St. Saviour’s is happy to announce weekly online get-together on Wednesdays from 7pm to 8pm. In Advent, we will focus on New Beginnings. There will be a short reflection on the theme followed by an open discussion and sharing experiences. All are welcome.
On 2 Dec our speaker will be Padre Captain Keith Gale, from Canadian Armed Forces Task Force enhanced Forward Presence Battle Group Latvia. He led a team of servicemen and women who did some repair work in our church this November.
On 9 Dec we will welcome a good and dear friend of our church Rev’d Stiiv Knowers, who served for many years in the Diocese of Southwark (England) and now lives in Estonia.
The theme and speaker for 16 December are still in the works.
To join the meeting, please click this link (you will be taken to a room in Google Meet.
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.
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.
Air is all around us. We breathe in the air, then exhale. Breathing is a sign of life. God created many living creatures with lungs. A man without lungs is incapable of breathing. During the pandemic everyone was reminded of their breathing and its importance. About the fact that some people had moments when they couldn’t breathe on their own. During the pandemic, we learned not only about breathing and breathing difficulties, but also about artificial breathing machines used by medics. In the most critical situation, the patient’s lungs could not provide air and had to be supported artificially.
The church building of St. Saviour’s also has lungs, its own breathing system. This breathing system is the ventilation. The ventilation was installed a few years ago and provides the air circulation for the church’s undercroft. The basement of the church is a place where support groups gather, soup kitchen and other activities take place, such as Bible studies and choir rehearsals. Before the pandemic, something happened with the ventilation system. It coincided with the onset of the lockdown. And that was a good thing, because people couldn’t come together in the church building, and all religious life went to the Internet and distancing.
The church’s undercroft continued to serve only the soup kitchen which, according to the restrictions of the pandemic, could no longer invite guests within the space. The food was cooked and distributed in separate single use dishes. At that moment, it was the best solution.
But there came a time when the restrictions of the pandemic started to change. The church door was open again, waiting for the faithful. The activities were resumed with social distancing, hand disinfectant, and the Eucharist under one sign.
But the church’s undercroft situation was different. People couldn’t use undercroft spaces because of the damaged ventilation.
The cost looked high enough — around €500. The congregation thought about solving this problem and turned to parishioners and friends. Two donations came to us, almost one thousand euros in total. We received these donations from our own Kārlis Streips, and from our friends from the Netherlands Joop and Coby Fuijkkink from StichtingHulp Lettland, and Foundation “Onder de Toren“. And here we saw God’s hand at work because the cost of ventilation repairs was actually twice than what was planned. Now that the ventilation has been repaired, the church can breathe freely again.
We thank Kārlis Streips and our friends from the Netherlands.
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.