What do Vancouver Estonian university and confirmation students have in common with the Estonian Lutheran Church? A get together – “koosolek” on Sunday, September 26.
Vancouver’s St. Peter’s Estonian Lutheran Church will be celebrating its 60th anniversary. The occasion will be an opportunity for reunions and introductions for peoples with diverse interests.
St. Peter’s will start its 60.anniversairy celebrations with a worship service at 11 a.m. The guest preacher will be The Very Rev. Mart Salumäe, Dean of Viljandi. Among the clergy guests are The Very Rev. Thomas Vaga, former minister of St. Peter’s. Many musical ensembles will perform at the service as well as at the banquet.
“Always a major figure in Estonian culture on the West Coast,” says St. Peter’s pastor Walter Johanson, “the church will be celebrating 60 years of God’s grace and service to the community.”
Following the worship service, the congregation will adjourn to the banquet hall beside the sanctuary. Many members of the Estonian Baptist Church will join the festivities there. One of the features will be the caterer, many times North American champion barBQ’er “Smoke ‘n Bones”. They’ll be offering a feast of barbecue comfort food.
“St. Peter’s celebrations will provide an opportunity for reunions and introductions,” says Rev. Johanson. First, former confirmation students over the past 60 years can get together to reminisce their confirmation year and catch up on news of children and grandchildren.
Second, Estonian university students and faculty from out-of-town will have a table to themselves to get to know each other and plan further get-togethers. Rev. Johanson says this is important for students to keep in touch with who they are. “I did the same thing in the early 1970's in Waterloo where we brought together Estonian students and faculty from Guelph and London. We had a great time. Amongst the faculty were Karl Aun and Toivo Miljan who stimulated our intellect on Estonian politics. And amongst the students were future community leaders such as Markus Hess and Enno Agur,” remembers Johanson. “The casual banquet will be a wonderful setting to get to know fellow university folk,” he says.
Third, an unusual meeting of new confirmation students and their parents will take place immediately during and following the banquet. Set at their own table, parents and youth can consider the proposal for an unique confirmation ministry next year.
“Confirmation in an Estonian Lutheran Church is an impossible task,” says Rev. Johanson of his past experience. “It is supposed to be a period of deepening spiritual as well as cultural formation. But the kids don’t go to church because they live far away and don’t know the language. So something unique has to be done to afford these children an experience which can shape their life, and who they are.” So Rev. Johanson has proposed a three week Confirmation Camp in Estonia next summer. During the first week, probably in conjunction with Palamuse Museum, the youth will learn introductory Estonian. Following that, the camp will move to the Old Town in Tallinn where they will reside in community. There the mornings will be spent with confirmation instruction. The afternoons will be dedicated to treasure hunts around the Old Town to learn the history of the Estonian peoples and of the city itself. And the third week will be spent with relatives and community service work with the local poorest of the poor – children of orphanges. “I think this will leave and almost indelible mark on the youth for the rest of their lives,” hopes Johanson.
Attendance at the church’s anniversary worship service is free. The banquet, however, costs $20 and tickets have to be purchased on the Sundays prior to the 26th. Rev. Johanson is awaiting phone calls from parents of out-of-town university students and faculty so he can do a followup invitation personally to each. Parents of youth 16-18 years of age should also call to announce their intention of attending the “confirmation table”.
Rev. Johanson can be met in person on Sunday mornings, or anytime by phone: 604-263-1802 or e-mail, . Further information can be had from the church’s web site: http://www.eelk.ee/vancouver. The church is located in Vancouver at the intersection of Oak Street and West 49th Avenue.