Date today: 26.03.2019  |  Name days: Saulis, Tālrīts, Gustavs, Gusts

Ecumenical initiatives in Latvia

Roman Catholic Church in Latvia is involved in many ecumenical projects with a purpose to promote Christian unity and comprehension of the various ways in which Christians serve God and others. Ecumenical initiatives include events that serve people and also events that strengthen the cooperation and fellowship of clergy and parishes. Through these events the Church tries to unite Christians in Latvia, promote deeper understanding of other denominations and answer to Christ’s prayer “they may be one so that the world may believe” (John 17:21).

Week of Prayer for Christian Unity

The Week of Prayer for Christian Unity is an international Christian ecumenical initiative that began in 1908. It is celebrated annually from 18 to 25 January, between the feasts of St. Peter and St. Paul. The Week is celebrated in Latvia since 2006. Readings and prayers are available for each day, as well as parishes organise other ecumenical events. Ecumenical services, discussions with clergy and worship help Christians from different denominations to know each other better and to open the doors of the Church also to those who still do not belong to it.

Ecumenical services

Ecumenical services are the most regular and the most visible link between Christians of different denominations and society. Often these services take place at Riga Cathedral or St. James’s Cathedral, less often in other cities, for example, Madona, Cesis, Liepaja, etc. Every year ecumenical service is held on 18 November, Independence Day of Latvia, and during the Week of Prayer for Christian Unity. They are held also in other cases, for example, to express Christian support for traditional family values opposing homosexual propaganda or during the Latvian Song and Dance Festival. In these services take part clergy and musicians from various, mainly the largest, Christian denominations – Roman Catholic, Lutheran, Baptist, and Orthodox. 

Ecumenical Way of the Cross

The Ecumenical Way of the Cross takes place in the streets of Old Riga on Good Friday since 2006. It has already become a tradition that unites several thousand people of different denominations. The purpose of the Way of the Cross is to participate in events of the life of Jesus shortly before his death. Professional filmmakers and actors help to prepare and carry out meditations and performances in a way that helps to go deeper in contemplation of Scripture readings and passion of Jesus, as well as how it relates to each of us. It helps to live the message of Christ every day in that place where we are.

During the walk a wooden cross is carried and it is accompanied by youth who carries torches. People sing songs together and contemplate events that happened on Good Friday. Ecumenical Way of the Cross also takes place in Auce, Cesis, Liepaja, Cesvaine, Madona, etc.

Churches where services are celebrated by various Christian denominations

There are several churches in Latvia where services are celebrated by various Christian denominations. As a vivid example is the recently opened Igate church. It was consecrated by Catholic archbishop Zbigņevs Stankevičs together with Lutheran archbishop Jānis Vanags and Baptist assistant bishop Pēteris Eisāns, in the presence of Orthodox protopriest Valērijs. In this church services celebrate four Christian denominations – Lutherans, Catholics, Orthodox and Baptists. Two denominations celebrate services at Lutheran Church premises in Aloja, Birzgale, Erberge, Kekava and Laudona, and at Orthodox Church premises in Dzelzava.

Christian teaching in schools

Riga Higher Institute of Religious Sciences offers professional master degree “Religion” with qualification teacher of philosophy, ethics and Christian teaching. Therefore teachers can teach a number of subjects that is particularly important working in small towns and rural schools as these schools often are unable to ensure individual teacher for each subject. Methodical centre of Catechesis of Riga Higher Institute of Religious Sciences cooperates with Children’s Christian Education Association and League of Bible Friends, thus continuing the ecumenical cooperation in the preparation process of Christian teaching materials.

Movements and communities of ecumenical nature

Community "Chemin Neuf" is a Catholic community with an ecumenical vocation. Its mission is serving to the unity, including the promotion of unity and reconciliation among the various Christian denominations. In Latvian community are also brothers and sisters of the Lutheran Church.

“Chemin Neuf” missions in Latvia are known more than 10 years. Since 2011 there is a community house in Liepaja where various community events and activities are held and often youth from the city of Liepaja involved. Through Cana activities community serve to couples and families of different denominations. Almost half of Cana couples are Catholics and the other half Lutherans, Baptists and other denominations. “Chemin Neuf” also organise monthly “Net for God” meetings in different cities. During these meetings people of different denominations watch a movie about particular spiritual topic and then pray together.

