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Saturday, 17 September 2016

Learning about an inclusive church in Latvia

Members of the Nordic/Baltic Deanery Synod
The theme of inclusion was explored in many ways during the recent Nordic/Baltic deanery synod of the Diocese, which met in Riga, Latvia. The Bible studies, led by the Revd April Almaas, used a technique which encouraged us to read the scriptures from the perspective of a variety of characters which she assigned to us, as a way of understanding how different people often hear different things from the scriptural text.
April Almaas leads Bible Study

Synod delegates at work
The Area Dean, the Revd Nick Howe, led us through an exercise which was based on a questionnaire filled in by parish reps and their clergy as to various ways in which their parish was, or was not inclusive of differently-abled persons, visible minorities, men and women and people of different sexual orientation. It was interesting to compare and contrast the views from the clergy and the laity!

Area Dean Nick Howe
The Principal of the Theological Faculty of the University of Riga, Professor Dace Balode, gave us an engaging lecture about the status of women in Latvia since the regaining of independence from the Soviet Union. She included in her lecture the situation of women presently in the Evangelical Lutheran Church of Latvia, which is, sadly, an example of non-inclusion in the life of the Church.
St Saviour's
The synod joined the congregation of St Saviour's on Sunday for the liturgy. It was a joyful celebration, with two choirs giving excellent musical leadership, a sumptuous community lunch following the mass. At the end of the service, I was invited to dedicate the crypt which had been recently renovated and which is used for the many outreach programmes of the Church, with the elderly, the homeless, those suffering from addictions and refugees.

The blessing of the renovated crypt
St Saviour's, led by their priest, Bishop Jana Jeruma-Grinberga, is known to be a unique parish in Latvia, with a particular ministry of openness to those who feel, for whatever reason, excluded from other Christian congregations. I recorded a moving testimony from one of the members of St Saviour's, Irma, who spoke of how the outreach ministry of the parish in the crypt first attracted her, then she soon found herself worshipping "upstairs". Although Irma, by her own admission, is still exploring what life in Christ means for her, she is convinced that there is something beautiful and welcoming happening at St Saviour's which makes it a place to grow in her faith.

1 comment:

  1. Thank you, Bishop David, for this report and especially for the video! Saint Saviour’s Rīga has indeed been a beacon of Christian inclusion in the Baltics since the time of the Reverend Juris Cālītis and now with the leadership of the Right Reverend Jāna Jēruma-Grīnberga.