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New and Continuing Opportunities for Proclamation for Saratov, Russia Congregation

Sat, Sep 17, 2016

News, Russia, Witness

This report comes from Rev. Alexander Furs, Associate Pastor of St. John the Evangelist Evangelical Lutheran Congregation of LCMS sister church The Evangelical Lutheran Church of Ingria in Russia. It was translated by Aleksei Zubtsov. The LCMS supports projects with this partner church in part through the work of Pastor Furs and this congregation.

On 31 July 2016, the Tenth Sunday after Trinity, church members and clergymen from St. John the Evangelist Evangelical Lutheran Congregation (ELCIR) in Saratov traveled to the village of Zorkino (former German name: Zürich), a former colony of Volga Germans located ca. 100 km northeast of Saratov. In 2015, by God’s grace and by the kind efforts of a donor of Volga German origin, Christ the Savior Lutheran Church (Jesuskirche) was restored there according to the old plans that are still in existence. Incidentally, the church is a replica of the Virgin Mary Church in Saratov that was destroyed in 1972. Both church buildings were built by the German architect and university professor Johann Eduard Jacobsthal who also designed the famous Alexanderplatz train station in Berlin.

The church prior to its renovation. Photo Credit: Photo credit: Awry https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=9642852

The church prior to its renovation. Photo Credit: Photo credit: Awry
https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=9642852

This was the first time that Church of Ingria clergymen celebrated a liturgy in the recently rebuilt church. Besides the Lutherans from Saratov, the attendance included local residents and workers of the church’s compound.

A photo of the restored sanctuary prior to the worship service. The script is from Hebrews, and is written in German: "Jesus Christ is the same yesterday, today, and also into eternity." (Photo Courtesy of Rev. Alexander Furs)

A photo of the restored sanctuary prior to the worship service. The script is from Hebrews, and is written in German: “Jesus Christ is the same yesterday, today, and also into eternity. Amen.” (Photo Courtesy of Rev. Alexander Furs)

The group from the Saratov congregation, along with guests, worshipping inside the newly renovated church. (Photo Courtesy of Rev. Alexander Furs).

The group from the Saratov congregation, along with guests, worshipping inside the newly renovated church. (Photo Courtesy of Rev. Alexander Furs).

Christ the Savior Church that had to be almost fully reconstructed as little more than the outer walls had been extant before, does not belong to any particular Lutheran church body. A donor descending from Volga Germans from that area had funded the reconstruction of the church building and a memorial complex. The church building is fully available for traditional Lutheran churches to hold worship, activities, and organ concerts as the church has an organ. St. John’s Congregation in Saratov see the restored church in Zorkino as unique and important for the mission of Lutherans in the region, awareness of Lutheran roots, and the region’s culture and history. The Saratov congregation’s plans for this fall include another trip to Zorkino/Zürich in late October to celebrate a Reformation Day worship service.

Christ the Savior Lutheran Church, Zorkino, Russia fully restored. (Photo courtesy of Rev. Alexander Furs)

Christ the Savior Lutheran Church, Zorkino, Russia fully restored. (Photo courtesy of Rev. Alexander Furs)

(Photo Courtesy of Rev. Alexander Furs)

(Photo Courtesy of Rev. Alexander Furs)

St. John’s Congregation also plans to continue reaching out with God’s message of love in Christ through concerts of sacred organ music. The church has reached agreements with organ class students from Saratov Sobinov State Conservatory that they may perform public concerts in St. John’s chapel in Saratov.

Also, St. John’s Congregation plans to invite students of religions from the philosophy department of Saratov State University to the chapel to attend Rev. Alexander Furs’ open lecture on the history of Protestantism and the Evangelical Lutheran teaching. This practice is by now a custom in the congregation. Rev. Furs, “We know by experience that students specializing in the studies of religions are genuinely interested in such lectures and in the history and teaching of the Evangelical Lutheran Church. As a rule, after I’m done with the lecture, they ask me many questions. Sometimes my conversation with the young academics and their professors goes on for hours.” Please pray for God’s blessing on the outreach activities of St. John the Evangelist Congregation in Saratov.

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