We walked with our guide to the church just two short blocks north of the hotel. The streets were “all torn up” so walking was really easier than driving there. A few people, mostly older women, sat in the pews. We looked at the historical displays at the back of the church, and I saw some of the same pictures posted there that the pastor, Vaidas Klesevicius, had shown us the day before. Several pictures showed recent activities involving youth. These were pictures of annual functions of liturgical dance and song that include youth from other Lithuanian Lutheran churches.
While our guide talked with the pastor, we sat in one of the pews. I observed the modern serenity of this structure built between 1835 and 1841. Simple light fixtures brightened the space. A light oak altar with green vestments symbolizing the Trinity season provided the color. No stained glass windows filtered in soft light. I looked at the hymnal and snapped a few pictures.
The service was conducted in Lithuanian except when the pastor announced the page of the liturgy and two hymns in English. I could easily follow along with the Lithuanian words in front of me. The melodies were easily recognizable. The two hymns “Alas and Did My Savior Bleed” and “Savior, When in Dust to Thee” were fairly easy to sing. The sermon was in Lithuanian as were two other hymns. A musical selection was presented during the offering which was taken by a man.
After the service the pastor invited us to stay for coffee so we moved to the adjoining room. Everyone wanted us to go first so we did. One of the ladies attempted to talk to us in English. She said she spoke ”a little bit.” We sat down at a table, and the pastor soon joined us with a folder I did not think I had seen before. He had been collecting, I discovered, copies of birth, marriage, and death records, family trees, and related materials from various families whose ancestors had been members of this church! I knew I had to examine these records carefully and wondered when I could. We had to meet Vilius at the hotel at 11:30, and the pastor had to go to Vistylis for a 1 o’clock service so we departed with the mutual understanding that our schedules might allow us to see him again that evening after 8 o’clock.
We walked back to the hotel dodging potholes of rain and muddy streets left over from the torrential downpour the night before. We quickly reorganized and went to the lobby to meet Vilius at 11:30. We were a bit late. The friendly young woman from the registration desk came over to tell us that our “friend” was running late and that it might be up to 1½ hours before he returned with his car repaired. We settled in to wait knowing that we would be late for the day’s activities: dinner at Regina’s at noon; appointment with Gize/Gizai historian at 3; possible concert at the palace and museum at 6:30; and meeting with the pastor at 8. We still had several villages to find as well.
Shortly after 2, the friendly young woman at the reception desk came over to tell us that Vilius had called the front desk again and said he was on his way. Back through Marijampole, past Gize/Gizai, through Wylkowiszki/Vilkaviskis, past Big Szelwy/Didieji Selviai we flew. We drove once again past the secluded Dydwize Manor, realizing once again how incredibly special our appointment had been on Friday afternoon. There is no way we would have ever gotten in without Vilius and especially Regina having had one of the two deputy directors as her former student and waging her way through the administrative circles to seek permission for our visit.