Review: Lithuanian Pentecostal History

Lithuanian Pentecostal History

Lietuvos Sekmininkų Bažnyčia: Istorine Apybraiza (The Pentecostal Church of Lithuania: Historical Sketch), edited by Rimantas Kupstys, et al. Vilnius, Lithuania: Apyausris, 2002.

Lietuvos Sekmininkų Bažnyčia: Istorine Apybraiza, published in 2002 upon the 90th anniversary of the founding of the Pentecostal church in Lithuania, provides a detailed grassroots account in the Lithuanian language of the development of Pentecostalism across the Baltic nation. The volume was assembled by an editorial committee headed by Rimantas Kupstys, Bishop of the Union of Pentecostal Churches of Lithuania.

The publisher notes the volume is not an exhaustive scientific study. However, this historical sketch is a valuable written account of a national history that, until now, was largely available only in scattered documents or in oral form. The work was based on archival materials, memories of eyewitnesses, published articles, and government documents.

Lietuvos Sekmininkų Bažnyčia begins by tracing Pentecostalism’s roots in the trans-Atlantic revivals of the 18th and 19th centuries, resulting in a significant evangelical and Holiness movement in England and America. The traditional version of Pentecostal origins is retold, identifying Charles Parham and the Azusa Street revival as central to the emerging movement. Thomas Ball Barratt, the Methodist minister from Oslo who received the Pentecostal message while visiting New York in 1906, is commended for, upon his return to Norway, helping to nurture Pentecostal leaders across Europe.

The Pentecostal movement in Lithuania began in the Birzai region, home to the established Evangelical Reformed and Evangelical Lutheran churches. According to this rendering, Pentecostal origins in Lithuania can be traced to the formation in 1912 of a church called The Evangelical Christian Fellowship of Birzai, led by Petras Viederis. In the late 1890s or early 1900s, Viederis was associated with Vikentas Tučas, a preacher in Birzai who taught personal salvation and adult water baptism. Tučas and his small band of followers were ridiculed by members of the region’s dominant churches.

Viederis eventually took a job working on the railroad in Liepoja, Latvia, where he congregated with other believers of “deep faith.” After the Russian czar issued a decree that all persons holding state jobs must belong to the Russian Orthodox Church, Viederis moved to North America, where he associated with an unidentified Pentecostal congregation and was Spirit-baptized. In 1911 he returned to Birzai, but found great scorn for his new beliefs in his boyhood Evangelical Reformed Church. He formed a congregation which, in 1912, he was able to register as an affiliate of the Union of the Evangelical Christian Churches of the Whole Russia, led by I. S. Prochanoff.

Lietuvos Sekmininkų Bažnyčia proceeds to recount the spread of Pentecostalism in the Vilnius region, which began in about 1924 with the ministry of Stanislavas Nedveckis. Nedveckis, a Lithuanian immigrant to New York who was part of Ivan Voronaev’s church, returned to his homeland as a Pentecostal missionary. This volume contains additional congregational histories and testimonies of leaders. The Union of Pentecostal Churches of Lithuania was forced to disband when the Soviet Union took control of Lithuania. Many of the Pentecostal congregations had to register as Baptist churches. In May 1989 the Pentecostal churches withdrew from the USSR Evangelical Christian Baptist Union, and in 1991 the Union of Pentecostal Churches of Lithuania was reestablished. Approximately half of this volume details the expansion of Lithuanian Pentecostalism since 1989.

Lietuvos Sekmininkų Bažnyčia is a valuable contribution to the understanding of the development of Pentecostalism in Lithuania. To aid those unschooled in the Lithuanian language, an English translation in manuscript form has been deposited at the Flower Pentecostal Heritage Center. The stories of believers in this region, long neglected by Pentecostal histories, will be of interest not only to those who lived the history, but to scholars and church leaders worldwide.

Reviewed by Darrin Rodgers

Paperback, 110 pages, illustrated. Available from: Union of Pentecostal Churches of Lithuania, PO Box 2448, LT-09017, Vilnius 51, Lithuania. (email: lithuanianpentecost@gmail.com)

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1 Comment

Filed under Education, Missions, Reviews

One response to “Review: Lithuanian Pentecostal History

  1. rimantas kupstys

    thanks to brother Darell for good presentaion of history of pentecostal movement in Lithuania, soon we will celebrate 100 years of pentecost, we believe that new edition of book about this movement will be published as well.
    Rimantas Kupstys

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