From the Worldwide Faith News archives

Friends of Estonia group shifts focus to local churches

Date 06 Feb 2001 13:12:19

Feb. 6, 2001  News media contact: Tim Tanton·(615)742-5470·Nashville, Tenn.

By Annette Spence Bender*

KINGSPORT, Tenn. (UMNS) - When "Methodists from around the world" finally
opened and dedicated the Baltic Mission Center last September, many wondered
about the future of Friends of Estonia. 

For the nearly six years that it took to build the mission center, the
group's chief function was to help raise $4.5 million for the building,
which serves as home for Methodist congregations and a seminary in Tallinn,

At the group's fifth annual national meeting, held Jan. 19-20 at Kingsport's
First Broad Street United Methodist Church, the answer was "yes," Friends of
Estonia will go on, said Chairman Earl Greenough. "But the emphasis is
shifting more to the local congregations than the Baltic Mission Center.
Many of us think Estonia might be the key to reaching most of the former
Soviet Union."

Attending the meeting were 65 "Friends" representing annual conferences and
churches in 12 states, as well as officials such as the Rev. Eddie Fox,
director of world evangelism for the World Methodist Council, and Peter
Siegfried of the United Methodist Board of Global Ministries. Friends of
Estonia is a consortium of supporters with no formal membership but a
mailing list of more than 800. 

Gathering under the leadership of a new chairman and with a newly adopted
mission statement, participants heard reports emphasizing building
relationships primarily through Connecting Congregations and sending
Volunteers in Mission (VIM) teams to renovate Methodist properties. 

With most of the Baltic Mission Center's financial goals met - an estimated
$285,000 is still needed to complete a seminary dormitory, soup kitchen,
bookstore, sound booth and youth room - forming partnerships with Estonian
local congregations will become a priority, the group's leaders said.    

"How can we go from just being supporters with deep pockets to really
building longtime, supportive relationships?" asked treasurer Harry Turner
of Kingsport. "We need to expand the Estonian perception of the United
Methodist Church beyond just financial support but something that's for the
greater good."

Succeeding the Rev. John Trundle as Friends chairman, Greenough, a retired
pastor from Gautier, Miss., said this year's meeting was more celebratory
and fellowship-oriented than in years past. 

"Up until the past year, the Baltic Mission Center has consumed most of our
energy and finances," he said in a telephone interview. "We were able to
kind of catch our breath. Someone even said it was strange that we had two
worship services, all those Methodist pastors, and didn't even take up an

Other meeting announcements:
·	The group adopted its first-ever mission statement: "To stand
alongside our Estonian brothers and sisters in order to promote the growth
and soul-winning capabilities of the Methodist Church in Estonia."
·	The number of Connecting Congregations - U.S. churches providing
support to Estonian churches through finances, prayer and encouragement -
increased from nine in 2000 to 13 this year. Estonia has 28 Methodist
congregations in all.
·	Eight VIM teams are scheduled to work at Estonian camps and local
churches this summer. Skilled VIM work at the Baltic Mission Center could
save $65,000 to $75,000 of the projected $285,000 needed for completion,
Turner said.
·	Enrollment in the Baltic Methodist Theological Seminary increased
from 77 last year to 102 this year following the introduction of a new
correspondence course. Students come from Estonia, Ukraine, Latvia,
Lithuania and Russia, and represent many denominations, including Methodist,
Baptist, Pentecostal, Lutheran, Charismatic Episcopalian, Messianic Jew,
Union in Christ. Friends of Estonia will seek 13 scholarships for first-year
students, officials said.
·	The Baltic Mission Center is used for a variety of activities by
both Russian- and Estonian-speaking congregations seven days a week,
according to a letter from the Rev. Olav Parnaments, district
superintendent. Plans are under way for a Korean congregation to begin
worshipping there.
·	Participants heard testimonies and messages delivered by graduates
and a current student of Baltic Mission Theological Seminary.
·	Next year's annual meeting is scheduled for Jan. 18-19 at St. Paul's
United Methodist Church in Memphis, Tenn. 
# # #
*Bender is editor of The Call, the newspaper of the United Methodist
Church's Holston Annual Conference.

United Methodist News Service
Photos and stories also available at:

Browse month . . . Browse month (sort by Source) . . . Advanced Search & Browse . . . WFN Home