The Midlands congregation began in 1947, at the time when Latvian exiles were starting to come to England. Most of the Latvian immigrants in the Midlands were employed in the agricultural sphere and these included the Rev. E. Sarkanbardis. The Midlands congregation was officially founded on 28 July 1948. At first Rev. E. Sarkanbārdis combined his work as pastor to the new congregation with his agricultural work, but from 1949. onwards he devoted all his time to his pastoral work. Rev. E. Sarkanbārdis served the congregation until 1957, but after he retired as pastor, Dean E. Bergs ministered to the congregation as its vicar.
In July 1958, Juris Jurģis, who had only just completed his theological studies at Oxford University, was called to serve as pastor in the congregation. At the beginning of 1959, he was ordained and inducted as minister of the Midlands congregation. As time went on, the Midlands congregation grew to be one of the largest of our Church’s communities in England.
In 1970. the congregation acquired as its property a building in Leicester, which earlier had belonged to the Lutheran Council of Great Britain. Church services and other meetings can be held in rooms on its ground floor, while the upper floor has a flat for the pastor’s use.
Dean Juris Jurģis, when he reached the age of 80, wanted to embark on a well-deserved retirement, but his wish was granted only a year later, when on 1 May 2008, Rev. Viesturs Vāvere took over as pastor of the congregation.
It is characteristic of the congregation that it does not have a single centre, but it includes various different communities, who work together, sharing the work equally. At the moment there are four such communities - the small congregations in Birmingham, Coventry, Leicester and Straumēni. In serving this widely scattered parish, the pastor has to spend a great deal of time travelling, covering up to 15-20.000 miles in a year. In addition to preaching the Word of God in church, a great deal of time is still devoted to visiting parishioners at home. Much of the work of building up the congregation is also due of course to the extremely active leading members of the congregation.
Photocopy of the Congregation Messenger and Latvian Archbishop Grinberg’s message to participants in the Latvian Song Festival in Leicester, June 1950, from early congregational publication of Midlands Congregation.
Dear Song Festival Committee, Singers and Listeners!
As I cannot be with you at the Song Festival or greet you in person, let me send you a greeting on this great festive day in the words of David’s psalm 98:
“Sing unto the Lord a new song, for He hath done marvellous things !”
God gives each nation a blessing, that gives it the strength not to perish. To our nation he has given song, so that our people are a nation of singers, who have put all their experiences – both sad and happy – into their songs. And it is of our people that their folk song sings:
I was born singing, I grew up singing,
Singing I lived out my life,
And singing my soul will enter
The garden of the children of God.
A mother sings her child a lullaby, in which the baby asks its mother:
Sew me a wee shirt, mother,
With nine little stiches,
With every ninth stitch,
Sew in a wise word.
In the old days, Latvians sang going to work and coming home from work; there were songs that men sang going off to war and that their sisters sang waiting for them to return. Songs were sung even at times of deep sorrow………