SOME FACTS FROM THE HISTORY OF MARIJAMPOLE EVANGELICAL LUTHERAN CONGREGATION
1819 – 1939
1819 is the starting year of Marijampole Evangelical Lutheran congregation when local Evangelics applied for a permission to establish a congregation and built a church. The Warsaw commission complied with the request and it was decided to allot a storehouse that had been built for a military regiment in 1804 or 1805 till the new church was built.
The Evangelics paid 30 gold coins per year. There were several attempts made in order to have the land and the storehouse as a present and at last czar Alexander I signed the papers.
The first members of the congregation council were:
- Karolis Dovydas Trapas, a pharmacist and the owner of the chemist’s
- Kristijonas Setleris, a lead smith
- Jonas Dykas, a shoemaker
- Jonas Krauze, a hatter
In 1829(31) Karl Heinrich Lange was appointed the first pastor of the congregation.
In 1835 Karolis Kaminskis made a project of the new church. It is said that the construction started in 1835 but it lasted till 1841. The church was well seen from all sides and it became an important accent of the northern part of the town.
The Evangelical Lutheran School started its work in 1841. 34 pupils attended it. The establishment of the school coincided with the building of the new church.
In 1842 there were registered 2.997 inhabitants in Marijampole, and 233 of them were Evangelics.
In 1844 there were 199 Evangelics. In 1851 there were 157 people (from 25 families) of the German nationality.
David Bergmann became the second pastor of the congregation in 1849 – 72 (70). The church tower and belfry were designed and built in 1850.
The third pastor of the congregation was Ratke (Radke) but he worked there only for 4 years.
Then Karlas Julius Pastenacis came, and the number of Lutherans reached 3,099. Now three filials of Kalvarija, Seirijai and Vilkaviskis belonged to Marijampole Evangelical Lutheran Congregation.
Ernst Eichelberger was the fifth pastor there from 1894 to 1941. He worked not only for the congregation but also taught religion and German at Rygiskių Jonas gymnasium and Teacher’s seminary.
Services were held both in Lithuanian and German. There was a lack of Lithuanian books. On March 8, 1936 Lithuanian Union department was founded. It stressed the necessity for Lithuanian Evangelics to love their native country and not admire a foreign state. There were about 20 members in the department.
The Evangelical paper “Kelias” expressed joy viewing services in Lithuanian and 3000 members in the congregation in 1939. More and more people came to the service held in Lithuanian. They liked the choir, founded in 1939, military orchestra and sermons by P.Dagys.
According to M.Frelichaite, the member of the congregation, Gustavas Shumanas was the last chairman of the congregation before the war.
1940 – 1984
In 1940 the department of German culture union of Lithuania was in action. Together with the Russian invasion the destruction started. Pastor P.Dagys escaped to Sweden in 1944, later to the USA. Pastor E.Eichelberger left for Klaipeda in 1942 and later for Germany. Part of the congregation members moved to Germany, some were deported to Siberia. The church and its property as well as the land were nationalized. The church was turned into a storehouse of grains, later into a gym. A swimming pool was built next to the church. Primary classes of J.Jablonskis secondary school began working in the pastor’s house.
1984 – 1995
The restoration of the church building started in 1984 with the efforts of the Government. The town intended to have a concerts hall. But after the proclamation of Independence believers wanted to get their properties back. Lidija Narusiene, encouraged by bishop J.Kalvanas, managed to gather Lutherans dispersed in the region. On May 5, 1990 pastor – deacon J.Kalvanas at her residence, held the first service. The Congregation council was elected and it began to take care of the legal registration of the congregation in the local authorities. The council was responsible for the restitution of the former pastor’s house to its owner – the Parish, also a church. There was established a choir, consisting of 15 young people and Ms. Frida Lokomina agreed to become the director of the choir. On the 30th of October 1992 the buildings were returned to the parish at last. So the service was held in the former pastor’s house that is nearby the church. 20 children began to attend Sunday – school. Ms. Onute Kaluskeviciene began to work with the pre – school children and Ms. Liuda Lioranciene – with older children – confirmants. After the reestablishment of the parish the reconstruction of the buildings has stopped. Only the exterior of the building was renovated with the exception of the pastor’s house – it was well – appointed completely. But God is very kind to us – our prayer was heard. He sent brothers and sisters of our faith to us from abroad: Oslo, Norway – Nordberg parish, Germany – Detmold town parish, Bergish Gladbach town parish and from Denmark – Aalborg town parish. We are grateful to the pastor Klaus Fitzner from Blomberg Germany who loves Lithuanian Evangelical Church and helps us to get the main part of the means assigned for the renovation of the church. Gustav Adolf Werk, Evangelische Akademie Hofgeismar, individuale visiting Marijampole helped us very much too. Kurtas Velius, Vanda Habermaz, Adolf Hansen and many others. It is difficult to mention all the names. It is impossible to express in words our hearty gratitude to all who helped the church to revive. We think the best way for expressing our gratitude is the prayer and singing, we all must glorify Jesus Christ in the reconstructed meetinghouse, reopened on July 2, 1995. On 13 December the cross was put up on the tower and the bell – on 21st December.
1996 – 2002
V.Klesevicius has been ordained a pastor on September 7, 1997. At this moment he is a pastor not only in Marijampole parish, but in Virbalis, Vistytis parishes as well.
The adult and children choirs of our church participate in annual Lutheran hymn festivals and accept guests here.
At Advent and during Lent the members of congregation are involved in Bible studies, led by pastor V.Klesevicius.
Young people organize international camps to share their experiences and study the Holy Bible.
Not only young, but and adults people in the parish doing many things in social area helping other people who are in need.
Adults and elderly people from the beginning had all the time not regular meetings, but from 2002 when established adults and elderly people club “Sarma” people meetings became regular and even ecumenical, opened to all town people.
Since 1996 the church has accepted several foreign and local performers of chamber and church music, listened to professional and amateur choirs and poets.
We are not big parish. At this moment we have nearly 200 believers, so our parish have all the time to look for solutions: how to grow up the parish, how and where find money for keeping and repairing church buildings.