Leipzig District – Evangelical Lutheran Church in Saxony, Germany
The Leipzig Connection for the Minneapolis Area Synod began sometime in the 1980s, probably as an outgrowth of Herb Brokering’s pilgrimages to the Lutheran communities of eastern Europe. In those years, when Communist rule kept many of the churches isolated from outside contact, the Leipzig-Minneapolis relationship consisted mainly of visits to Leipzig by groups from the synod.
Following the 1989 change in government, when the provinces of the former German Democratic Republic joined the Federal Republic, known by us as West Germany, our Leipzig connection waned. By 1995 only a few members of the Synod global mission committee were even aware of the former partnership.
In 1998 negotiations were initiated by us to renew the connection, based on shared ministry. In both cities, the Lutheran church faces challenges for evangelism in a secular world, a tradition of liturgical worship in an entertainment culture, and increasing social needs at a time of a reduced governmental role. It was agreed that ministry at all levels—synod, congregations, and agencies—would benefit from mutual contact with corresponding partners in Leipzig.
Beginning in 2002, a variety of groups have visited Leipzig, and they have come to us. This has included areas of education, social ministry, congregational ministry, and especially youth.
Most participants have discovered the value of the Companion Synod Program. Neither side tries to teach the other how ministry ought to be done, nor tries to transplant programs or strategies learned from the other. Instead, youth and adults, lay and clergy in Leipzig and the Minneapolis Area Synod see ministry at home from a new perspective. Also, they are strengthened by the knowledge of colleagues in a distant city, committed to and struggling with the same mission of proclaiming and serving in the name of Jesus.
Elements of Agreement between the Leipzig District and the Minneapolis Area Synod include the following:
- Share in developments of spiritual life, in the celebration of worship services, in pastoral care and parish life, as well as support of theological conversation.
- Provide information about important developments in the church, in social service and in the society, such as Kirchentage, annual assemblies, installations or farewells from church offices, as well as the exchange of delegations at important events.
- Share in broader ecumenical partnerships, which are maintained by congregations or groups of the Leipzig Evangelical Lutheran Church District or the Minneapolis Area Synod.
- Support youth exchanges and nurture existing contacts.
- Provide support for the development of the exchange of pastors and church workers for the purpose of becoming familiar with the other’s situations and manners of work
The Companion Relationship is nurtured and sustained through the work of the Leipzig Companion Synod Program Committee. Assistant to the Bishop Craig Pederson provides staff support.
Building Our Partnership with Leipzig, Germany
2017 will bring the 500th anniversary of the night when Martin Luther posted his “95 theses” on the church door in Wittenberg, ushering in the Reformation of the Christian Church and the eventual formation of our Lutheran Church. Our Synod’s partners in Leipzig will be deeply involved with anniversary events all year. They would like to pair, if possible, Lutheran groups traveling from our synod with Leipzig congregations that could help us get oriented there. So, we ask for your help:
- If a group from your congregation plans to travel to “Lutherland” in the next year and a half, please notify Craig Pederson (firstname.lastname@example.org) in the Synod office by Oct 31.
- when will you travel?
- how many participants do you estimate?
- is there a particular focus in the group (youth, musicians, elders, German speakers)?
- If your congregation would like to learn more about the Reformation or about last year’s clergy exchange with Leipzig, Partnership leaders are available for forums or informational sessions: Rev. Bill Russell for Reformation history (email@example.com), Rev. Morris Wee for the clergy exchange (firstname.lastname@example.org), or Rev. Paul Rogers (email@example.com) for the Leipzig partnership.
2017 will be a great year for learning our Lutheran history and building our Partnership with the Church in Leipzig. We hope you can be part of it!
For the Synod’s Leipzig Partnership Team, Bill Russell and Morris Wee, co-chairs
The first clergy exchange between the Leipzig District and the Minneapolis Area Synod was launched in 2015. Pastor Morris Wee began serving the Sophia Parish in Leipzig in September 2015, and Pastor Helge Voigt began at Christ Church Lutheran in Minneapolis in January, 2016. Both served through July 2016 and have now returned to their home synods. Another exchange is being discussed for 2018 or 2019.