Tuesday, August 25, 2009
Last Days in the Baltics
Over the weekend we took our rental car and a good map of the Baltics and went off to see two churches that had paintings by Johann Maddaus over their altars.
The first church was in north central Latvia in a town called Tirza. Charlie had e-mailed with the pastor and he had invited us to their Saturday evening bible study. We attended and were treated like celebrities.
Charlie was asked to talk about himself and his great-grandfather which he did as we sat in a group with the pastor translating. I noticed an inchworm making its way across Charlie's lap as he spoke and gently removed it to my hand. During the bible study of I Corinthians which was entirely in Latvian, I tried to keep my inchworm within the confines of the cover of the Book of Common Prayer--it gave me something to do.
After the bible study, we went into the sanctuary and knelt before the altar for communion. Then, we did what must be universal--coffee and treats put out by the ladies of the church. We heard more stories through translation of the horrors of the Soviet Times. This church was spared the fate of being turned into a factory because the Soviet administrator in their district was kind but the church was used to store fertilizer. What I understood was that the Soviets did not actually close the churches, they taxed them at an extremely high rate and when the taxes could not be paid the churches became the property of the State. Bible study could only legally be conducted in churches and they were closely monitored by KGB. This pastor said that after he first attended church he was no longer allowed to travel.
After the lovely Saturday evening service, we drove up into Estonia for a Sunday service at a church in Paistu where there was another altar painting and another group of believers who have lived through times that I cannot even imagine.
This marked the end of our art tour and our reservation that night was in Otipaa, Estonia, which is the location of a World Cup race in Nordic skiing. We stayed in a guest house that used to be the old Soviet athlete dormitories--can you say ugly? But, it was definitely another experience to add to the mix.
Now, we are back in Riga, Latvia and heading to the airport soon for our flight to Stockholm where my beautiful daughter will meet our plane. She flew in last night and stayed in a hostel at the airport--we will all hop into a rental car and drive to Lake Siljan for a few days of relaxation, conversation and hugging. I can't wait.