Sunday, May 29, 2016

Not in Moscow Exactly

Today I was privileged to have the opportunity to visit the two parishes in the outskirts of Moscow (Подмосковия) where Fr. Sergei Kiselev is Rector, in addition to his work as Rector of Sviblovo and his work with the Orthodox School. This was a very interesting visit and I really learned a lot.

We served Liturgy in Fryasino. Although officially a suburb of Moscow this is a rather large city in and of itself - a bit larger than Ann Arbor. What makes this such an interesting situation is that this is a purely Soviet city. It did not exist before the Revolution. And what this means is that when the Soviet Union fell there was no church here. And the city council was completely full of those who felt that the fall of the Soviet Union was a temporary thing and therefore had zero intention of letting a church be built in their town. They could control only so much though, and there were two people very interested in seeing a church be built there: the Mayor and the doctor who was Director of the local regional medical center. That doctor was Jewish (at least at that time - more on that below). 

The Director of the medical center saw that his patients needed the Church to aid in their healing or their peaceful departure from this life, and thus he allotted space in his hospital for a chapel to be built. The chapel is still there and is named after the Great Martyr and Healer Panteliemon. On Great Feasts and Great Lenten Sundays early Liturgy is served there. But that clearly was not enough for a city of about 250,000. And thus, something had to be done. Since the city council was not budging the doctor dedicated a portion of the land the hospital owned (this was completely within his competency as Director of the hospital) for a church in honor of the Nativity of our Lord. 

But the city council put up every road block they could. Still, Fr. Sergei, the mayor, and the doctor persisted in their work. And the Lord provided the path. Within two years every member of the city council had been voted out of office and those who were more favorably inclined to the project were elected. The church was built and we served Liturgy there today. We taught the parishioners to say "Indeed He is Risen!" and I am rather confident that this was the only parish in Moscow where the Paschal greeting was given in English at the end of the Liturgy this morning! And oh yes - the Director of the Hospital became an Orthodox Christian and died not too long afterwards. The church was not done yet so the funeral had to be held in a secular building. According to witnesses of the event many of his secular colleagues, having arrived at the Orthodox service with quite a bit of discomfort and skepticism, were crossing themselves by the end, and many of them came to give the last kiss to the departed founder of this beautiful temple built in honor of the incarnation of the Son of God for our salvation.

Below please find a few pictures of the church interior. Note please that the the icons you see are mosaics - not frescoes. The plan is to complete the entire interior of the church in mosaics over time. And of course I met someone there who had visited Detroit! The brother of the young assistant priest there has quite good English and he has visited the US and Detroit. The more you travel the more you see what a small world we live in - and how important it is to reach out beyond our local "zone". We think people are going to be so different - and we are always wrong. Of course there are differences: different cultures, different languages, different politics. But in the end there is so much more that connects us - especially those of us who share the Orthodox Faith - than there is that divides us. And there were so many people at the Divine Liturgy this morning that they were standing in the courtyard. Usually there are two chalices from which the faithful partake of Holy Communion on Sundays - one at the usual place and one outside on the front steps. Today we used just one, though, and I estimate about 150 people partook of Holy Communion. The Deacon at this parish works for the Publishing Committee of the Patriarchate. A very interesting, nice young man. He and his wife are expecting their first child. He wants to name the baby Herman in honor of the Elightener of America. His wife likes Paul. Those of you that know me and how I think about these things can probably guess who I supported in this pleasant disagreement. :)

Zdekovo is a village in the outskirts of Moscow where there is a rather large Orthodox temple named in honor of St. Nicholas. This church has existed since the 17th Century, although it fell into disrepair at some time and was restored in the 19th Century. Then the Soviets destroyed the interior and used it for a warehouse. But they didn't rip off the roof, and so it could be restored again and used for the Divine Services. Fr. Sergei started working on this space in the 1990s and although it is not yet complete, Divine Services are held here every Saturday, Sunday, and feast day. This is also the location of the Sviblovo school's summer and winter camps, and there is a small working farm here too. The kids enjoy a rest and some fun when they are at camp, but they work on the farm too, and that is quite a big deal for city children. :) Goats and cows have to be milked, weeds have to be pulled from the gardener, and eventually potatoes and other vegetables and fruits have to be harvested. There are larger plans taking shape for this space too. There is a cemetery on the large piece of land the parish owns there, and they would like to clean that up a bit and make some of the area immediately surrounding the church a cemetery as well. There are a few folks buried there now and it is really quite beautiful. One of the priests that served there once the church was restored to working order, Priest George, is buried there. So too is Fr. Sergei and Matushka Larissa's son Gleb. It is a beautiful and prayerful place. This visit confirmed for me even more that we have the right idea of opening our cemetery as soon as possible at St. Vladimir's. What better place for an Orthodox Christian to be buried than near the church were the Divine Services are held and the departed are commemorated? This is a purely rhetorical question of course - there simply could not be a better place to be buried than near the church.

After visiting Zdekovo we returned to Sviblovo to meet Peter Longan, who will accompany me to Davydovo to visit Fr. Vladimir Klimzo and his camp for children and young adults with special needs. The next report on Blogtushka should be from Davydovo!

Fr. Gregory

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