Holzwert at his office in Kaliningrad on 22 Sept. 2021. Photo from Yoder.
New Dean Serves on Both Fringes of European Russia
K a l i n i n g r a d – When entering the nave of Kaliningrad’s "Church of the Resurrection" on 19 September, it became immediately clear that a new wind was blowing. The church’s "eternal" near-lockdown had become a thing of the past. The chairs had been moved closer together; only a minority was still wearing masks. At the festive table after the service, the guests sat together tightly. The congregation had not experienced anything of the kind since the outbreak of the pandemic in March 2020.
The occasion for the joyful event was the confirmation of the new dean (sometimes translated as “provost”) in the Lutheran deanery of
Kaliningrad, Sergey Ivanovich Holzwert (“Goltsvert” in Russian), from Sterlitamak just west of the Urals. He was confirmed by Dietrich Brauer, Moscow Archbishop of the "Evangelical Lutheran
Church in Russia" (ELCR). The day before, Kaliningrad’s synod had elected Holzwert as its new dean.
Asked about his greatest hope, the new dean did not need time to hesitate: "May peace return," he blurted out. "We want peace. The pandemic is over and we now need to restart everything. Conferences and inter-congregational gatherings will again take place; everything shall be put in order." He added: "We also want to organise concerts in the church so the congregation can earn some income again. A firm from Saint Petersburg that organises church concerts wants to help us."
Now Holzwert sees it as his very first task to familiarise himself with his new church environment: "We as a church may work slowly, but we’re always moving forward." Propst Holzwert knows German and expects a lively exchange with Protestant circles from Germany and elsewhere.
How could the Dean accept a service location so far from home? "I am the Lord’s soldier," he assured. "We are pastors, and wherever the church calls us to serve, we go."
Sergey Holzwert knows something about stress, for his church has entrusted him with three deaneries at once! When taking over the Kaliningrad deanery, he was allowed to hand over the North Caucasus deanery based in Krasnodar. He took over that deanery only two years ago. He will remain head of the deaneries in Bashkortostan (based in Ufa) and Orenburg. "It is agreed that I will visit the other two deaneries for two weeks per quarter," he explained. According to statutes, the Kaliningrad dean is to serve as pastor of the congregation at his place of assignment - the "Church of the Resurrection".
The new dean studied theology in Omsk in 1999-2000 and in the Lutheran seminary in Novosaratovka near Petersburg from 2005 to 2007. Bishop Siegfried Springer of Germany (deceased 2019) ordained him in his first congregation - Sterlitamak - in 1999. Although Holzwert was born in Sterlitamak on 28 July 1969, he spent large parts of his childhood and youth in Moldova and Odessa/Ukraine.
Today, the Holzwert family is already putting down roots in Kaliningrad region. Their 18-year-old son German has just begun studies at Kaliningrad University; his older brother, 22-year-old Daniel, is married in Bashkortostan region. In 1998, Sergey Holzwert married Aksana; unfortunately, she will not be able to make the move westward before May 2022. That delay is related to her current job.
Other personnel issues
The new deputy dean and thus Holzwert's right-hand man is Alexey Chizhov, pastor of the Salzburg Church in Gussev. The new head of the Dean’s Council is Irina Novasyolova from the Kaliningrad congregation. Besides Holzwert and Chizhov there are two active female pastors in the deanery: Lena Kurmyshova in Bolshaya Polyana and Natalia Chizhova in Gussev. Unofficially, the deanery has less than 500 active members in some 30 parishes and congregations.
After six years of service (two electoral terms), Igor Ronge has stepped down as dean. He was present neither at the synod nor at the confirmation of his successor. Holzwert states that the previous dean nevertheless remains open to continued service within the ELCR. Whether and where this can take place is being left to the discretion of the Archbishop in Moscow. The future place of service could be far removed from Kaliningrad region.
Provost Holzwert can be reached through the Dean's office: (007-4012) 956 001. The eMail address is: "propstei_klg(at)mail.ru". The secretary Daria Nedbay speaks German.
Dr.phil. William Yoder
Berlin, 26 September 2021
A journalistic release for which only the author is responsible. It is informational in character and does not express the official position of any church organisation. This release may be reprinted free-of-charge if the source is cited. Release #21-19, 696 words.