Valters Korālis

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I met Pastor Mārtiņš Urdzi when we were both pastors and spiritual officials of the LELB (Latvian Evangelical Lutheran Church in Latvia). Then I was on the Real Estate and Finance Commission, also on the Presidium. Later, in 2008, my path and that of the LELB diverged – I became Latvia’s first and now only pastor in private practice outside of religious or public organisations. Mārtiņš Urdze, on the other hand, stayed longer in that religious organisation with a naive and at times Don Quixotic idealism and hope, until he began to realise the reality of the personality cult traits of some of the leaders and other less than admirable features of the former religious organisation, so he chose LEBāL (now called LELBP – Latvian Evangelical Lutheran Church in the World).

Meanwhile, I continued and am continuing my work, he is continuing his. Now and then, albeit less often, we kept in touch. Martins was a good interlocutor. Fair-minded, sometimes very stubborn, but determined and full of energy. Not only in talk, but more in action. If we talk and talk, he knew how to listen. This is a skill that few clergy today have. He could definitely be counted among the Latvian intellectuals. Martin did not much like attending theologians’ conferences with a lot of “talking it out”, like being in his “work squad” where he, together with the Saviour Jesus Christ, bowed down to the lowest and most marginalised members of society. As far as I have heard or read, Martin Urdze did not strive for excessive wisdom in his sermons or for revelations of spiritual abstraction, but preached the simplicity of Christ. Moreover, it was not so much in words as in deeds, by his own example.

When I met people from Liepāja, they always regretted what had happened in the “division of property” or ownership dispute between the common church (LELB) and the local congregation, which often resulted in the division of the Latvian Lutheran community. But even in this struggle, Martins remained on the side of the minority, i.e. the local church. If he was really destined to lose, let it be with dignity and peace in the face of incomparable legal and financial superiority. For this reason, he can be counted among the most courageous pastors in Latvia today.

I feel more conservative in many theological and spiritual-practical positions, but I have watched with great admiration for many years the success of Pastor Martins Urdzes in the field of diakonia (spiritual and especially practical care of people). In spite of his success in Kurzeme and in the whole of Latvia, all of us who were his contemporaries or brothers in the ministry (and also sisters in the ministry) could witness with what humility and simplicity he accepted the brightest side of his life – the success of his pastoral work. Not all clergy are able to live out their starry hours with a calm mind…

Pastor Mārtiņš Urdzi was best known in Liepāja. He was a distinctly “working-class” pastor, who had little interest in the “high liturgy” of the church. He celebrated life with those who came to the parish house on weekday evenings to pray or share. And he shared with them. Both with the time entrusted to him by God and with the manifestations of his talent, which I have only sketched a little and mention as an honourable personality and a contemporary of his and all of us. May the people of Liepaja, Kurzeme and the whole of Latvia carry on the best of what he started! Sincerely – Pastor Valters Korālis”

Valters Korālis