Our church building stands right on the bank of the river Daugava. Tonight was the night when the people of Latvia set candles by the wall of Riga Castle in memory of the fallen heroes (the Lāčplēsis Day was first celebrated 100 years ago). The setting of candles by the Riga Castle wall and in it started in 1988 as part of the national revival.
Tonight the church was open. The lights were on, there was music and candles. Our Chaplain Eliza wrote:
“Tonight St. Saviour’s was a quiet haven, offering a bit of warmth, light and peace in the times of darkness, cold and anxiety. I think between 200 and 300 people stepped into our church. Some came in for a moment, others for a longer while to pray, think or just enjoy the calm music. And we had some good conversations.”
This is an opportunity to express thanks to the Luther’s congregation for saving the old altar of the Anglican Church from likely destruction after our church was closed for worship in the nineteen sixties.
An altar is not the only thing that unites us. There are personal friendships, common quest to make Christianity understandable to contemporary people, understanding that Christian Church is not an answer to everything, but it should be an inclusive space where we are looking for answers to the big questions of life together. We belong to denominations that are heirs of Reformation – Lutherans and Anglicans. In 1938 Lutheran churches in Latvia and Estonia signed an agreement with the Church of England that allowed taking the Holy Communion in each other’s church. The leadership of the Lutheran Church in Latvia re-approved it in 1955, before the trip of the Archbishop Gustavs Tūrs to the UK. Starting from the nineties when the Anglican congregation in Riga was re-established, all our ministers have been Lutherans. One of the unrealized plans was to develop our congregation as an ecumenical Lutheran-Anglican community.
At first glance, the term “Anglicanism” suggests that it is either an “English faith” or an Anglophile group who like the English language and drink afternoon tea after the worship services. It is not so, because Anglicanism exists in many countries and most of the Anglicans are not British anymore. The most growing churches are in Asia and Africa.
The Anglican chaplaincy in Riga exists since the beginning of the 19th century. If it was then a congregation of British diplomats, merchants and sailors, then nowadays at least half of the regular worshippers are locals. From time to time there are also services in Latvian and in Russian. This is not something unique – for example, one of the Anglican congregations in Sicily consists of Italians who have joined Anglicanism. In Brussels (Belgium) Anglicans have bilingual services in English and French.
Anglican churches around the world are united by common past but otherwise they are very diverse. An altar is a visual witness to that diversity because in some congregations it has more candles on it than in Roman Catholic churches but in some just a movable table is used which is placed in front only when Holy Communion is administered. In the Church of England the word “altar” has been in more common use since the 19th century with the emergence of the Anglo-Catholic movement. Before that, terms like “communion table”, Lord’s table” or “holy table” or simply “table” were used. Common Worship, a liturgy of the Church of England, has the word “table”. After the Reformation, the custom was that minister stood at the north side of the communion table to read the service. Thus underlining the view that Christianity has no altar in a traditional sense of a place where sacrifice is made, since the sacrifice is only one – Jesus. Similar contrast between the table on earth and altar in heaven has been expressed in the American version of the Book of Common Prayer, in the prayer for dedication of the communion table : “Lord God (…), sanctify this table dedicated to you. Let it be to us a sign of the heavenly altar where your saints and angels praise you for ever.”
Putting this theme in a broader context, the question is how important the space and things in it are in our lives of faith. There are no correct and wrong answers to this, because we differ – for some people the space is not essential in worship, to others worshipping God in a specially designated place is important. Most of Christians probably stand in-between these opposite views. There is a paradox in Christianity – God could not be localised in one place yet at the same time we are a community of memory. Therefore, as in our everyday lives, material things help us to maintain these memories and to make them alive.
Both of our congregations are faced with a question what altar means to us today when all worshippers, including pastor, celebrate Holy Communion standing around the table or at the table facing each other. This is not something new – Luther in his introduction to the order of service wrote, “In the true Mass, among sincere Christians, the altar should not be retained, and the priest should always turn himself towards the people as, without doubt, Christ did at the Last Supper.” Then he, being cautious in reforms, added – “that, however, must bide its time.” This, sooner or later in different places has come. Such an arrangement of liturgical space points to the fact that God is not somewhere away, beyond the boundaries of our daily lives, but among us. We celebrate worship, every part of it, all together, not someone in our place or on our behalf. The purpose of the worship space is not to create a visual boundary between the everyday life and something that points us beyond the ordinary, between secular and sacred, but to the fact, that the coming of Christ destroys such a boundary.
Good worship is not what makes us forgetful of the ordinary with its joys and hardships but what makes us more aware of what happens around us. It also means finding Christ in the poor, despised, marginalised and oppressed. Like in the Gospel story on Zacchaeus where there are people who wanted to see Jesus, and it is important to ask whether we, as individual Christians or as the church in general do not obstruct the way.
Maundy Thursday begins the countdown to the culmination of the Holy Week, the celebration of Resurrection and life. The word Maundy has originated in C14 from Middle English maunde “the Last Supper”, which in its turn comes from Latin mandatum “commandment”, referring to the new commandment Jesus gave to his disciples:
I give you a new commandment, that you love one another. Just as I have loved you, you also should love one another.
