The Magazine of The Evangelical Lutheran Church in America


Walking with Lithuanians

ELCA couple serves English-speaking congregation

Ministry experience: Lithuanian Lutheran in Vilnius is one of hundreds of English-speaking congregations around the globe. After I retired in June 2004 as a pastor, my wife, Cheryl, and I accepted a two-year call from ELCA Global Mission to serve this 450-year-old congregation and the Evangelical Lutheran Church of Lithuania.

I lead worship, prepare sermons, organize activities, seek out participants and look for partners in ministry. Our congregation is a gathering place for people from as many as 15 countries and many in the diplomatic community. Each week brings unexpected visitors—anywhere from 15 to 200. Many are English-speaking travelers.

Cheryl organizes congregational visits to a nationally operated orphanage. One afternoon a week, five to seven congregation members hold and play with more than 60 babies. She and I also help out at a local soup kitchen.

We are grateful to congregations that sponsor us through the ELCA’s missionary sponsorship program. When our service concludes, we hope to visit and thank them. In the meantime, if your travels bring you to Vilnius or any city with anEnglish-speaking international congregation, come and worship.

Joys & challenges: Before 1940 the Lithuanian Lutheran church had more than 230,000 members. During World War II and more than 50 years of Soviet occupation, the membership shrunk to its current size of 20,000. Despite the challenges of fewer members and few financial resources, today’s church is filled with dynamic young pastors, many of whom serve two or three congregations without salary.

Bishop Mindaugas Sabutis is approaching the challenges with ingenuity. At age 30, he’s likely the youngest bishop in the Lutheran World Federation. He worked tirelessly to provide a basic health package and pension program for pastors. He also works to strengthen the seminary program, hoping to increase parish ministry as a vocational option for university students here.


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