Reflections on Wednesday Meeting with Vicar Jochem Stuiver

Reflections on Wednesday Meeting with Vicar Jochem Stuiver

By Jacob Vlaanderen

On the 10th of March, we had another inspiring Wednesday evening meeting. Vicar Jochem Stuiver from the Netherlands was our guest speaker. As usual, the meeting was intimate, and people felt comfortable to speak if they wanted to. He met us on what happened to be the Dutch calendar prayer day for crops and labor, and reminded us of the seven works of mercy.

From 1800 km away, he asked participants a deep question: “What does it mean to be human?” Jochem reminded us that we are all created in God’s likeness no matter how different from one another we may be. What does this say about us? God wants no static images, but he wants us to be alive as creative creations of him. This gives us the responsibility to make choices.

Jesus became human, and this brings us the Bible text John 19:5; “When Jesus came out wearing the crown of thorns and the purple robe, Pilate (Ecce homo) said to them, ‘Here is the man!'” Jochem showed us a picture of Mark Wallinger’s Ecce Homo at St Paul’s Cathedral, a sculpture which is a contradiction of freedom — Jesus abused and bound with hands on the back.


Later on, we came back to our personal answers to what it meant to be human:

  • To be part of (ongoing) creation;
  • Communicating with other humans. What they pick up is mostly unknown;
  • Relationship, being part of society;
  • To suffer and feel happiness. To learn about myself;
  • Connecting to God by praying makes changes in how I feel. Praise the lord by being human;
  • Complicated, there is no right answer but only 3 characteristics (love, forgiveness and hate), and at any moment we feel one of them;
  • It has to do with humanity in our society. Seven works of mercy like the Soup kitchen

God became human, and it is time for us to become humans. We are mortal – there is no way around it, but there is a way through it. Expressing humanity in times of pandemic is very hard. No hugging is possible when we need it so much. Even facial expressions are taken away because of the mask. Jochem told us that he uses his eyes, but we also learned some peace and love signs using our hands. We are very blessed as a small community of St. Saviours with so many different people. Perhaps this makes our awareness of God’s presence even greater than in a big community going all the same direction.

Reflections on Wednesday Meeting with Chaplain John Wilkinson

By Jacob Vlaanderen

For this week’s Wednesday online meeting, our guest was Chaplain John Wilkinson from Holy Trinity Anglican Cathedral in Brussels. Like always, the diverse group of participants makes these meetings interesting. The Anglican church in Brussels is a large and diverse community in the capital of the European Union. They normally provide four Sunday services in different languages, starting with a small early morning prayer group, and continuing with a larger, traditional Anglican morning service. Later in the day is a special African afternoon service, and Sunday evening ends with a service aimed at young people using contemporary music.

As with everywhere, Covid has profoundly changed life in Brussels. The church has invested a lot in good technical equipment, and tried to think of the zoom meetings as a “new friend”, although certain aspects such as Holy Communion simply cannot be replaced. Chaplain John did mention some things that can help people to upgrade the Zoom experience, like putting your computer or phone in a more intimate spot of the house, physically taking out your copy of the bible, and lighting a candle. They also believe that Zoom has now taken a definitive place in church life. It has made the church more accessible for a wider community, but they are very happy to slowly reopen now in the Lent season.

They are currently holding hybrid services through Lent up to Holy Week, which is normally an important time for the church. One particularly big event is a live performance of one of the Bach passions of Good Friday, which has been postponed for a second year now. They also normally do an event in the church called Stations of the Passion, which is visualized by art. This year they plan to move it outdoors around the church, which visitors and passersby can safely enjoy. A lot of activities are still going on, such as the Online Seniors Spring Tea Party. For a list of all activities, you can visit their website: www.holytrinity.be

One thing that they have learned is that using PowerPoint presentations for the liturgy instead of using a songbook gives more flexibility. Also, everybody can now find them online. So in the post-COVID time, a lot of their positive changes will stay. Some people even like the “Zoom church” more than the physical church. Thanks again to everyone who participated in this fruitful discussion!

Lent and Easter

Services in the church (unless the COVID restrictions will change), are also streamed online in our FB page. Wednesday meetings take place in Zoom, from our FB page. Everyone welcome.

  • 21 Feb 11.00 First Sunday of Lent Worship Service
  • 24 Feb 19.00 Wednesday meeting: John Crossman and Graham Pay from our sister congregation Sherborne Abbey
  • 28 Feb 11.00 First Sunday of Lent Worship Service
  • 3 Mar 19.00 Wednesday Meeting: ‘Covid liturgies”John Wilkinson
  • 7 March 11.00 Third Sunday of Lent Worship Service
  • 8 March Diocese of Europe “Living in Love and Faith” event
  • 10 March 19.00 Wednesday Meeting: Nick Howe, theme TBC
  • 14 March 11.00 Fourth Sunday of Lent Worship Service
  • 17 March 19.00 Wednesday Meeting: LLF parish discussions, Jack Mcdonald
  • 21 March 11.00 Lent Passiontide Worship Service
  • 24 March 19.00 Wednesday Meeting: Annunciation
  • 28 March 11.00 Palm & Passion Sunday Worship Service
  • 1 April 18.00 Maundy Thursday Worship Service
  • 2 April 18.00 Bilingual Good Friday Ecumenical Service?
  • 3 April 18.00 Easter Vigil with baptism (in Latvian)
  • 4 April 11.00 Easter Sunday Worship Service

Advent Activities

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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.

11 November 2020

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.

The church in candlelight. Photo: Eliza Zikmane

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.”

Thoughts upon the homecoming of the altar

13.09.20., speech at Riga Luther’s Church

Valdis Tēraudkalns

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.”

Photo: Linda Straume

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.

Church building breathes again

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.

We are grateful and hold you in our prayers.

Boost to the Soup Kitchen

Today our Soup Kitchen received a parcel from the Representative of the Lübeck-Lauenburg church district for partnerships with Latvia, our dear friend Pastor Helmut Brauer.

We received 200 large tins of soup (that’s 33 Saturday services or 4000 portions) and 1,000 little tins for the people to take away.

This is a significant boost to our kitchen, friendship and the work of God among our fellow people. Thank You, Helmut and your team in Lübeck-Lauenburg for this.

(Pictures by Pavel)