UKRAINE – The Synod of Evangelical Lutheran Churches in Ukraine (SELCU) held its annual convention November 25-26, 2013 in Odessa, Ukraine. The convention opened in worship, with Bishop Viktor Graefenstein delivering a sermon on 1 Peter 4:10.
SELCU is a young church, having been founded in 1996. It has thirteen congregations, nine pastors, four vicars, and about 300 members. At the convention, each congregation was represented by its pastor and a lay delegate. Three vicars also attended, as did guests from other church bodies.
Among these guests was Bishop Serge Maschewski of the German Evangelical Lutheran Church in the Ukraine (GELCU). Bishop Maschewski was elected a month earlier at GELCU’s October 21-23 convention, also held in Odessa. GELCU has twelve pastors and approximately 3,000 members. It is a member church of the larger Evangelical Lutheran Church in Russia and the Other States (which is affiliated with the Lutheran World Federation).
SELCU is supported in part thanks to the work of mission societies in Germany and Poland. It has also long been supported by Lutheran Church–Canada (LCC), a member church of the International Lutheran Council. In particular, LCC has been instrumental in offering theological training in the Ukraine, having founded Concordia Lutheran Seminary in Odessa in 1998. This past summer, the seminary celebrated its third graduating class: six students who have completed their three-year education program and are now beginning two years of vicarage in SELCU congregations. In total, more than 20 students have graduated from the seminary, with many now serving as pastors in Ukraine and Kazakhstan. A new group of students is scheduled to begin classes in September 2014.
Delegates to SELCU’s convention heard positive reports on the synod’s prison ministry, care for the elderly, and ministry to orphans—programs also supported by LCC. One such report concerned ministry at a large prison near Nikolaev where 1,500 prisoners are housed. SELCU pastors lead services on a regular basis there to groups of about 20 people, rotating between cells to avoid large concentrations. One pastor noted that, in addition to the opportunity to preach the Gospel, “There is always great time for fellowship, dialogue, and tea with the inmates.” The outreach is making a difference in the inmates’ lives, with one pastor noting that “inmates who are released from prison continue faithful to Christ and to the fellowship of a local church.”
Lutheran Church–Canada’s Executive for Missions and Social Ministry, Rev. Dr. Leonardo Neitzel, was present at SELCU’s convention. “We pray that the Lord continue to strengthen our partnership and fellowship in the Gospel,” he said, noting that “through the proclamation and acts of mercy by our brothers and sisters in Ukraine, many are hearing the Gospel of Jesus.”
Additional information on SELCU’s convention is available from The Canadian Lutheran.