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|1595: St Saviourís,
St Saviourís, Riga, Latvia.
A good question. The building is Church of England, Diocese
in Europe. But the service, although using Common Worship
and celebrated in cassock-alb and stole, had many tell-tale
signs of being Lutheran (or at least heavily inculturated).
Known as "a little piece of Britain in Latvia," this
is a red brick building in the Gothic style, built in 1857 and
consecrated on ten square metres of soil brought from Britain
by English merchants. Prior to this, the English worshipped
in the nearby Calvinist Reformation church. Consecrated in 1859,
St Saviour's was only ever full when British warships visited
Latvia. During the Soviet period, it was converted into a disco
for students from the technical university. The interior reminds
me of the Waterloo
churches. There is a gallery at the back and a niche at
the east end which is visible from the inside but not the outside.
The layout seems more Lutheran than Anglican, with the organ
behind the communion table, two candles and two green falls
on the table, but a single candle to one side on the floor.
There are rather hideous stained-glass windows, mostly yellow
and brown, with abstract circle designs. They allowed very little
light to come in. I arrived in rain and left in sunshine but
you couldnít tell what the weather was doing whilst inside the
building. There is also a war memorial and two banners: one
with pictures of different churches in the Diocese of Europe,
the other of children. There are newspaper cuttings at the back
showing the history of the church, including a visit by a very
young-looking Prince Charles presenting a silver baptismal bowl.
In that cutting it is clear that the interior had a normal Anglican
layout then, with the organ to one side and the altar at the
They run clubs for the elderly and for children, a soup kitchen,
and weekly lunch-time concerts. In 2002, the pastor, the Revd
Dr Juris Cālītis, established a shelter for dysfunctional
families and children which he personally financed and manages.
At present, the shelter is home to 14 children from the age
of 19 months to 19 years. Pastor Cālītis is also a
staunch advocate of gay rights, for which he has been roundly
criticised, although he does have the support of the Rt Revd
Geoffrey Rowell, Bishop in Europe. At Latviaís first ever Gay
Pride church service, held at St Saviour's and at which the
preacher was the Revd Māris Sants (an openly gay Lutheran
minister defrocked and excommunicated by the Evangelical Lutheran
Church of Latvia and now living in London), congregation and
clergy alike were pelted with rotten eggs and even faeces. On
the day I attended, I expected to see a gathering of ex-pats
in suits, but was pleasantly surprised to find men and women
in equal numbers, most of whom were dressed casually. There
were six young people but most were in their 50s. There was
one black person – I say this not to be racist, but because
there were very, very few black people visible during my weekís
stay in this city. There were also visiting groups from the
United States and Australia.
The church is on the end of old Riga, a district with exceptionally
fine architecture and in which this building is a rather poor
cousin overlooking the River Daugava. The area bustles with
wealthy tourists and poor beggars and there are regular boat
trips for sightseers that pass alongside the church.
The Revd Dr Juris Cālītis, pastor. Pastor Cālītis
is a Canadian Latvian who also lectures in the university's
theology department. Assisting him were Solvita Sejane, worship
assistant; Kristine Adamaite, organist; and Marcis Mikelsons,
The date & time:
13 July 2008, 11.00am.
What was the name of the service?
How full was the building?
One-third. I counted 50 people in a building that could seat
140. There were a further 14 people who left because the service
started late and, presumably, like me, they were bored with
Did anyone welcome you personally?
A woman said, "Here you go!" as she handed me my books.
Was your pew comfortable?
Yes. It was a large wooden bench seat with ample leg room and
a back, but there were no kneelers.
How would you describe the pre-service
It was very quiet and reflective until, at the last minute,
a group of very talkative people arrived and spoiled the atmosphere.
The worship assistant was walking around greeting people and
asking some to do jobs like assisting with the chalice. Four
minutes after the stated starting time, there was an organ prelude,
followed by a fine horn piece. The liturgy proper started nine
What were the exact opening words of the
"Greetings on this Eighth Sunday after Trinity, and a special
welcome to our visitors, who are our joy."
What books did the congregation use during the
Common Worship Holy Communion, Order One and a sheet
with the hymns and readings.
What musical instruments were played?
Organ and horn.
Did anything distract you?
Time: the service seemed to drag because every hymn was introduced
with a mini organ prelude. Music: the tunes of well-known hymns
were slightly different from what I am used to and, despite
having the music, I gave up trying to sing because some of the
notes seemed deliberately intended to catch you out. Denomination: I
was confused, throughout, as to whether I was at an Anglican
or a Lutheran liturgy. Given that the Bishop in Europe is an
Anglo-catholic, I am sure that the pastorís orders are valid
and I was grateful that we had a eucharist rather than morning
prayer, and that it was modern rather than the BCP which I expected
to be used in an ex-pat community. Wording: Being told, "Here
ends the Holy Gospel, Amen" and singing the Gloria Patri after the psalm, which are definite liturgical gaffes. Despite
the preface to the Jerusalem Bible requesting that
"the Lord" be substituted for "Yahweh" and
a century of Christian-Jewish understanding, the divine name
was pronounced during the Old Testament lesson.
Was the worship stiff-upper-lip,
happy clappy, or what?
Relaxed but not sloppy. It appeared Lutheran rather than Anglican
in many ways: lots of organ preludes, no lavabo or ablutions,
the Apostles Creed rather than the Nicene, the Aaronic blessing
(Numbers 6:24–26), communion administered to a whole row
at the same time, few signs of the cross, and Lutheran chant
tones for the eucharistic prayer.
Exactly how long was the
On a scale of 1-10, how good was the preacher?
9 Chatty, jokey but also very serious, wearing lightly his very considerable learning.
In a nutshell, what was the sermon
The gospel was the parable of the sower. The word "listen"
is significant but very few actually listen and, if they do,
think of parables as moral teachings. However, the seed continues
to fall on the hard ground of continued hostilities in the name
of religion. It seems impossible that the seed will ever bear
fruit, but the parable ends with a large harvest so there is
hope. At the risk of spoiling a nice summerís day, the cross
is the key to all of this if only we could bear to carry it.
Which part of the service was like being in
Unusually for me, the sermon, which had lighter moments but which was profound.
And which part was like being in... er... the other place?
Nothing much except my annoyance with the late start and my confusion as to which denomination we were worshipping from.
What happened when you hung around after the service looking lost?
Nothing. During the notices, the pastor asked visitors to state
where they were from. But afterwards everyone seemed to speak
to other people that they knew and the pastor was engaged in
conversation with one group. I don't mention this as a criticism,
as I do the same in the hand-shaking bit at the end of services
that I conduct, preferring some quality conversation rather
than simple platitudes to everyone. Nevertheless, I felt very
isolated on my own after lingering for about 10 minutes.
How would you describe
the after-service coffee?
Just as I had sent a text message arranging to meet a friend
for coffee at the Powder Tower, it was announced as an afterthought:
"Oh, I forgot to mention, do join us for coffee in the
undercroft." So I had to leave. In any case, I did not
want to prolong the agonising feeling of being Johnny no mates.
How would you feel about
making this church your regular (where 10 = ecstatic, 0 = terminal)?
5 Not "high" enough for me, though I was very
pleased to be in a church with a strong social justice witness.
Did the service make you feel glad to be a
Maybe, but I prefer either a faster-paced liturgy or a slow, contemplative one.
What one thing will you remember about all this in seven days' time?
Was it Lutheran or Anglican?
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