Pastor Stephan Arras shares more about the Lutheran Church in Ireland in the next blog highlighting more about the member churches of ICC.
What is the deepest belief of the members of the Lutheran Church in Ireland?
Marked by his thesis in 1517 Martin Luther rediscovered the theology of freedom: No good work needs to be done to get God’s grace. It is God who sets us free by grace alone. Good works are following the gift of this grace. This theology comes from Paul in the New Testament and through Jesus Christ, who died and was resurrected for us. However, the Old Testament and with it the Jewish faith are recognised in the Lutheran believe as well. The good relationship to the Jews and other faith traditions shows that Lutherans of today overcame several dark aspects of Luther’s theology. With many other churches we share the hope God is leading the people to justice and peace, including the integrity of creation.
A brief glimpse into the history
More than 300 years ago the first Lutheran Church was founded in Dublin. In 1725 a Church was built in Poolbeg street, but was burnt down and abandoned in the mid 19th century. In the pre–war 20th century a new beginning took place for a few years, cut off by WW2. After the war an increasing number of German people moved to Ireland. The Lutheran World Federation and the EKD (Evangelische Kirche in Deutschland) recognised this and a new congregation started in 1954. The Church of Ireland offered St. Finian’s Church on a 99–year lease and the adjacent house could be bought. It was converted into the Luther House for meetings and gatherings, until finally after several attempts the new Lutherhaus could be built in 2013. As a “Lutheran hub” we share our church with the Latvian Lutheran Church Abroad, with the Polish Lutherans and from time to time with a Swedish and Finnish congregation.
The structure of Lutheran church life in Ireland
Approximately half of the members of the Lutheran Church in Ireland are living in the greater Dublin area, the other half is scattered the whole island of Ireland, including the North. This led to the tradition of regular services (from monthly to three times a year) in Belfast, Mullingar, Sligo, Galway, Limerick, Killarney/Killorglin, Midleton/Cork and New Ross/Wexford. The members of the Lutheran Church in Ireland are not only from German origin but also from Scandinavia, Eastern Europe, the United States, Ireland and other Countries. To include those who are not familiar with German the last Sunday Service of a month in Dublin is held in English, as is the Sunday Evening Service on each second Sunday of a month (6pm, SunNight@StFin).
Several groups give the opportunity to meet:
- each Monday morning is German Coffee Morning with coffee (indeed), chats and usually a lecture.
- each Tuesday afternoon: children’s group, led by the parents
- once a month on Wednesday: Women’s group
- every first and third Thursday at 8 pm: Thursday Prayer in Taizé style
- every Friday morning: German Toddler’s Group
- every Friday evening: Gospel Choir (bilingual)
- once a month on Saturdays: Children’s group
- occasionally there are lectures, concerts, special gatherings, international meetings.
The Lutheran Church in Ireland has only one paid staff member, the Pastor who has to be a Pastor from one of the German Protestant Churches. Four people are ordained for non–stipendiary ministry, including the sacraments. Volunteers run children’s services, children’s groups, the Christmas Bazar, the women’s group, the finances and other activities. The Church Council (eight members of the Church and the Pastor) is the leading body; the three presidents of the annual general assembly are the overseer.
A word to the money: the Lutheran Church in Ireland stands on its own feet and lives from the giving of members and friends and from a small grant from the EKD. This means that the financial situation is always tight, especially when it comes to projects like the urgent refurbishment of the church roof.
What is typical for a Lutheran Worship Service?
God is talking to us through lessons from the Bible and through a homily. God is sharing communion with us through Holy Communion. For several years we form a large circle, including the altar, to receive bread and wine (or grape juice). The faithful are responding by singing hymns (on a Sunday service usually we have six hymns) and praying. The Service is an including one: we accept children at the Lord’s table and offer Eucharistic hospitality because we are convinced it is our Lord Jesus Christ who invites all of us to his table.
Is this Church working isolated, in a German bubble?
Not at all! Ecumenism and interfaith dialogue are an important issue for the Lutheran Church. As part of the Dublin Council of Churches, the Irish Council of Churches, the Council of Christian and Jews and the Dublin City Interfaith forum we are embedded in a rich dialogue about faith, beliefs, fellowship and culture. We are happy to host the Ecumenical Lunchtime Prayer every first Tuesday of a month at 1:05 pm and are involved in the annual Walk of Light and the Ecumenical Saint Patrick’s Service on Saint Patrick’s day.
Important partners are the German Embassy, St. Kilian’s German School, the Goethe Institute and the Universities.
A glimpse into future
Hopefully the Lutheran Church in Ireland finds new members: Many young people in Europe abandon their church, many families ask for a baptism or wedding without becoming members. We are working hard to convince more families and individuals to be with us.
Being a German hub remains as a main fact, however there is a demand for having meetings and services in English as well. The path of being an international church might be the right one.
As Christians we trust that we will exist in the future as well if it is God’s will. We carry on our way like the Ethiopian finance minister in Acts 8: “And he went on his way rejoicing.”