and Rev. Olav Panchu, district president, made a presentation for the church members and the guests in which they spoke about the history of the ELCIR and the Lutheran congregation in Saratov. The pastors took the guests on a tour of the church, answered their many questions, and gave them literature about the foundations of Evangelical Lutheran teaching. The official celebration activities were followed by informal fellowship with tea and snacks.
Rev. Furs (left) serves communion with Rev. Olav Panchu, district president, at St. John the Evangelist Lutheran Church, Saratov, Russia.
Back to School Ceremonies
During the week from August 29 to September 3, 2011, Rev. Furs attended several activities in connection with the beginning of 2011-12 school year. Invited by school principals, he attended commencement ceremonies at two secondary schools in Saratov. One school is where Rev. Furs had previously taught a class on religions telling high school students about the Lutheran church, its history, and its Gospel faith. The other school is the secondary school Rev. Furs attended.Rev. Furs was invited to say a word of greeting. “I used this opportunity to witness to the Christian faith of my church for an audience totaling more than 800 including students, teachers, and school administrators,” said Rev. Furs. At the end of the week, Rev. Furs also attended the commencement activities at the Saratov State University where he is working on his doctorate in the philosophy department. He said, “I had a chance to extend greetings in behalf of the Lutheran church to the new first year students. I used the opportunity to tell the audience of 97 students about the history of the partnership between the University’s philosophy department and the Theological Institute of The Church of Ingria. I also spoke about the activities we have done together with the University here in Saratov such as academic colloquiums and conferences on religions and philosophy of religion.”
Conversations with Saratov University Colleagues
From September 12 to 17, 2011, Rev. Furs participated in an academic conference on the history of philosophy. As a Ph.D. candidate, he presented a report titled “Christian Conservatism as the Basis for Moral Rehabilitation of the Modern Secular European Society: Empirical Preconditions and Possibilities,” and then held a Q&A session about the report. He said, “I used the opportunity to invite everybody to attend the worship service at our church. In addition, at the end of each day of the conference, in personal conversations after the work in focus groups, I had a chance to witness to my faith and the work of The Church of Ingria for around 20 people.”
From September 19 – 24, Rev. Furs, along with ministers of other denominations, visited several orphanages and two cadet boarding schools in the region at the invitation of the schools’ administrations. This activity was carried out in conjunction with several charities and NGOs in the Saratov region. At each of the institutions, Rev. Furs had a chance to extend greetings to the children and tell them about the Christian faith, the Lutheran church and the charitable work Lutherans have been doing in Russia. The teachers and principals also asked him to speak about work with children and youth in the ELCIR. After each of his presentations, Pastor Alexander held a ten-minute Q&A session with the students and counselors. At each of the institutions, he left a copy of The Christian Faith book by Robert Kolb for their libraries. As he presented the book, Rev. Furs spoke a short word about its contents, thus describing the main points of the Lutheran confession of faith. During those several days, Rev. Furs was able to reach out to over 700 people with a presentation of the Lutheran faith. No photos were allowed at these orphanage visits.
Towards the end of September, Rev. Furs followed up with non-Christians who had visited his congregations at different times out of curiosity. By phone and in personal meetings, he talked to 20 to 25 people, inviting each one of them to come to the worship and other activities at St. John’s.
In early October, Rev. Furs participated in a forum titled “The Global Crisis and the Modern Society” and organized by the Social-Economic University in Saratov. As the organizers thought it fitting to invite ministers of the traditional religions, Rev. Furs had a chance to extend greetings on behalf of the ELCIR and to witness to its faith for more than 140 listeners. At the end, he had more than 15 personal meetings with his colleagues in societal work, telling them briefly about the history and work of the ELCIR and inviting them to the worship at St. John’s Lutheran Church in Saratov.
From October 17 to 22, Rev. Furs taught four lessons for two 10th-grade and two 11th-grade classes as part of the religious studies at the school, at the invitation of one of his church members, a school principal. He devoted his lessons to the history of the Reformation and the (then) upcoming Reformation Day. He told 113 students about the life and work of Martin Luther, describing the reasons which motivated the reformer to start a renewal of the Christian church in the west. After each lesson, he answered many questions offered both by the students and their teachers who were very interested in his presentation. He also used it as an opportunity to invite everybody to attend the Sunday worship at St. John’s and the meetings of the congregational youth club.
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