The first Latvian women preachers, although not ordained, appeared in the 18th century Brethren parishes.
03.10.2010/ Valdis Tēraudkalns, Dr.Phil. “The road to Lutheran women’s ordination in Latvia”, Univ. of Latvia Faculty of Theology publication Ceļš nr. 57 (Klints, 2006).
The first Latvian women preachers, although not ordained, appeared in the 18th century Brethren parishes. The Brethren parishes of the Movement of the Bohemian Brotherhood (Unitas Fratrus) – Hernhutters, founded in 1727 by Count Nikolai Ludvig von Zinzendorf, were an offshoot of the Pietism Movement. Pietism was a renewal movement in German Lutherism that, in contrast to orthodox confessionalism, wanted to give room to subjectivism, the confession of individual faith and to encourage the personal contribution of the parish members to the life of the Church./1
Women preachers in Hernhutism
Women as preachers in Hernhutism are a consequence of N. Zinzendorf’s theology where the Holy Spirit is addressed in the female gender and looked upon as Mother. It is interesting that as an example of the activity of the Holy Spirit N. Zinzendorf mentioned Anna Niemann, who in 1730 was elected as an elder and as the leader of the unmarried women. And she remained in this ministry until she married Zinzendorf in 1756. When she took part in services of women’s ordination, she wore a purple gown that traditionally symbolizes the ministry of bishops.
The founder of Hernhutism also taught that everyone’s soul is female – that allowed him to substantiate the paradoxical teaching that the only true man is Christ and that all men, just like all women, will be wedded in a “mystical” union with their “eternal wedded friend”./2
Thanks to the popularity of the Brethren movement in the Baltics, as well as the educational reforms during the Swedish times, the educational level of girls already in the 18th century was higher than that in Russian ruled provinces. The education of girls in elementary schools in the provinces of Kurzeme and Vidzeme was a self-evident matter. In the towns and rural villages in the grade schools, elementary schools and in home schools girls had the opportunity to learn reading and writing, catechism and basic mathematics./3
As in other parts of the world, in the Latvian Hernhutter system of “choirs”, each group was differentiated by gender and family status and had its male and female leaders. Lilija Brante, in her book devoted to the Latvian woman, refers to writings found in the archives of the United Fratrus where some German Hernhutter leader gives praising words to the Latvian woman. Brethren workers K. Freitags in the report written at the beginning of the 19th century tells about a festive gathering of daughters in Lintene (near the manor of Korva) where 400 to 500 women gathered on Saturday evenings in order to read spiritual life stories and discuss their own experiences. Then after a short night’s rest, at 2 o’clock in the morning, they were awakened for group singing, prayers and listening to sermons. Although in the 19th century, as a result of the institutionalization of Hernhutism and pressure by the Lutheran Church, these activities gradually faded out, but the tradition of “choir” festivities remained for a long time. Matīss Kaudzīte wrote in the 1870s that in the assembly halls the celebration of “choir” festivals and meeting continued./4
1/ Balodis, A. ”Piētisms un hernhūtiešu kustība” pie „Latvijas un latviešu tautas vēsture” (Kabata, 1990), 113.lpp. / “Pietism and the Hernhutter movement” in “The History of Latvia and the Latvian people” (Kabata, 1990), p. 113.
2/ Tēraudkalns, V. „Ceļš uz luterāņu sieviešu ordināciju Latvijā”, LU TF izdevums „Ceļš” nr. 57/2006, Klints, 34.-35.lpp. / „The road to Lutheran women’s ordination in Latvia”, in Univ. Of Latvia Faculty of Theology publication Ceļš, nr. 57/2006, Klints, pp. 34-35.
3/Korolova, I., Trapenciere, I. „Īss vēsturisks ieskats: daži dati un skaitļi par sievietēm Latvijā pie sast. Trapenciere, I. „Sieviete ceļā” (LZA Filozofijas un socioloģijas institūts, 1992), 236.lpp. / „A brief historical view: a few facts and figures about women in Latvia”, in Trapenciere, I., comp., “Woman on the road”, (Latvian Acad. Of Sciences Institute of Philosophy and Sociology, 1992), p. 236.
4/ Tēraudkalns, V. „Ceļš uz luterāņu sieviešu ordināciju Latvijā”, LU TF izdevums „Ceļš” nr. 57/2006, Klints, 34.-35.lpp. / „The road to Lutheran women’s ordination in Latvia”, Univ. Of Latvia Faculty of Theology publication Ceļš nr. 57/2006, Klints, pp. 34-35.