On 29th of March we had “Virus and religion”, the first online event in our series of public debates funded by Diocese in Europe. Discussion was moderated by Elīza Zikmane, our chaplain. Participants – Nikita Andrejevs and Valdis Tēraudkalns from the Faculty of Theology, University of Latvia, Ilva Skulte, media expert from Rīga Stradiņš University, Aidis Tomsons, radio and TV journalist. Thanks to the Fifth Seventh Day Adventist Church in Riga who helped us with technical equipment and streaming the event on Facebook. We even had an option to call and to ask questions. A goal of these debates is to do a public theology by exchange of perspectives by people working in various fields.
The licensing service of Eliza Zikmane will take place on Sunday 12th January, at 11.00.
We are happy to announce that from January 2020 we will have a a new chaplain – Elīza Zikmane. After graduating from the Faculty of Theology (University of Latvia), she has served as a pastor for both Latvian and English Lutheran congregations in Great Britain (currently at United London Latvian Lutheran Church and St Anne’s Lutheran Church) and as the Dean of the Lutheran Church in Great Britain. She has a soft spot for art and classical music. No stranger to a Latvian national pastime of mushroom picking.
We are very much looking forward to offering her a warm welcome and to worshiping together with her!
On Sunday October St Saviour’s celebrated its 159th birthday in the company of our family of faith here in Rīga, and all our friends worldwide. It was day of rejoicing in worship and fellowship, as we remembered also all the many thousands of people who have been part of this place over these 159 years.
However, we find ourselves at the moment with an unexpected crisis, and, as is so often the case with beautiful historic buildings, it is a structural one. We have known for a while that the ceiling of the church is no longer quite sound. But we were still taken aback when the builders uncovered this….
In the longer term, we are going to have to do some major work, which may involve either repairing the current structure, or possibly stripping away the 1950’s ‘false ceiling’ and restoring the original, somewhat higher 19th century vaulted structure.
That is a decision that we will take in cooperation with our architect, the National Cultural Heritage Council, and acoustics experts. But for the moment we are asking for help to cover the costs of an urgent repair of the southeast corner, where the plasterwork is damaged and at risk of falling away. The cost of the immediate repair will be EUR 3593,25. Please help us to raise the necessary funds! You can donate via PayPal here: https://www.paypal.me/anglicanriga And here are the details for bank transfer:
Anglikāņu baznīcas Svētā Pestītāja draudze Rīgā Account no: LV17HABA000140J030656 Swedbank | Swift Code: HABALV22 Reg.no:90001051893
St. Saviour’s Anglican Church is hosting a fantastic day of music to raise funds for a new concert piano! Featuring some of Latvia’s best musicians as well as rising young stars, the Piano Marathon will present ten consecutive hours of non-stop piano performances.
Stop by for one (or more) of the performances and consider donating to improve the musical life at one of Riga’s most active performance venues.
13.00 – Marathon Opening – Chorale arrangement for piano and organ duet: Agnese Abramāne, organ; Kristīne Adamaite, piano 13.15 – Ramona Lasmane, piano; Līva Pārupe, flute 14.00 – Anna Brokāne, piano 14.45 – Kristīne Pričina, piano; Elīna Avotiņa, mezzo-soprano 15.15 – Solveiga Selga and Markuss Selga-Timpers, piano 16.00 – Evita Pehlaka, soprano; Ventis Zilberts, piano 17.00 – Elīna Gaile, piano; Alisa Klimanska, flute; Aija Jermoloviča, Elizabete Laura Porgante, Estere Pogiņa, Anna Amanda Stolere, sopranos; Mārtiņš Lipskis, tenor; Emīls Gilučs, bass 18.00 – Terēze Dzenīte, piano; Baiba Vecvanaga, piano; Arvis Lapkovskis, piano 18.20 – Larisa Carjkova, piano; Ērika Jonīte, soprano 19.00 – Solveiga Selga, piano; Markuss Selga-Timpers, piano 20.00 – Larisa Carjkova, piano; Kristīne Antonova, flute 21.00 – Mixed Choir “Dziesmuvara” – Nora Žeigure, artistic director 21.30 – GG Choir 22.15 – Beāte Zviedre and friends, jazz trio
The historic building of St Saviour’s stands on the shore of the Daugava River, right in the heart of the Old Town of Rīga.
We gather on Sundays to praise God together; normally our 11am service is a Holy Communion Service in English, with occasional Morning Prayer. The congregation at St Saviour’s brings together people from many parts of the world, from many churches and denominations, who have found here their spiritual home. We rejoice with every person who joins our community for longer or shorter periods of time, and we also welcome seekers after faith. The service also includes a Children’s Address, and we have a special corner where parents and children can find activities during the service.
We also have Bible Study and Lunchtime Concerts; in addition the Seniors’ Club meets twice a week, and on Saturdays the Soup Kitchen serves 150 portions of hot food to the most vulnerable of Rīga’s citizens.
We invite you to join our community of faith. As Jesus’ disciple Philip said to his friend Nathaniel – come and see! (John 1:46)