As CEC General Assembly opens, Tallinn Mayor extends welcome: “Our doors and souls are open”

15 June, 2023

Photo: Albin Hillert/CEC
Photo: Albin Hillert/CEC

Press Release No: 13/23
15 June 2023

As the Conference of European Churches (CEC) officially opened its General Assembly on 15 June, Mihhail Kõlvart, the mayor of Tallinn, Estonia, extended a welcome to CEC delegates and visitors from a wide array of European countries and churches.

“Tallinn has an exceptionally long Christian history—almost 800 years,” reflected Kõlvart. “It is no coincidence that the first schools in Estonia were established in the churches and the monasteries.”

In fact, he added, the earliest surviving Estonian language book is a Lutheran catechism. “Walking around old Tallinn, you can see the spires and domes of beautiful churches that are not just part of our cityscape but a part of the European cultural heritage,” said Kõlvart. “It reminds us of the timelessness of life and the immortality of the soul.”

Christianity has had—and still has—a tremendous influence on Estonian literature, visual arts, and music, noted Kõlvart. The city is also known for the green spaces surrounding it as well as its propensity to reach out and help others.

“In our city, different confessions live together peacefully,” he said. “Our doors and souls are open.”

He concluded with the reflection that, in difficult times, the church is an important source of hope. “Today Ukrainian people need our compassion and communion,” he said.

Archbishop Urmas Viilma from the Estonian Evangelical Lutheran Church—one of the host churches of the assembly—also commented on the beauty of Estonia. “Estonians love nature, which is why they are happy to live in the countryside between forests and bogs,” he said. “Even living in the city, Estonians are people of nature.”

Estonians value freedom in their world view, Viilma added. “We love God—but not organized church as much!” said Viilma, at the same time noting that the Estonian Evangelical Lutheran Church is a founding member of CEC.

CEC President Rev. Christian Krieger thanked the delegates, particularly young people and stewards, for their presence and also extended a special welcome to a visiting delegation from the Orthodox Church of Ukraine, which is in the process of becoming a CEC member.

Krieger also noted the uniqueness of the assembly venue, the Tallinn Creative Hub, which dates to the early 20th century and formerly served as a power plant. The industrial interior—concrete, bricks, and boilers—have been largely preserved yet revamped as a space for gatherings.

“The architects didn’t set out to erase the past—but they used it to make the most of it,” said Krieger.

Rev. Anders Gadegaard, from Evangelical Lutheran Church in Denmark, who served as chair of the Assembly Planning Committee, also noted the special aspect of the venue.

“I hope you enjoy the power plant,” he said. “I hope that it will empower all of us to take firm and wise decisions.”

The CEC General Assembly is taking place from 15-20 June with the theme “Under God’s blessing—shaping the future.”

Among many business matters discussed during the opening plenary were the election of tellers, adoption of the assembly agenda, election of legal advisors, adoption of the assembly Rules of Procedure, and election of assembly moderators.

Acknowledgements were also delivered to the pastoral care team and stewards, who received two rounds of applause from the assembly floor.

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For more information or an interview, please contact:

Naveen Qayyum
Communication Officer
Conference of European Churches
Rue Joseph II, 174 B-1000 Brussels
Tel. +32 486 75 82 36
Twitter: @ceceurope
YouTube: Conference of European Churches
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