An interchurch group from the diocese of Aarhus, Denmark visited Estonia in late September to meet congregations and the consistorium in Tallinn and to hear how church life was developing and also to sense the atmosphere in the country in the present ‘cool’ climate in that part of Europe.
Our meeting with the pastoral seminary in Tallinn threw up some surprises. The present leader of this institution, Ove Sander, had been there for 4 years and had in that time increased the numbers of theology students preparing for pastoral work in the parishes from 20 to 150, not only thanks to a newly set up cooperation with the ecumenical Orthodox church from Istanbul. For us it was very interesting to hear about the one year training course that students share to prepare them for a life in the churches. A life that demands a lot of willingness to work hard to improve the numbers in the churches, improve the state of the buildings and support the hope and efforts that the country has made in the last few years in so many ways.
The total numbers of all Christian confessions amount to 20 % of the population of 1.5 million, so it is necessary to work together where ever possible. Ove Sander stressed that the time of confessions is over. It is now a question of there being a Christian church or not. Therefore all churches have to work together, including on the theological education and training and the growth of Christian schools. The churches are greatly concerned with – and involved in – building up work for and with children and young people since they are the future. So even where there is little money, the facilities for children and young people take centre stage in the congregational outreach. This even covers soup on Sundays after the church service, also and perhaps more necessary in the summer when the schools are closed and therefore there are no free meals.
We have rarely seen such determination among young people to move the country forwards, to shoulder responsibility and hard work in the parishes, and therefore they are deeply committed to cooperation with and inspiration from other church e.g. through the Porvoo communion, CEC or LWF.