Jürgen Philipps – Memorial Sermon

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Dear friends of Martin!
Dear companions!

Welcome to the memorial service with prayer for Martin Urdze.

While we are thinking of Martin today, the funeral service is taking place on the same day in Latvia.

God, who introduced himself to us humans as “I am here for you”, his Son Jesus Christ, our brother, and the Holy Spirit, of love and mercy, will accompany us in our remembrance.

We pause in the silence of prayer.

God, we say goodbye to Martin Urdze with heavy hearts and now hand him over into your hands.
God you know our thoughts, you know what moves our heart, you feel our sorrow in our heart.

So many memories run through our minds in these hours and weeks. Memories of many beautiful, happy and exciting hours that we experienced together, but also memories of difficult times that we went through together and you were God by our side.

In spite of all the sadness, there is above all a feeling of great gratitude for the life of a dear person with whom we experienced many things and who gave us much.

God, you have given us a sign of life in your Son Jesus Christ, in his life, in the cross and resurrection, and you have given us a hope, a hope that your love will withstand evil and unite us in a community where we are there for each other. God, you have given us a hope that your love is stronger than death. To your love, God, we entrust our deceased and ask God to be with us too with your comfort.

Words from the 36th Psalm

Lord, your goodness reaches so far
the heavens are
and your truth
as far as the clouds go.

Your righteousness stands like the mountains of God and your justice like the great deep Lord you help people and animals.

For with you God is the source of life and in your light we see the light.

In memory of Martin

Dear companions.

I would now like to set a picture frame for the life of Martin. I would like to give an overview for those of us who were connected to Martin from very different walks of life. Afterwards, together with Olaf Kreitsmann, I hope to hear many memories and stories in small word contributions that you may share with us all.

Come unto me, all ye that labour and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest (Gospel of Matthew, Chapter 11:28).

This word of Jesus is at the centre of Martin’s life and beyond. It accompanies him, it drives him. This word of Jesus gives Martin the unshakeable hope, confidence and strength to bring the good news of God to those who are not on the sunny side of life – to be close to them, to show them respect and to give them self-confidence and the certainty that God is at your side.

It became his life’s dream and reality to found a diaconal church.

His parents had a strong influence on him. His father is pastor for the Latvian congregation in the Rennplatz district. He founded the workshops for the disabled, which today employ over 300 people. He fights tirelessly for the people, he is a blessed stress factor for the head of social affairs in the city of Oldenburg.

Martin grows up in a small block flat in the middle of the community with his brother Peter, who died early, his sister Tabita and his brother Toms.

His mother, a faithful, modest and admirable pastor’s wife, will herself lead a congregation in England as a pastor after her husband’s death.

A deep, self-evident and unobtrusive piety characterises the family and Martin is a loyal lifelong fan of VFB Oldenburg. Martin struggles through his youthful years, rebelling and yet already assuming responsibility for the Latvian congregation in his student days.

After studying theology, he trained as a nurse and worked in this profession for several years. At the beginning of the 1990s, Martin set off for Latvia with the aim of founding a social centre in Latvia with his brothers and sisters, in the midst of the turmoil of a country after its hard-won independence.

After one failure and another, Martin founds a centre for diaconia in Liepaja. He became a pastor in the depressed Kreuzkirche parish.

The dream of a diaconal congregation becomes reality.

He tirelessly gathers people around him, brings people together, uses his international contacts.

Many diaconal services are offered in the rooms of the Kreuzkirche congregation. Many people make use of the work with the homeless and the soup kitchen. The clothing store, free medical care, many self-help groups and the meeting place for the disabled offer help and support.

At Martin’s Bible studies and church services, the people concerned themselves have their say. He listens to people, values their opinions of life and faith in God.

During a visit to the oncological hospital, Martin meets Aija, an art lecturer at the Liepaja Pedagogical College. She brings colour into his life, not only to his spartan flat and their son Ivars.

Aija, the love of his life, is a great conversation and life partner. Intense and happy years follow.

After a good 15 years, Aija dies of cancer, Martin by her side.

Martin continues to fight tirelessly for improvements for the socially disadvantaged. He makes the Diaconal Centre a serious source of ideas and advice and a partner for the city of Liepaja.

The Latvian Ministry of Health and Social Welfare gets to know him.

He fights in a lonely position against a national church and bishop who persist in a fundamentalist understanding of Christian faith and life.

Many people, however, appreciate him as an upright and courageous man who fights for his convictions and does not spare himself.

Lifted up in the love and care of his family and congregation and lifted up in the love of God anyway, as he wrote in one of his last e-mails, he died a few days ago.

And Martin dies in the confidence: My Saviour lives.

A poem by Alfred Lord Tennyson to end my thoughts and memories.

Crossing the sandbank

Sunset, evening star
A clear call for me
And shall there be no crunching of the sandbank.
When I go out to sea

Yet, though moved, the sea seems to sleep,
too full for sound and spray,
When that which came from the boundless expanse (depth)
now returns home again.

Twilight, evening bells
then darkness
and shall there be no farewell mourning
when I leave the ship.

For though from our place of time and place
the tide shall carry me far
I hope to see my pilot face to face,
When I cross the bank

God bless Martin.


Wonderfully sheltered by good powers,
we await with confidence what may come
God is with us in the evening and in the morning
and certainly on every new day.


Jürgen, Oldenburg, 1 May 2021