Meri-Lappi (Northern Coastal Finland), from Christian community to congregation

“There is a time for everything, and a season for every activity under the heavens.” On the first Sunday of Advent, 18 February 2018 it was time for a new congregation to become a reality. The Christian worship community in Meri-Lappi was organised and named Our Saviour Lutheran Congregation.

The prerequisites for a congregation had long been in place. Rev. Antti Leinonen, the shepherd of St Steven Lutheran Congregation in Rovaniemi, together with a few others had conducted divine services in Keminmaa, Meri-Lappi, for a couple of years. An average of 25-30 persons had attended, sometimes fewer, at times more. Voluntary vergers, organists, Sunday School teachers and church coffee providers had settled into their routines. A chapel in a suitable rental venue gave the congregation full possibilities to arrange its own schedule. The economic support has also been adequate. Nonetheless, the congregation had been kept waiting for some time.

In January talks were launched with renewed determination as to whether the congregation could be officially organized. The name of the congregation emerged as a major issue, so people started working on suggestions at church coffee that month. A list of suggestions was drafted. A suitable date was booked for a constitutive meeting, as soon as was at all possible. The people did not want to tarry any longer.

Expectations soared as the meeting approached. The meeting fell on the First Sunday in Lent. The text for the service was on Jesus, Who overcomes temptations, and on the other hand, about people who fell into them. These proved to be very thought-provoking for the congregation. We need our Saviour every day.

After the divine service, the sanctuary was rearranged for the constitutive meeting. The congregants took their coffee in an atmosphere of growing expectation. The 15-minute break felt as if it went on forever. When everyone was ready to begin the meeting, nearly 20 participants slowly glided into the sanctuary. The chairperson called the meeting to order. Soon the choice of names was taken up. Three suggestions were put forward, with seconding speeches for each. A decision was reached to have two rounds of voting. The voting was interesting. Clearly one of the three gained few supporters, the other two having similar backing. After a moment of prayer, the second round was convincing, as all votes went to the name chosen, Our Savior Lutheran Congregation. We glanced at each other slightly in astonishment. It was easy to continue from there onwards.

The rules of the congregation, the election of the Church Council, the call of the pastor, and other necessities were decided upon rapidly. The founding members signed the charter. A new congregation was born! Thanks be to God! “He has made everything beautiful in its time. He has also set eternity in the human heart.”

text: Ulla Sipola (Keminmaa)