Parish visit to Estonia experiences national dancing and singing festival

Members of the Benefice of West Malling and Offham have returned from a recent visit to their linked parishes in Estonia, singing and dancing, as their trip coincided with a major cultural festival in the country.

Laulupidu in Estonia, is a singing and dancing festival which takes place once every five years in Tallinn.

For the Estonians, it’s an enormously important cultural touchstone which speaks of their sense of national identity but also is loaded with a sense of freedom from oppression and hope for the future, following the collapse of Soviet Russia in the 1990s.

The Diocese of Rochester enjoys a number over overseas companion diocesan links, including with Kondoa and Mpwapwa in Tanzania, Harare in Zimbabwe and an ecumenical partnership with the Evangelical Lutheran Church of Estonia.

The Benefice of West Malling and Offham are linked to St Michael’s Church in Jõhvi and Holy River Church in Pühajõe; a town and small village, just like West Malling and Offham, in the east of Estonia and within an hour’s drive of the Russian border.

Accompanied by their minister, Rev David Green, the Benefice ‘delegation' visited their friends in Jõhvi in order to be part of the Laulupidu celebrations, to worship with the church on Sunday morning and be given something of a guided tour around various other parts of the locality.

For many in the group, it was the first time they had visited Estonia.

This year’s trip was made extra special by the presence of Christians from Germany, Sweden and Finland; Jõhvi has several link partners around Europe and with Laulupidu being such a special time, they had invited each church to send a small group of people to join with them for the festivities.

David Green noted how interesting and encouraging it was to hear of different churches’ stories, successes and failures:

“What was most noticeable to me was how the challenges we face are so similar. The contexts and circumstances have clear differences but the basic challenges of how we engage with children and young people, how we to witness to Christ in a public square that is both multi-cultural but also occasionally hostile, are challenges felt across Europe.

"It was heartening to know we’re not alone in such challenges but also heartening to hear the different churches promise to pray for one another and offer one another a sense of collegiality and fellowship in our respective contexts and ministries.”

The next Laulupidu will take place in 2024 and David encouraged Rochester Diocese churches to start thinking now. “It really is something of which I’ve never really seen the like. A truly unique world experience."

If you are interested in finding out more about how to creating a parish overseas link please contact the Overseas Link Coordinator for the Diocese, Mike Fawcett on: coordinator.cdsg@gmail.com or visit: www.rochester.anglican.org/mission/overseas-partnerships/overseas-links.php

 




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