Rev Ian Vainikka has been installed as executive officer of the Suomi Conference.
The Suomi Conference was established in 1968 as the result of a meeting between Finnish pastors serving in the Lutheran Church of Australia and LCA officials.
By 1968 a long line of Finnish pastors had already been living and working in Australia, primarily on behalf of the Finnish Lutheran Seamen´s Mission. Their main task was to provide spiritual guidance and help for the many Finnish sailors who visited Australian ports. Many sailors ´jumped ship´ because of the primitive conditions that existed on board.
The main reason for the establishment of Suomi Conference was to help these sailors and thousands of other Finns who streamed into Australia between the 1950s and 1970s assimilate into the congregations and worship life of the LCA.
When former executive officer Rev Jorma Jormakka retired last year, the annual general meeting of the Suomi Conference elected and called Rev Ian Vainikka from Melbourne to serve in the role from 1 January 2015. His term of service is two synodical terms (six years). Terms of reference for the Suomi Conference state: ‘The Executive Officer shall be a pastor of the LCA and shall be responsible to the General Church Council, but in close cooperation with the Executive of Suomi Conference’.
Pastor Ian was installed on 11 January during the Suomi Conference summer camp in Toolangi, near Melbourne. The Finnish congregations (of Brisbane, Sydney, Canberra, Melbourne, Adelaide and Perth) come together once a year for their traditional gathering, which also hosts the Suomi Conference annual general meeting.
Pastor Ian will serve half-time as pastor of the Melbourne Finnish congregation, but in principle his area of work covers the whole of Australia, serving Finns even in remote places.
He arrived in Australia with his parents in the late 1970s, studied theology in Melbourne and later at Luther Seminary, Adelaide. Pastor Ian was ordained in 2001 and served the Maitland parish in South Australia, Nazareth congregation in Woolloongabba, Queensland, and St Johns Southgate in Melbourne.
Risto Soder is editor of Suomi, the Finnish language newspaper in Australia, established in 1926.