By Juhan Palm-Peipman
As in all places across the globe during the past six months, Estonians have been in lockdown commencing March 8, 2020. In Estonia, the numbers who have counted positive compared with the overall death rates bear no comparison with what has happened, for example, in the USA. If it wasn’t for want or need of maximum protection of oneself and others the situation here would probably have become far worse. Though it now seems that very little can protect us from the possible general onslaught of another virus outbreak and further subsequent lockdowns, therefore the need for active prayer and fasting seems very much called for at this crucial moment in our history. In Estonia the lockdown was more of a case of shutdown, although thanks to the general public’s adherence to government policy, restrictions began to be lifted as of May 10, which included granting churches permission to conduct Mother’s Day services.
In spite of all the so-called “positives” which is nowadays another euphemism for expressing a “negative”, the Estonian chapter of the European CEC has felt extremely blessed once again this year to be able to hold its annual summer camp. This is a high point altogether in our annual church life, and this time there was cause for celebration as we came together for the twentieth annual Summer camp which, in North-European terms is an all too brief but much awaited time of year. The weather was just splendid and the hot sun was an abundance! Due to our geographical location, Estonia is fortunate to experience midsummer nights as we did this year at Saaremaa where the sun did not set even at night.
Our program seems to have taken on a very natural flow and structure; many would credit this to our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ. And yes it is wonderful when a camp has a flow of its own that is in accord and under the stewardship of God Almighty. We had moments of entertainment by way of round table discussions, an open challenge Jeopardy style quiz which included three biblically strong-minded teams, and this year our overall theme had to do with caring for the creation.
In April this year, the Estonian Council of Churches held a much-needed conference at the now famous Arvo Pärt Centre located outside of Tallinn, the capital of Estonia. In this beautiful natural and protected lush green forest environment there took place a much needed discussion of how our various Churches in Estonia can better contribute to protection of the creation/environment. This theme kept recurring during our camp, and some very positive feedback by participants has enabled our small but significant church to be a useful beacon of light amidst this very significant challenge facing us all in the future.
Although the whole world has been locked down, we were very blessed by the special opportunity of fellowship with our brothers and sisters from the ICCEC around the world. Our Patriarh Craig Bates, archbishop Ricardo and mrs Nemia Alcaraz from Kalibo, Philipines, bishop Elmer Belmonte from Madrid and a very special friends of CEC Estonia – Fr Dana and mrs Edye Jackson from London, also Miguel and Fae Bautista and HOST Paris were able to send a short video greetings to remind us that we are a part of something bigger.
Also we were delighted to hear addresses by two local ministers living on the island of Saaremaa, the location of our summer camp. We are pleased that here in Estonia there is a healthy sense of spiritual ecumenism. Our first guest was pastor Margus Mäemets, pastor of the Siion (Zion) Baptist Church, Kuressaare and our other guest was the Bishop of the Pentecostal Church of Estonia, Alur Õunpuu.
The small island Saaremaa itself has largely been protected from the general winds of change and also from human intervention, as can be witnessed by the much loved old houses and gardens one sees while driving on the way to the campsite, some 20 miles outside of the famous old historical town of Kuressaare. One of these ministers, Pentecostal pastor Alur Õunpuu literally ministered to us prophetically, with a word that included certain growth in our church during the next 5-10 years. This was, of course, a great source of inspiration, and we trust and pray that continuing prayer by many people around the world, as well as inspired leadership would bring this prophecy to bear fruit in the life of CEC Estonia.
There is always a certain place for worship at our camp, with morning and evening prayers sustaining us in addition to well cooked food, but the mainstay of our communal worship is and remains our exceptional time of worship around the table of the Lord. This time is always filled with uplifting songs, for which thanks goes to the Eriste family youth and Kaido Kikkas and also Father Thomas Eriste and his committed wife Regyta, without whom the success of any camp would not be possible. Also we were very blessed to have our acolyte Juhan Palm-Pepman serving us with word and music.
In conclusion, we wish to express our gratitude to our National Broadcaster ETV who took it upon herself to broadcast during lockdown ten morning TV prayer services, where the Estonian Charismatic Episcopal Church was a participant on 27.03.2020. We are sure the Lord has touched the hearts of many who tuned into these Sunday times of prayer, and may this and every other work unto God be a continuing source of glory for all who have found their place in His everlasting Kingdom.
Anno Domini 2020.
Juhan Palm-Peipman was born in Australia (1958) and has lived in Estonia with his family since 2001. Juhan plays viola in the Estonian NSO and actively participates in the life of CEC of Estonia which he joined in November 2019.