About This Blog

This is my travel journal chronicling my 2011 tour of Siberia, visiting with our Russian Lutheran brethren in the Siberian Evangelical Lutheran Church. Hopefully and God willing, there will be future adventures for me there.

The title is based on a remarkable book (that I actually read after returning home from Russia) called Travels in Siberia by Ian Frazier. I found much of his writings to mirror my experiences as an American in Siberia - though Mr. Frazier has made many more trips and experienced many more things than I did - not to mention that he is a better writer. At least for now. Practice makes perfect! Frazier's book (here is a review) is also an interesting look at Russian history and gives an overview of the past writings of American travelers to Siberia. I'm humbled to be yet one more.

I hope that readers of TILS vicariously travel with me and enjoy what I have posted. I hope that it provides a small window into the life and work of the pastors and laity of Siberian Lutheranism (and their extraordinary history) and Russian culture in general.

It is also my hope that readers will: 1) Pray for our Christian brothers and sisters in Russia, 2) Support the outstanding missionary work of the Siberian Lutheran Mission Society, and consider sponsoring a Siberian congregation, 3) Consider visiting Russia for themselves, 4) Support the work of the faithful LCMS pastor Rev. Prof. Alan Ludwig, who has taught at the Lutheran Theological Seminary at Novosibirsk for many years and has much of interest to say from his perspective, and 5) Read Ian Frazier's wonderful book
Travels in Siberia (which by the way is available on Nook and Kindle for $9.99)!

Of course, a disclaimer is in order: Ian Frazier has never endorsed this blog, nor have I ever met him or communicated with him. I thoroughly enjoyed his book, however, and am playing with his title for the title of my blog. However, Mr. Frazier, if you're out there - I would love to hear from you some time! I grew up in Cuyahoga Falls - and for some reason, Siberia seems to attract people born in Ohio who feel compelled to write about it. I really did enjoy your book, and I hope you are pleased by my reference to it.

One other disclaimer: other than being a supporter of the Siberian Lutheran Mission Society, I'm not affiliated with SLMS. The material on this blog is mine, and I take sole responsibility for it.

Note: Since I arranged this blog chronologically - which is backward from the way blogs usually work - the buttons at the end that say "Newer Post" and "Older Post" are reversed - just as the "hot" and "cold" water taps are often reversed from the way we're used to them in the states. In other words, if you want to read the next day's installment, click "Older Post" instead of "Newer Post." Just consider this another delightful quirkiness of an American writing about Siberia.

Большое спасибо! Thank you very much!

2011 Journal - Day 13 - July 9

Father Alexei lectures at the Seminary auditorium

  • Novosibirsk

I slept well and woke up a little late.

Father Pavel came to his office.  He made us coffee - not instant.  He has a real coffee maker in his office.  We had a delightful conversation laden with
jokes and humorous observations about life.  We discussed the American fascination with superlatives - how we are fixated on being the best, the fastest, the richest, the biggest - in everything.  We had a laugh about American "humility."

We went to Matins in the church, and headed back to the auditorium for more lectures.  Father Alexey jumped right into his lecture at 10:30 am without English translation.  I have no clue what he is saying.  But he is relaxed in his delivery, confident, fielding questions well.  He has a professorial air about him - not arrogant in the least, and yet authoritative.

The audience is not large, but they listen intently.  Many of them are women.  The seminarians are away for the summer.

The leaders of the SELC are truly pioneers of post-Communist Russian Christianity.  They are young and will likely be around for decades, guiding the church in a solidly confessional direction in the face of intense pressure to yield to outside influences.  They have a sense of Lutheran and catholic identity that is both Biblical and comfortable in their own culture.  They have resisted attempts from outsiders to impose either American or European models of church culture upon them.  They avoid both American-style polity and European-style theological liberalism.

Alexey told me yesterday that he has never conducted a funeral.  At St. Andrew's, there are more baptisms and confirmations.  There are some older members, but by far, most of the parishioners are young.

Although these summer seminars have been greatly scaled back as the economy has impacted financial support from abroad, the are still financially strapped.  They are waiting on $15,000 of pledged funds to become available - money that is paying for our expenses - such as our meals, train transportation, and hotel lodging.  Dan and I paid for our own airline tickets to and from Russia as well as our air travel within the Russian Federation.  The funds should have been here by now but have not arrived.  Although our hosts do not want us to be worried about it, we can tell they are concerned.  They are moving budget moneys here and there to cover the shortfall.  I wish I could help somehow.

Father Pavel is hoping to bring us to his mother's dacha.  She grows vegetables there.  He would like to have a little picnic and grill up some shashlik.  Father Pavel is very kind and is a gracious host.  It depends on our weather and on our schedule.  It is rainy and gloomy today - which is unusual so far for this trip.

Siberians are not "morning people" - at least in my experience.  They tend to schedule and start activities rather late by American standards.  And like Southerners - especially New Orleanians - they are not sticklers for time.  They typically get things underway a little late - which makes me feel right at home.  I am also not a "morning person" myself.

Kevin Walker is here.  We have a few mutual friends - and he is highly respected.  I do remember seeing him at seminary, although I don't think I ever met him.  He has an M.Div. degree from Fort Wayne, but didn't take a call.  He is from Milwaukee but has lived in Russia for several years now.  he is adept at languages and is working on some projects to translate German theological works into Russian.  He is very personable, though of quiet temperament.  I very much enjoy speaking with him.

Dan lectured first, and I lectured after lunch, from 2:00 - 3:00 pm.  I'm more comfortable speaking with a translator.  Fr. Alexey is in a good rhythm.  I finished my historical overview and covered articles 1 to 8 and 14 before my time ran out.  I may or may not have another hour tomorrow.  If so, I'll probably quickly cover articles 9 to 11, and maybe 15, 21, or possibly a look at 22-28.

Lunch was typical and brought to us in small plastic containers.  It consisted of a salad (cucumbers, tomatoes, and spices), a soup (okroshka), rice or potatoes, and a meat dish - a small piece of chicken or pork, mildly spiced - and of course tea.

After Pavel's afternoon lecture on the new (but not really improved) Russian Bible translation, we break for Vespers in the church.

Father Pavel had asked me earlier about Luther's reaction to the variata (which were Philip Melanchthon's unauthorized amendments to the Augsburg Confession), and I found something for him in Bente's historical introduction found in the Concordia Triglotta.  It seems that the records on this topic are scant.

During the break, Dan presented Olga (Netaeva) with her gift of peanut butter (actually, a peanut butter and jelly combo that is unavailable in Novosibirsk).  I gave Olga the little card holder with the fleur-de-lis.  She seemed to enjoy receiving our gifts.

We reconvene in the auditorium for a final opportunity for questions.  Dan updated everyone about his family (whom many in the audience had met) and I was asked questions about our parish, New Orleans, and Hurricane Katrina.

Father Daniel, Father Alexey, Olga (Suhinina) and I chat for a while.  Then Dan and I meet up with the bishop and spend some time chatting.  Dan and I then go on a walk to buy some ice cream.  The local kiosk is closed, so we head to the supermarket.

I buy batteries and a Coke.  In a rare display of unfriendliness, the clerk is surely and impatient.  She is offended when I try to hand her coins in payment - as this is not the custom.  Money is to be placed on a small plastic tray - not handed to the clerk.

We walk back to the seminary, dodging the puddles in the pocked-up sidewalk.  We have a good discussion about pastoral practice.  Back at the sem, I do some journalling and wind down for bed.

Here is a link to all of my pictures of Day Thirteen.

Theological study at the Novosibirsk Seminary

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