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Easter in the Eastern Parishes

Fr. Alexei Streltsov, LTS rector, conducted a pastoral visit to the Chita Region on March 2529 by invitation of Fr. Andrei Ivolga, Pastor of the Chita parish of St. Trinity. Fr. Andrei lives in the city of Angarsk in the Irgutsk region; he is also a pastor of the local Lutheran parish there. Fr. Andrei makes monthly trips through the Eastern parishes of SELC, which include congregations in the Buryatia Republic and Chita Region.

During the major Christian holidays, the lack of priests in some places is felt very acutely; therefore some priests have to travel extensively to conduct services in remote parishes.

Deacon Fr. Igor Kizyaev, an LTS graduate, serves in the Chita parish. Deacons do not serve the Eucharistic services in SELC, and it is essential for the people of God to be able to come to communion during major festivals so that their faith will be strengthened.

During this particular trip, a Good Friday service was conducted in Chita. Eighteen communicants gathered there. For the first time in the recent history of the Chita congregation, a full-scale service with the Lords Supper was held during Holy Week.

On Saturday a meeting with one former St. Trinity member took place. Some time ago this man left the congregation without any excuses and attempted to organize an alternative congregation under the authority of a different Lutheran church. Fr. Alexei and Fr. Igor explained the Lutheran understanding of Church Fellowship to this person and also how it relates to the question of Closed Communion.

An Easter Service was held on Easter morning. Twenty-five people communed there, not counting the celebrants. A picnic in the forest was planned for the congregation members after the service, but the local weather did not allow for that. Instead parishioners stayed at the Deaf Club where services are being held, to continue their informal Easter celebration. The congregation decided to postpone this picnic until Pentecost.

A notable event in the life of the congregation was when the deaf sub-deacon of the parish was vested for the first time. The Chita parishioners as well as all SELC members, love the liturgical rites. Some time ago the question was discussed about how to organize a special educational program for Roman that would enable him to carry out our ministry to the deaf Lutherans of Chita, who comprise no less than half of St. Trinitys parish.

Then on Monday, Fr. Alexei and Fr. Igor went to the village of Edinenye, which is located about 220 miles from the city (the last part of the road is quite poor), on the border of Aginsky Buryat Autonomous Region that one must cross on the way to the village. There were 16 communicants at the service. Some guests were attending the service for the first time. The total number of baptized, confirmed members in this young missionary congregation is 35 people. Fr. Igor travels to Edinenye regularly to conduct services and catechetical instruction. The pastor of the parish, Fr. Andrei Ivolga, also visits Edineniye every time he comes to Chita. At present, the Chita congregation is the most eastern and the most remote parish of SELC. Besides working in Edinenye, Fr. Igor repeatedly conducted meetings with the convicts of a high security prison in the village of Olovyannaya. Plans for the immediate future include a trip to the town of Borghigontai in which Nikolai Petrovich, the first male member of Edinenye village (formerly, only women came to church), will accompany Fr. Igor.

Fr. Alexeis pastoral trip was the third such trip in the last two years. Previously he visited Chita for Christmas of 2003 and Easter of 2004 for the same purposes. The last two times, such trips also covered the Buryatia and Irkutsk Region, but since Fr. Andrei moved from Khakasia to Angarsk, Irkutsk Region, last fall, there was no need to do it at this time. The trip last year to Chita, Edinenye, and Buryatia (Petropavlovka village) is recorded in the new LTS video, Mission.

At present there are two candidates for the LTS pre-seminary program at Holy Trinitys parish. So this trip happened to be productive also for the seminary.

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