In memoriam Aarne Kriisk (1944–2015)

Pastor Emeritus Aarne Kriisk passed away in the morning of 31st January 2015.

Aarne Kriisk, who celebrated his 71st birthday last Wednesday, 28 January, was baptised by pastor August Aug, and became a member of the Adventist Church on 3 June 1962. He was ordained to the pastoral ministry on 9 October 1976. Before the ordination he worked as a non-ordained pastor in Haapsalu (1970–1971) and Valga (1972–1976). In 1976 he was commissioned to work in Türi Adventist Church and after that in 1978 in the Tallinn I Church. From 1979–1988 Aarne served the church as the Estonian Conference president, and after that again as a pastor in Tallinn I Church. In 1992 also in Rakvere Church, Aarne was a Conference Secretary from 1998 to 2003 and up to 2009 also a pastor in Tallinn I Church, after which he retired and served as a church elder in Tallinn I Church.

In addition to the work he did in the Estonian Conference, Aarne contributed to reestablishment of the Baltic Union Conference and participated in the process which resulted in Estonian Conference not being part of the Russian Administrative Unit anymore, but the Baltic Union instead. From 1989 (reestablishment of the Baltic Union) up to 1998 Aarne served as a Secretary–Treasurer of the Baltic Union, in 1999 as a Secretary and 2000–2004 as a vice President of the Baltic Union.

As the message about the death of the former pastor and church elder reached the Tallinn I Church during the Sabbath morning sermon, the pastor Ivo Käsk decided not to finish his speech. The congregation paid tribute to the deceased brother by singing together a song about a land, where the death shall be no more.

The President of the Estonian Conference and the pastor of Tallinn I Church Ivo Käsk regarded Aarne as a personal role model: “When I was young and a novice pastor, I often called Aarne to ask him for an advice. Aarne was always ready to listen to the problems and share his experience. Our closer communication subsided for some time.

And when I came to work in Tallinn I Church last autumn, we both were a bit cautious at first — we were from different generations and it felt that we differ a lot from each other if looked from aside. But this fear disappeared during first days of work, and during last months I learned a great deal from my aged fellow traveller. He always made sure that everything would be alright. His last phone call to me was to encourage me and confirm that he would support me in every way.

Aarne was a man whom God had given a special combination of gifts. These kind of people are hard to come by. God gave him the ability to lead, think strategically, teach and preach credibly, make music and create something with his hands. And what is even more seldom — he “sold everything” and dedicated his collection of talents to God’s work!”

Former Baltic Union Conference president Valdis Zilgalvis remembers Aarne Kriisk as a gentle and meek godly man: “Aarne Kriisk was as a great personality. He was a thinker. You could always come to him for an advice. He could be trusted, he was a real friend. He never tried to be in the limelight. He remained in the shadow of others and yet at the same time he clearly understood the nature of the situation. During the Soviet time he put a large investment in the establishment of the Baltic–Belarus Union. Despite his health problems, which he knew how to hide, he participated in the long journeys to visit the church members near and far. Immediately after the fall of the Soviet Union he burned about the joining of the Baltic Union back to its historic home — the Trans-European Division. His heart’s warmth and friendliness remain in our hearts.”

A long–term Bible worker from Tallinn I Church Aino Ormus recalled Aarne with stories from her own life: “When I had been away from the church for 16 years, and started visiting again, Aarne once asked me when meeting on the stairs, “You’re visiting the church now, have you thought about it that you could come back?” I asked if I was allowed to come. Aarne baptised me in July 1979. During the baptismal ceremony he read me Psalm 121, which I often use now when I send people postcards.” Aino said thoughtfully that they’d just had a long talk with Aarne on Thursday. “He came to the church to work every day. There is no place in this house that his hands hadn’t touched.” For Aino an especially warm memory is the call to become a Bible worker, which Aarne had given her the same year 1979 and which for Aino was an answer to her prayers.

Urve Macs, who worked together with Aarne for 15 years, when he’d worked for the Baltic Union, says that Aarne was strict about the work he and others did. “He was very diligent. Everything had to be done properly. We can see it in his own handiwork — how beautiful were the things that came out of his workshop!” Urve remembers Aarne as a kind–hearted adviser and as a person who kept the congregation in his heart. “He tuned the piano here every quarter. He said that in God’s house the music has to have a clean sound. I thank him for everything he has done!”

The elder of Tallinn I Church Rain Siim sees Aarne as a father figure of the church. “His influence on the congregation is very big. A lot of people valued his sermons. Last Sabbath (24 January) Aarne was still preaching. He could give a very deep and wide–ranging speeches. He was my personal role–model. I felt that he respected me. Everything in this house talks about Aarne, there is no thing that he wouldn’t have done for this house. There is a cupboard still in his workshop that hasn’t yet found its place, that has just been completed.”

The member of Tallinn I Church Maia Mang, whom Aarne baptised, said that for her Aarne was a great person and as a father. “He was a spiritual father for me; a big role-model. He didn’t want to stand out but he did everything.”

The message about the death of the church elder touched young people as well. They remember that Aarne was a friendly and helpful person. “He helped everybody who needed it. He built everything and was very active. Very kind.”

The information about his funerals will be given in the near future. Aarne is survived by his son Rainer and the family.