The church by the name “Prieka Vests” was registered in September, 14th, 1990 by the Executive Committee of the Moscow District of Riga after it had already been functioning for some time under the leadership of its pastor Arnis Silis. However, the prerequisites for the establishment of the church had been there for tens of years before it appeared with such a name. Its roots are found in the first Christian awakening in Latvia.
The majority of people who participated in the founding of “Prieka Vests” before that were taking care of their spiritual life in the Baptist church “Golgata”. I want to emphasize that they were not passive attendants of the church but its ministers and responsible members. “Golgata” church that I was attending together with my parents since my childhood and where my father was a board member had always been known for its sincere simplicity and true spirit of seeking God.
This is how the events are described by Arnis Silis who in 1985 was appointed the pastor of “Golgata” church by the Union of Baptist churches after the previous pastor Eduards Strelis laid down his pastorate:
Golgata Baptist church” being a member of the Union of Baptist churches, in the beginning belonged to the II Union of Baptist churches known for its spiritual activities since the time when its pastor was William Fetler. This spiritual activity and life was obvious in 1985, too, when I started to pastor the church.
The national awakening had its impact on Christian churches. Therefore as a church pastor without putting obstacles I supported and promoted the longing and striving of church members for spiritual freedom and outpouring of the Holy Spirit in our church and nation. I must say that regardless of human will a very strong spirit of prayer and seeking God had already been poured out over the more active members of the church. And together with the older church members who still remembered the proclamation of the State of Latvia in 1918 we chose to go this way – the way of spiritual freedom.
As a result of actively seeking God we witnessed inflow of people in the church. They started coming from all regions of Latvia, from different churches and denominations. We proclaimed the Word of God with great joy and enthusiasm and encouraged the people to remain in prayer and ministry to God, as well as interceded for people. We experienced many testimonies about miraculously answered prayers. The church became more and more famous. After some time people started coming who were sent by medics that were convinced of the power of intercession.
People’s excitement, joy, and gratitude to God kept growing, as we experienced many God’s blessings. But this active ministry caused some changes in the order and process of church services. They did not fully comply with the conservative order of services in Baptist churches of that time (1987–1990).
Pastors from other churches also came to watch what was happening and how God’s promises were coming true. Just like it was in the times of Acts the believers started to come together in home meetings (Acts 2:46) and prayer groups in other churches, too. I think these informal meetings were the true maintainers of the spiritual life. Some pastors did not attend these home meetings, not because they were undesirable there but because their view on the religious life often was reduced to church building and maintenance of traditions while church members were seeking God for help and support. As a witness of these events I can claim that miraculous interventions in seemingly hopeless situations were not rare, especially in these informal meetings.”
I want to declare firmly that none of the people who were involved in those events, including me, my wife, our parents, and church ministers who were all active members of the Baptist church was purposefully directing the events towards the establishment of a new church. With full responsibility I say that if anyone at that time had expressed a thought about establishing a new church, he/she would have encountered stern denying attitude.
We loved our church. We had our church building we took care of. We had invested our time, strength, finances, life in it. We were content with being Baptists because the majority of us had been Baptists for several generations. We did not want to change our denomination. For days we were praying and fasting about our church, the Baptist Union, and our nation.
Recalling those days with our confreres we still have fresh feelings and a conviction that further events were not depending on us; it was like a ‘destiny’, the only right way. Partially it was caused by lack of understanding from our “brothers by faith” and the following actions (which we had forgiven and agreed to never mention again). Of course, it was intensified by our fiery desire to follow God and not to betray the precious experiences God had given us whatever it might take.
If now, 20 years later, we would try to make a thorough analysis of the reasons which forced us leave our church (many of the people had been serving in the church for about 30 years) today those would seem insignificant matters. The arguments which served as reasons for expelling us, like clapping hands, loud praise and worship, rhythm of songs which did not correspond to church atmosphere, praying for people, “we, Baptists, do not do it like this”, “no exceptions are allowed”, “the origin of miracles is uncertain therefore they are dangerous and unnecessary” – today have lost their weight. The things we were persecuted for and called sectarians today are practiced in many denominations both in official services and informal meetings. But at that time they were almost considered a crime.
In reality there was no choice. Could we deny believing what was written in the Bible and what we had experienced ourselves? In such a situation, of course, there was only one logical answer. Thus more than 100 people which were 70% of church members together with their pastor were forced to leave their dear church, brothers, and denomination.
Pastor Arnis Silis continues: “Unfortunately, part of church members, as well as the leadership of the Baptist Union did not appreciate this yearning for spiritual freedom. I was taken away the rights to continue working as the pastor of the church and together with the majority of church members we left the church building in order to walk our road of seeking God and establish the Christian church “Prieka Vests”. It must be emphasized that no one was urged to leave the church, it was everyone’s personal, deliberate choice.”
Therefore we have the right to think and we think that we are the same Christians as back then. We have the same roots and spiritual heritage; we have never desired anything new and we have not created anything new. We have only strived to be honest towards our conscience and life, not denying the experience of how God has spoken to us and lead us.