ELCROS Appeals for Help toward Reconstruction

Dec 31, 2002 02:30 PM EST

ST. PETERSBURG, Russia/GENEVA - The Evangelical Lutheran Church in Russia and Other States (ELCROS) has appealed for donations to rebuild St. Anne's Church in St. Petersburg, which was destroyed by a fire on December 6 this year.

The local fire brigade was able to extinguish the fire only after a number of hours. So far nothing is known about its cause. According to ELCROS, an estimated 2 million EUR will be required for the reconstruction of the church in the center of St. Petersburg.

First dedicated in 1779, the Evangelical Lutheran Church of St. Anne is one of the oldest churches in St. Petersburg. From 1925 to 1934 it housed the seminary of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in the Soviet Union. The rooms of the church, which had been closed in 1935 were used again for worship by the St. Anne congregation itself and by that of St. Peter's from 1992 until the September 1997 rededication of the latter's church on Nevski Prospekt. In 1994 the first ELCROS general synod took place in St. Anne's Church.

Until 2001 the building which had been confiscated by the Soviet government in 1935 was used as a city cinema and later as a night-club and bar. The archbishop of ELCROS, Prof. Georg D. Kretschmar, had protested strongly against this use of the church and demanded its return in the early nineties when the possibility was mooted. After lengthy negotiations, an agreement was reached mid-2002 to return te church in spring 2003. The plan was to set up a religious church center in St. Anne's Church jointly with the Evangelical Lutheran Church of Ingria in Russia for individual Lutheran groups in St. Petersburg, and to also make it available for inter-confessional use.

Despite the devastating damage, ELCROS is still prepared to take charge of the building, according to Kretschmar. Especially because of the plan for the church to be used in future as an encounter center, the building has a historically unique value. But the archbishop underlined that the situation had changed since the fire and therefore the conditions for taking over the building had to be renegotiated.

By Albert H. Lee
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