“Encounters of Married Couples” movement in Latvia is since 1994. It unites couples with different length of marriage and religious affiliation.

“Effata” is a charismatic catholic lay community that is open to all Christians. It occurred in 1993 and have regular weekly meetings. Community also organises lectures, retreats, as well as visits to various churches of different denominations.

Bethlehem House of Charity is a rehabilitation centre for addicts. Although the centre has Catholic background, everyone can participate in the rehabilitation program regardless of religious affiliation. Furthermore, everyone has an opportunity to live according to it. There are Catholics, Lutherans, Orthodox, as well as Baptists and Pentecostals. Centre is weekly visited by Catholic and Orthodox priests and Lutheran pastors. Once a week addicts, accompanied by the missionaries, can go to service in their own church.

Chaplaincy

Christians of different denominations serve as chaplains in hospitals, prisons, army, and work with athletes, providing pastoral care and care of the other needs. Usually people to whom chaplains serve are Catholics, Lutherans and Orthodox, but sometimes also other denominations – Methodists, Adventists, Old Believers, Jehovah’s Witnesses and Muslims.

Alpha course

Alpha course is one of the most common ecumenical initiatives. During it the audience is introduced with the basics of the Christian faith through talks and discussions. In Latvia Alpha course is held in Catholic, Lutheran and Baptist parishes. The course is intended for those who want to learn about Christianity and those who want to refresh their knowledge. The participants tend to be different people. There are those who are still looking for their church, those who are from Catholic, Lutheran or Orthodox churches and also those who are participating as volunteers.

Meetings of bishops and clergy

There is active interfaith clergy cooperation to be able mutually agree on the ecumenism and its implementation. Regular meetings of bishops and clergy as well as retreats help to find common positions on issues that are important to Christians.

Interfaith fellowship

Every year a Christian calendar is published with the support of Catholic St. Mary Magdalene’s parish, Lutheran Riga Luther’s parish and Baptist Agenskalns parish. Besides that often common feasts are celebrated together and many people as well as clergy of different denominations join Catholic pilgrims to Aglona.

Ecumenical theological conferences

To deepen the understanding of interfaith position on theological issues Riga Higher Institute of Religious Science and Luther Academy have organised ecumenical theological conferences. The goal of the conferences is to promote theological debate on important issues in the life of the Church like theological and educational issues and pastoral work.  

Collegium of Riga Christian parishes

In order to develop successful cooperation with the secular power, in collaboration with the Riga City Council, Collegium of Riga Christian parishes was established. Its mission is to represent the interests of the Christian churches in the municipality and to advise Riga City Council on issues that affects life of Christian parishes. The Collegium consists of Catholics, Lutherans, Orthodox, Baptists, Pentecostals, and Adventists, a number of Christian organisations (Salvation Army, Latvian Christian radio, association “Agape Latvia”) and representatives of the Riga City Council.

Prayer breakfast

To raise public awareness about important Christian issues, a tradition to have prayer breakfast has developed. It started in 2006 and gather together clergy of different denominations and public officials like the President, ministers, members of parliament, municipal leaders, representatives of education, art, sports, media, and entrepreneurs.

Service broadcast on LTV

To reach people who because of disease, age or other reasons are not able to participate in the service at the church, Latvian Television (LTV) every Sunday broadcasts one service from the most traditional churches (Catholic, Lutheran, Orthodox or Baptist). On Christmas and Easter LTV offers live broadcast from Vatican City.

Magazine “Kas mūs vieno?”

Since 2005 ecumenical magazine “Kas mūs vieno?” (“What unites us?”) is published. Usually it is distributed once a year during the Week of Prayer for Christian Unity in parishes of different denominations. Each edition is dedicated to a particular topic reflecting views of different denominations. Some of the topics are the Church itself, prayers of different denominations, Mother of God, St. Francis of Assisi, and the Word of God in the Bible.

Latvian Christian Radio

Latvian Christian Radio was established as ecumenism raising initiative. Radio offers broadcasts of various denominations, as well as radio DJs have different religious affiliation.