God is Faithful
The Story of Burtnieki Church
Our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ promised that although His Church in this world would experience much tribulation "the gates of hell shall not prevail against it" (Mt 16:18). Burtnieki church and congregation throughout its 800 year history is a testimony to this foundational truth.
On the southeastern shore of Burtnieki lake rises one of the best examples of late gothic and baroque architecture in Vidzeme — the timeworn and picturesque church of Burtnieki. The evangelical Lutheran congregation of Burtnieki is one of the oldest parishes in Northern Latvia, which in 1234 is documented as having its own pastor, Johans Ostens. The stone church, built from 1283 to 1287, was dedicated to the Holy Virgin Mary. Like the phoenix of lore, the church was burnt by fire and war time and again, always to be rebuilt and renewed. Our Lord is the Resurrection and the Life. This is the silent testimony of these stone walls. This is the public confession of the congregation.
The hardest blow came in the 1960’s during the Soviet occupation, when the church was locked and congregation disbanded, leaving the House of God vacant, ransacked and vandalized. By the grace of God, in His timing and by His guidance a small community of believers encouraged by Rev. Guntis Kalme, reclaimed the church and renewed the congregation, making it the first parish to be reestablished in Soviet Latvia, opening the doors for other congregations to follow. The year was 1988, two years before the Soviet Union would fall and Latvia would again be free.
As Christians, we are called by the Spirit to lead where we are, to be the salt and light to those around us. Though our numbers may be small, and our efforts seemingly irrelevant, God the Father abundantly pours out His Holy Spirit, filling the hearts of the faithful with the flame of His love, that we may be faithful witnesses of Christ to an unbelieving world. Jesus says "I have spoken these things to you so that you might have peace in Me. In the world you shall have tribulation, but be of good cheer. I have overcome the world." (Jn 16:33)