The Web site of the Latvian Ev. Lutheran Church in Sydney provides Bible quotes and the church newsletter.
Latvians who have ended up in other parts of the world, either voluntarily or involuntarily have more often than not established their communities with the focal point being the church. In many cities the church community has founded Latvian schools, camps, folk dancing groups and other organizations. Over the years the role of the church as the hub may have changed slightly but its primary role—as the place for Latvians to be able to go and worship God in the style that they are accustomed to—has remained to this day. Even if congregation numbers are dwindling, the communities will still do their utmost to support a pastor and ensure that regular services are offered to those who wish to attend.
Dozens of Latvian churches are scattered around the world and a sizeable proportion of them have a Web site informing congregation members and the wider community of their work. Quickly skimming through the sites you get a good insight into what each community values and deems important informationwise. But it is important to bear in mind that the flashiest or most professionally designed and structured church Web site does not necessarily mean the congregation is a more caring community and the pastor is far better than others. It just may mean the congregation has steered its funds towards other service-oriented priorities. By the same token, a site that takes pride in mentioning recent christenings, shows plenty of photos featuring happy occasions in the church calendar and provides directions on how to get to the church may be a more outreach-focused church than one that focuses on the history and origins of the congregation. Each bit of information is important but in a balanced way. Nor does it necessarily mean that if the information on a particular church is in English and Latvian that the church is less focused on the Latvian language in services.
Here’s a quick summary of features on some church Web sites. By no means have we tried to list every bit of information available—or every site. Most of the sites are in Latvian, but some provide English content as well.
In Australia, the Web site of the Latvian Ev. Lutheran Church in Sydney provides Bible quotes for certain times of need, as well as a downloadable church newsletter. The site also notes all sermons are recorded on compact disc and can be ordered from the pastor. The Church of the Holy Cross in Melbourne also has both its newsletter and monthly bulletin available for downloading and informs of the latest events and service calendar.
In Canada, St. Andrew’s Congregation in Toronto, has a few newsletters available for download as well as a video of the African Childrens Choir that recently performed at the church. We experienced some difficulty viewing and downloading these files because we were not using a Windows computer and Microsoft Internet Explorer.
In the United Kingdom, visit the Web site of the United London Latvian Lutheran Church and you won’t have an excuse for missing the next service: A popup message reminds visitors. The site allows vistors to download the latest newsletter and MP3 files of sermons and songs. A link takes visitors to a forum where they can discuss church-related and broader Latvian issues.
In the United States, the New York Latvian Ev. Lutheran Congregation takes pride in its various church properties as well as the summer camp in the Catskill Mountains. The church Web site provides information and photographs of these properties. The site also has MP3 audio files of various services by various pastors in 2007. Visitors also can download a membership application form and a donation form.
The Web site of the Latvian Ev. Lutheran Church of Washington D.C. is in English and Latvian and has instructions on how to get to the church. The local Latvian school founded by the church also gets a mention.
St. John’s Latvian Lutheran Church in Philadelphia wins hands down as the Web site with the most colorful introduction. The site has a service and events calendar followed by the school calendar, showing that school events are coordinated with the church calendar.
We tracked down the Latvian Evangelical Lutheran United Church of Kalamazoo within www.saites.org, a portal for Latvians in Michigan. We found the church pages to be very limited informationwise. The Saginaw Latvian Ev. Lutheran Church had more news but it unfortunately was slightly outdated. The site contains an invitation to pay church dues and to donate money to the congregation’s sister church in Latvia.
The biggest surprise was hearing a Latvian worship song and seeing a scrolling announcement at the top of the site of the Chicago Latvian Zion Ev. Lutheran Church. The availability on the site of the church bulletin, the annual report and dozens of photos of church events all show that this is a community with many helping hands.
The Minneapolis-St. Paul Latvian Ev. Lutheran Church has a well-structured and visually appealing site with information on the church and its school, choir, folk dancing group, ladies auxiliary, library and more. The site also has a personal touch: announcements of latest christenings.
The Boston Latvian Ev. Lutheran “Trimda” Congregation site has plenty of photos of members at various functions and events, showing the community is a fairly active one. The structure and design of the site are easy on the eye. This is the only site that informs visitors how to reach the church by public transport.
Three more broad sites are worth a mention:
- The Latvian Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (LELBA) is the umbrella organization for all the previously mentioned churches in the United States. LELBA puts out two publications, the magazine Ceļa biedrs and the newsletter LELBA Ziņas. Tables of contents and summaries are available online for Ceļa biedrs, while the newsletter is available as Adobe Acrobat PDF files. LELBA’s Web site also lists the various divisions of the board and the work each division is involved in.
- The recently unveiled Union of Latvian Baptists in America site provides brief information on the various Latvian Baptist churches in this region.
- The Latvian Ev. Lutheran Church in Germany site has a church and pastor list and service calendar for the various churches scattered throughout central Europe, including Germany, Belgium, Denmark, the Czech Republic and the Netherlands.
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