New Rīga congregation forming under ‘exile’ church

A new Lutheran congregation under the umbrella of an “exile” church is to be founded April 19 in Latvia, organizers have announced.

The congregation is as yet unnamed but would be part of the Latvian Evangelical Lutheran Church Outside Latvia (Latvijas evaņģēliski luteriskā baznīca ārpus Latvijas, or LELBĀL), which has its headquarters in Germany. It is not seeking membership in the larger Evangelical Lutheran Church of Latvia (Latvijas evaņģēliski luteriskā baznīca, or LELB), which has its headquarters in Rīga.

“This congregation is under LELBĀL leadership because we, members of the nascent congregation, want to come together to worship God is the manner of LELBĀL services, not LELB,” Andris Bērziņš, a member of the congregation’s provisional board of directors, told Latvians Online in an e-mail.

LELB dates from the 1920s and was formed from Lutheran congregations in newly independent Latvia. LELBĀL appeared after World War II and unites Latvian Lutheran congregations throughout Western Europe and Australia.

Several months ago a number of repatriates joined with local Latvians through LELBĀL’s Rīga office to begin holding services in the Old St. Gertrude Church of Rīga (Rīgas Vecā Svētās Ģertrūdes baznīca).

The new congregation will be founded during a service scheduled at 15:00 hours April 19 in the church, Ģertrūdes iela 8, Rīga. Members of the provisional leadership will be available to meet with interested persons before the service. The service will be officiated by Archbishop Elmārs E. Rozītis and the Rev. Dean Klāvs Bērziņš. Participants are asked to bring food the share after the service.

Latvian Lutheran churches in North America are organized under the Latvian Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (Latviešu evanģeliski luteriskā baznīca Amerikā, or LELBA). It was founded in 1957 as a congregational association, but in 1975 reorganized as a church, according to LELBA’s Web site,

LELB has two congregations outside Latvia, the St. Peter Latvian Church of Moscow (Russia) and the Dublin-based Latvian Church in Ireland, according to its Web site,

Andris Straumanis is a special correspondent for and a co-founder of Latvians Online. From 2000–2012 he was editor of the website.

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