On Feb. 9-11, 2018, almost 50 young pastors and theologians met in Vilnius, Lithuania to discuss topics on church leadership, Word and Sacrament ministry, and how to build a congregation in an ever-changing world. The group NYLT (Network of Young Lutheran Theologians) started meeting in 2011 and now meets twice a year. According to Sebastian Grunbaum, who helps organize the meetings, “I love to see how these young and brilliant minds connect with each other, get inspired and rejoice in the fellowship of each other. For many, it is their first time when they really understand that there are confessional Lutherans in other European countries.”
This year, the group represented Norway, Finland, Sweden, Lithuania, Germany, England, Bulgaria, Romania, Ukraine, Czech Republic, and a few Americans who live or study in Europe. Most of the attendees study theology at seminaries or universities, are passionate about Christ, and plan to pursue careers as pastors, missionaries or teachers.
The twelve ordained pastors in attendance spoke candidly about their calls and congregations, encouraged one another, and enjoyed the learning that took place. Pastor Eirik-Kornelius Garnes-Lunde, Pastor of Messiah Church in Oslo said, “Being a confessional Lutheran pastor in Norway can be pretty lonely. It helps to be with younger people and good to discuss things that are new with other young pastors.”
Pastor Timo Marttinen from the Evangelical Lutheran Mission Diocese in Finland shared the sentiment, “It is most enjoyable meeting and discussing with others and connecting with other pastors.”
NYLT provides the perfect opportunity to do that. Topics were emailed ahead of time to participants, brief lectures introduced discussion items, and participants then met in small groups to discuss each topic from their country’s perspective. Each group then shared their key points with the larger group. Fellowship and discussion continued after the group meetings, through meals, and well into the evenings. Max Schuller, a German seminary student from Oberursel said, “It’s a good thing to continue fellowship over a meal and after.” Many participants also met in local coffee shops between sessions to continue the dialogue.
Many thanks go to the Evangelical Lutheran Church of Lithuania and Bishop Sabutis for hosting this year’s NYLT conference. The beautiful church in Vilnius, built in the 1500s and re-established in the 1990s after communism, provided services daily for participants. LCMS also helped to sponsor the event. Eurasia Regional Director Rev. James Krikava said, “It’s good to have an honest exchange with other like-minded pastors to discuss real challenges that we face in today’s world.”