Up From the Cellar and Into Downtown
S a r a t o v – After three long years of strenuous preparation, the ceremonial first spade of sod was turned on June 18 for the construction of a new Lutheran church in Saratov, Russia. Moscow Bishop Siegfried Springer appeared along with numerous church members to commemorate the event. Digging with heavy machinery is to begin within the next three months.
The modernistic new sanctuary will seat 200 and include a meeting room, youth room, basement and apartments for the pastor and custodian. In recent years, the 1993-refounded congregation has been forced to worship at 4 p.m. on Sundays in the windowless basement of a casino. All other gatherings for the 220-member congregation take place in an office.
Happily, the new lot is located on the Volga River near the center of town with excellent access to public transport. The new structure, conceived in the mind of the Russian architect Oleg Gittermann, will cost 800,000 Euro ($960,000 US). The schedule for its completion is still heavily dependent upon the receipt of further donations.
German pastor Christian Roeder sees in the project the hopes for overcoming long-term crowding. But he also points to the assumption of Russian folk wisdom that any denomination without respectable church buildings is a sect. Yet Saratov, located in the middle of a historic German settlement, already possessed a Lutheran congregation in 1772. Exactly 200 years later, the Soviet state dynamited the remains of the last historical Lutheran church.
Superintendent for the region and senior pastor for the congregation is the Russian-born German Alexander Scheiermann, who arrived in 1997. Both he and Rev. Roeder are missionaries hailing from the Marburg, Germany-based Marburger Mission. Siegfried Springer, another Russian-born German, is bishop of the Moscow-based “Evangelical-Lutheran Church - European Russia”, to which the Volga region belongs.
Dr. William Yoder
Moscow, June 23, 2006
A press release of the “Evangelical-Lutheran Church - European Russia” (ELCER). Release #4.