A Visit with Lutheran Congregations in Crimea

Bishop Maschewski with congregation in Simferopol, Ukraine
Bishop Serge Maschewski (left) in consultations with the congregation in Simferopol. Photo: GELCU/Jevgenija Donetzkaja

By Bishop Serge Maschewski

Thank you very much for your prayers and the spiritual support that you are giving our church in the Ukraine in such a difficult time.

On 11 and 12 March I had a meeting with the leaders of the Lutheran congregations in Crimea.

The recent political events have placed our congregations in a difficult situation. In the past two years we had a pastor who was in charge of seven congregations belonging to the German Evangelical Lutheran Church of Ukraine (GELCU) and one prayer group. However, he has had to leave Crimea for a while due to the dangerous situation and out of concern for his family (wife and two small children).

For that reason, the congregations in Simferopol, Feodosia, Kerch, Sudak, Koktebel, Yalta, Evpatoria, which are scattered throughout the whole autonomous republic, are left without spiritual and pastoral support.

At this difficult time, the whole burden of spiritual and administrative responsibility lies on the shoulders of one deaconess, several lay preachers and the chairs of local church councils.

During the meeting we had a very open discussion about different topics – congregational life, spiritual and diaconal activities and work with children and young people.

We also shared our views on the place of the Lutheran church in the spiritual life of the country, its interaction with other denominations and their common contribution to preserving peace and stability in the Ukraine and Crimea. In conclusion, we joined together in a service with Holy Communion and prayers for peace.

Ever since the refounding of Lutheran congregations in the Ukraine, GELCU members emphasized, they have been linked by a common history, common traditions and much more.

The congregations in Crimea have been part of the emerging GELCU from the start and are actively involved in general church life. They participate in several education and training projects for young people and have organized some events for the whole church, e.g. "Rainbow" ("Raduga") youth camps, seminars etc.

It is too early to say how the situation will develop in future. We only know that further developments will lead to different legal and administrative reforms or, at least, to changes. At present we anticipate having to re-register GELCU’s real estate in Crimea and to register the necessary amendments to the statutes of the congregations. The GELCU executive board is giving them support and will continue to take responsibility for them.

We will also continue to move forward as a united church on the common path of mutual assistance and cooperation. We are in contact with the chancery of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in Russia and other states (ELCROS) in St. Petersburg, which is informed about the situation in our church and publishes news on its official website.

GELCU cooperates with all traditional denominations in Ukraine. We are not the “mouthpiece” of any political party but strive for fellowship and conversation with our Orthodox brothers of the Moscow Patriarchate. That is also evident from our joint statement with Metropolitain Onufrij.

Our position on many questions, also our openness, has earned us the respect of the clergy from the different churches. We are very concerned to keep up mutual understanding and stay in dialogue with all Christian denominations, without re-evoking the situation prevailing during the Cold War.

Many thanks for all your phone calls and letters. They are very important and precious to me. I always pass on greetings and good wishes to the congregations, and read hope and encouragement in the faces of the church members and those attending worship.

They know they are not alone, our sisters and brothers from other congregations, churches and countries are with us. We are going through this testing time and facing all the difficulties together.

Warm thanks and a blessed time of Lent.

Rev. Serge Maschewski is Bishop of the German Evangelical Lutheran Church in the Ukraine (GELCU). GELCU is part of the Federation of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in Russia and Other States (ELCROS), which joined the LWF in 1989.

News on ELCROS website | Joint statement with Metropolitain Onufrij

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