The Magazine of The Evangelical Lutheran Church in America


Rebuilding the church in Estonia

It was all in a day's work for Gustav Kutsar, a pastor of the 70,000-member Estonian Evangelical Lutheran Church.

On a Sunday morning last August he baptized a child and confirmed four adults at the 13th century church in Valjala. In the afternoon, with the Baltic Sea as a backdrop, he baptized another member of the Valjala congregation and confirmed 11 adults in Orissaare, on the island of Saaremaa.

Members from the Metropolitan Washington, D.C., Synod shared in the celebration. Renee Lia Bratten, pastor of Emmanuel Lutheran Church, Vienna, Va., participated in the services.

The confirmands faced two Lutheran pastors--Kutsar and Lia Bratten--worlds apart in geography but united in the goal of rebuilding the church in Estonia.

Religious expression was strongly discouraged for generations in the Baltics. Church interiors were defaced, their surfaces painted over by Russian occupiers. Buildings often were shuttered or destroyed. Religion was driven underground. But today the faith that was sustained and nurtured by older Lutherans is reappearing in the young.

Lia Braaten and her husband, Jerry, also an ELCA pastor, have led three synod groups to help restore church facilities and support the Estonian church's rebirth.


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