In late April, the Center for Christian Education in Martin was visited by brothers and sisters of our sister Evangelical Lutheran Church in Finland. It was the working group for International Affairs for Central and Eastern Europe, chaired by the Bishop of the diocese of Mikkeli, Dr. Seppo Häkkinen, as well as top religious adviser, Rev. Dr. Kimmo Kääriäinen.
On Saturday, April 25, 2015, our distinguished guests visited the Bible School and Lutheran congregation in Martin, where they learned about the wide range of activities related to the development of education, training, cooperation, and mission that takes place here. Our guests also met with Bishop Slavomír Sabol, of the Eastern District, pastors from nearby regions, and employees of the Lutheran elementary school, grammar school, and Bible School. Topics of the meetings were secularization and mission, engaging people in larger towns in the life of the Christian community and especially, reaching the younger generation. Dr. Seppo Häkkinen preached at this event.
Brother bishop Häkkinen spoke to the group in Martin about the need for renewal of the Church through youth work. He stressed the need for spiritual leadership among the young and of the irreplaceable importance of confirmation, which is the entrance of young believers into the church. According to the brother bishops, working with Youth and Family is an important issue in the Finnish Church, as well. The current situation–that of the steady decline in the number of believing youth in the church–calls for active and enthusiastic service to the younger generation.
Bishop Häkkinen presented his thoughts on the dangers of secularization but also suggested activities that churches can incorporate that will engage youth in the church. The project called “Young Members in the Church,” details ways through which the Christian community in Finland seeks to strengthen the Christian identity and growth of youth toward adult faith. “This project does not create something completely new but continues the basic work in the church, but with a greater emphasis on youth,” explained Bishop Häkkinen. Martin Bible School Director, Bohdan Hroboň, agreed and added that despite the difficulties, this is something the Church must never cease to strive for. Our task is to continue this valuable work and to persevere in the struggle for the things of God in His vineyard.
One of the priorities of the Finnish working group was to garner updated information on the spiritual situation in former Eastern bloc countries. Their major focus is the state of the Evangelical Church, ecumenical relationships, and the life of other churches within their sphere of interest. In this context, our guests were interested in historical, as well as current activity of the ECAC in Slovakia.
Welcoming these guests was a precious opportunity for us at the Bible School in Martin. How we hope this kind of event occurs more often, so that we can learn together and encourage one another in the vineyard of God.