In November of 2012, we introduced the work of Rev. Hugo Gevers, Rev. Markus Fischer, and Rev. Dr. Christopher S. Ahlman as they prepared to partner in proclaiming the Gospel in Leipzig, Germany. You can read that article here. Recently, some new developments have taken place with regard to the local Selbständige Evangelisch-Lutherische Kirche (SELK) congregation in Leipzig, St. Trinitatisgemeinde (Holy Trinity Congregation), and their plans to occupy the historic Lukaskirche (St. Luke’s Church) in the Volkmarsdorf district of Leipzig, Germany. Read on to see what new developments have recently occurred!
In April 2013, Rev. Dr. Christopher S. Ahlman, the missionary from The Lutheran Church—Missouri Synod (LCMS) who works as Assistant Pastor for the church plant in Volkmarsdorf, and his family, arrived in Leipzig. Since their arrival, Dr. Ahlman has been working on learning German fluently. He has progressed enough to begin assisting with Holy Communion at St. Trinitatisgemeinde, the SELK church in Leipzig with whom the LCMS is partnering. In addition to this, Rev. Fischer and Rev. Gevers, along with the church council of St. Trinitatisgemeinde, have been working with the members of the congregation concerning the church plant and how to go about moving to Lukaskirche from the current location of St. Trinitatisgemeinde. Several different plans were laid out with the help of Ulrich Schroeder, the project coordinator for the Luchaskirche project for the Lutherische Kirchenmission (Lutheran Church Mission, the mission arm of SELK). The congregation has been prayerfully considering these plans for several months now.
St. Trinitatisgemeinde is located in a park and currently has a building that was designed to be temporary. The spot is difficult to find due to its location, and the building is rather small. The congregation worked very hard during the German Democratic Republic (GDR) era to have and maintain this land and their church, but broader Leipzig is in need of hearing the pure Gospel, and Lukaskirche in Volkmarsdorf is extremely visible. It is set on a square where children frequently play and residents of the surrounding area often sit and talk. The congregation already has a presence there through the charity house, Die Brücke, which offers Bible studies, German language learning for immigrants, children’s programming, and more. The congregation has also held several worship services and other special events in the square and the church.
Lukaskirche belongs to the state church (the Landeskirche), but is no longer in use except on rare occasions. All of the plans proposed to St. Trinitatisgemeinde have been working toward leasing the property from the state church in order to have sole use of it. On Sunday, September 14, 2013, the congregation of St. Trinitatisgemeinde voted to begin the transition to St Luke’s from the current location of the congregation. Of this decision, Rev. Markus Fischer, the pastor of St. Trinitatisgemeinde, writes, “This is the first sure decision of the entire congregation. The congregation’s convention voted for beginning this ‘Übergangsphase’ (transition era). Now we don’t have some industrious members of the congregation only, who work for the transfer to St. Luke; it is the decision of the congregation as a whole.”
The plan which was approved by the congregation is to begin regularly holding projects in Lukaskirche beginning in September 2014. This will include concerts, children’s programming, and even a spot in the Reader’s Fair of Leipzig. In 2015, the congregation will hold services regularly and this will continue through 2016, at which time the work will be reevaluated. This transition phase will allow the congregation to make the move gradually, renovate Lukaskirche, establish a greater presence in Volkmarsdorf, and continue to raise funds towards the project. The vote will also allow the congregation to now make a conclusive agreement with the state church regarding the property at Lukaskirche for the next three years.
About this decision, Ulrich Schroeder writes that:
I am delighted that the SELK congregation has the courage to move in the direction of initially using the Lukaskirche from 2015 for two years as their place of worship. Without the work of “Brücke”, the generous support of LCMS, including an act of faith in sending Christopher Ahlman to preach the gospel through music, and encouragingly a donation of 50 T€ by a SELK member to the congregation, this would not have happened. The Lord is marvelous in his ways!
The Lukaskirche project has also been supported by generous gifts from the LCMS. In the early summer, the congregation also received a gift of 50,000 Euros from a SELK member family living in another region of Germany. The donors wish to remain anonymous, but felt that the work of proclaiming the Gospel to the inhabitants of Volkmarsdorf and greater Leipzig was vitally important. The anonymous donors visited the current congregational site, as well as Lukaskirche, and saw firsthand the asset that Lukaskirche would be in creating visibility for the congregation so that they could better reach out with God’s love through acts of mercy, concertizing, and most importantly, the proclamation of the Gospel through Gottesdienst (Worship). Lukaskirche is the center of Volkmarsdorf. For the people of this area of Leipzig, it is “their” church, and they will be more likely to come to a service or event there than anywhere else. The donors expressed the need for a visible, larger, stronger structure like Lukaskirche and the fact that such a building better fits the German idea of what a church should look like.
The initial idea to move to Lukaskirche was a collaboration between Rev. Dr. Brent Smith of LCMS Eurasia, Ulrich Schroeder as the representative of the Lutherische Kirchenmission, and the congregation of St. Trinitatisgemeinde. Schroeder writes that, “this meant understanding and bringing together the interests of our three parties and the negotiating partner [the state church].” Pastor Fischer, Rev. Gevers, Mr. Schroeder, Rev. Dr. Smith and Rev. Dr. Ahlman, as well as the Elders of St. Trinitatisgemeinde, have worked very hard to find the best way to make the move to Lukaskirche.
Once the agreement with the Landeskirche is complete, renovations can also begin. According to Ulrich Schroeder, some of the first steps in the renovation will include the following:
Initially the impressive, historical Rühlmann-Jehmlich organ, currently not playable after decades of inactivity, will be completely renovated, thanks to the generous donations of LCMS members. We have three quotes with widely disparate costs. Once an agreement is signed in the foreseeable future, the organ adviser of the Landeskirche will specify the requirements, the existing quotes will be adapted and two further quotes invited. Before commencing renovation, the walls of the balcony around the organ need to be restored. In addition, a donation from LCMS project funds will enable a room to be renovated, including addition of a toilet and kitchen for increased outreach by the “Brücke” to local residents.
In addition to renovations, St. Trinitatisgemeinde will also be able to more regularly hold special events at Lukaskirche. Rev. Dr. Christopher S. Ahlman, Pastor Markus Fischer, and Rev. Hugo Gevers have already submitted a request to the Landeskirche for dates of use in 2014. As soon as these are approved, they can begin planning many different types of activities. Now that the vote is complete, the next step is to negotiate with the Landeskirche for nearly exclusive use of the building during this transition period, and then begin to implement the activities at Lukaskirche.
The importance of this decision by St. Trinitatisgemeinde is summed up best by Pastor Fischer, who writes:
We dare to make steps to the future. We draw conclusions from the Word of God. We don’t just sit in our enclosed current property. We are not satisfied that we are already saved; we are looking to the others who aren’t. We want to move and to invite them to Jesus Christ. The landmark of St. Luke shall show: the Christian faith is still valid and claims validity for the entire society. The Lutheran church has a solid foundation you can rely on. I hope, this will encourage members of state church also, who are missing a clear mission outreach.
- Pray that the negotiations with the Landeskirche will be fruitful.
- Pray that the people of Volkmarsdorf and greater Leipzig would hear the proclamation of the Gospel and be brought to faith.
- Return to the Eurasia Blog to read about Sprengelsängerfest, the huge SELK choir festival held at Lukaskirche on Sept. 21-22, 2013, soon!
- To support this project with gifts towards the renovation of Lukaskirche you can send your gift to: The Lutheran Church—Missouri Synod, P.O. Box 790089, St. Louis, MO 6310-79-0089. Note that it is for the Germany Leipzig Church Plant.