150 Years Latvian Baptist Movement: Baptismal Service Highlights Anniversary Celebrations
Ventspils/Riga – A baptismal service under the open skies with 90 baptismal candidates highlighted celebrations commemorating the 150th anniversary of the Latvian Baptist Union. It took place at a river near Ushava not far from the Baltic seaport of Ventspils. At that location, Adams Gärtners, the Latvian Apostle, had baptised the very first 72 Baptist converts in 1861. Even the weather proved to be a spiritualexperience for many of the hundreds who attended the event. Though weather reports had forecast a 100% chance of rain, the area remained dry. Many Baptists saw in that a sign of God’s goodness and faithfulness. That a rainbow circled the sun was also regarded as a very special gift. The Bible describes the rainbow as a sign of God’s promise, that there will never again be a deluge as in the time of Noah.
Latvia’s Baptist Union consists of 86 congregations with an approximate membership of 6.600. The first congregation was founded with aid from the Baptists in Klaipeda/Lithuania in 1860. The Union supports an institute in Riga which is broaching new frontiers in its efforts to offer a practice-oriented theological education. Beginning during their second year of studies, the students become active as assistant pastors in congregations around Riga.
The celebrations, which occurred under the motto: ‘Rooted in the earth; growing towards heaven,’ were a part of this Union’s national conference. The church’s head, Bishop Peteris Sprogis, was elected for an additional four-year period. All of the event’s meetings were geared towards evangelism. They included a musical for the young on the book of James in Ventspils’ children’s park and a concert by the combined youth choirs in a centre of higher learning. An impressive singing festival in a basketball arena involving 500 singers was attended by bishops of the Lutheran, Catholic and Orthodox faiths. Latvian media reported in great detail on the event.
Many international guests celebrated jointly with the Baptists of Latvia – these included delegates from the Latvian organistion within the Brazilian Baptist Union, Baptists from the neighbouring countries of Lithuana and Estonia, representatives from the Latvian Union in the USA as well as guests from Germany. Tony Peck (Prague) General-Secretary of the of the European Baptist Federation, greeted in the name of his organisation.