As if risen from the ashes comes the story of St. Anne’s Lutheran Church in St. Petersburg, Russia. Recently, St. Anne’s held a combined baptism and confirmation service welcoming fifteen new members into their worship community. Five were brought in through baptism and all were confirmed.
Three years ago, members of St. Anne’s began an outreach to their community offering courses in Christianity. They have continued these courses ever since. They advertise the courses through social media, concerts, art and social events held at the church. They target atheists with the phrase, “come learn what you really disagree with.”
A call to membership
When class participants complete the course, they’re given a couple of weeks to decide if they want to join our Lord’s community at St. Anne’s. The Church holds a joint baptism and confirmation service three times a year—which consistently brings in new members.
Attendance at the courses has averaged 300 people throughout the year, with about 120 (40% of participants) eventually joining the church.
A brief history
St. Anne’s was built in 1775-1779 by Georg Friedrich Veldten for the German Lutheran community. Under the Tsars it was illegal for Russians to convert to another religion. Attendance at other churches was allowed, but only for “foreigners.” Many of the Lutheran Churches in Saint Petersburg were established for the Finnish, German, and Swedish communities.
The completed church building was built to seat 1,500 people for worship. But changes after the Russian revolution saw the demise of Christian communities. Saint Anne’s was confiscated by the government in the 1930s and converted into a movie theater in 1935. At the collapse of the Soviet Union the building was used as a rock & roll club until a fire damaged the building. After sitting vacant for some time, the government handed the church over to the Evangelical Lutheran Church of Ingria in Russia (ELCIR).
Commitment to declaring the Gospel
It is out of these ashes the ELCIR has followed Christ’s call to go and reach the people with the Good News of Jesus Christ. After re-establishing St. Anne’s as a worship community, the church body began working to slowly grow the congregation and restore the building for church use.
The LCMS connection
The ELCIR is a partner church of The Lutheran Church–Missouri Synod (LCMS). There has been a long-term relationship with the LCMS preparing pastors and other church workers to restore the Gospel to communities in Russia.
A few LCMS educators that have been sent to Russia now call St. Anne’s their home church. They work with the ELCIR and worship together at the English language service which is held there weekly. Thanks be to God for his presence at St. Anne’s in St. Petersburg, and for the faithful followers of Christ who work and attend there.
by Rev. Jerry Lawson