My Impressions of Riga Ecclesia, Latvia
July 30, 2012 Greetings in His name:
I am a brother whose career is teaching English as a foreign language. This has led me to visit and work in quite a few countries. Where possible, I try to visit Christadelphian ecclesias in whatever nation I happen to be. At the moment, I am in the Baltics, in a small nation called Latvia. I am living in the capital, Riga. It is the largest city in the Baltics states yet it is a small metropolis by American standards. That said, I expected that I would be breaking bread in someone's apartment with an ecclesia membership of less than a half dozen. Nothing wrong with that of course. Jesus tells us that where two or three are gathered in his name, he is there also (Matthew 18:20). So imagine my surprise, when a taxi driver drops me off at my destination and I discover that this congregation has the largest number of Christadelphians I've ever seen in all my travels. I'm told the membership is roughly 300 all told. On a day with low attendance, it is only a fraction of that. Yet even that fraction exceeds what I'm used to seeing in American ecclesias. So much for the American generalization that Europeans are a godless bunch.
The exhortation was given by Bro. Duncan and the subject was king David. Bro. Duncan serves as both the Recording Brother and Presider but ecclesial members help him with the public reading and other offices. The great majority of the congregation is Russian but he has mastered the Russian tongue quite well considering he is a citizen of the United Kingdom. He gives his sermons in the Russian tongue, yet native English speaking Christadelphians need not worry should they wish to attend memorial services in Riga. Bro. Duncan exhorts in both Russian and English simultaneously (personally, I am challenged enough just giving a good sermon back home in standard American English let alone code switching between two languages). Doing a bilingual exhortation is a handy skill as some visitors come to the ecclesia from Africa, Iran and other countries and will more than likely understand English as it is the world's lingua franca.
By the way, our Russian brothers and sisters here in Riga love a good discussion on the scriptures so there was plenty of dialogue after the exhortation was concluded. Since I don't understand Russian, I didn't know what was being said, but I could see it was animated and interesting to the members. Afterwards, refreshments were served while everyone took a recess before the 2nd session. This ecclesia left quite an impression on me.
Sincerely Brother Toussaint Foster
Bro. Toussaint Foster (Manhattan, USA)