|Russia Initiative event highlights youth|
Andrey Tatchin of Lviv, Ukraine, speaks at a service marking the 100th anniversary
of Methodism in Czarist Russia. UMNS photos by Jan Snider.
By Elliott Wright*
March 13, 2009 | SAN DIEGO (UMNS)
The importance of youth and young adult ministry held center stage
in San Diego at the 2009 consultation of the United Methodist Russia
Fourteen students and young professionals brought a spirit of
newness and a sense of continuity to the March 5-7 event, the 14th such
consultation since The United Methodist Church was reborn in former
"We are at a time of changing generations," said the Rev. Sergei
Nikolaev, president of the United Methodist Theological Seminary in
Moscow. "Young people born into or joining the church are becoming
The denomination in Russia was reactivated almost 20 years ago,
having once had mission work in St. Petersburg and on the far east
coast around Vladivostok. The Russia Initiative includes Ukraine,
Moldova, and Belarus, and is part of the United Methodist episcopal
area of Eurasia. It is sponsored by the United Methodist Board of
Today, the initiative covers 116 United Methodist congregations, all
with indigenous pastoral leadership, according to Bishop Hans Všxby,
leader of the Eurasia Area. The United Methodist seminary currently has
48 students in residential and extension programs. A second seminary
center is located in Almaty, Khazakstan.
Delegation from Russia and Ukraine
A delegation of 27 from Russia and Ukraine and some 140 U.S.
participants attended the consultation, sponsored by the
California-Pacific United Methodist Annual (regional) Conference. The
conference is deeply involved with the United Methodists in the
Four of the young adults at the consultation were from Ukraine, the
others from Russia. They spent a week prior to the meeting as the
guests of San Diego's Foothills United Methodist Church, a congregation
engaged in the Russia Initiative.
A choir composed of singers from Russia, Ukraine and the U.S. performs
during the 2009 consultation of the United Methodist Russia Initiative
in San Diego.
All of the young adults took part in a consultation forum, where
they spoke and answered questions. Two young pastors, the Rev. Natalya
Botova from Samara, Russia, and the Rev. Kira Volkova from Kirov, said
they had been in the church since they were young, having been guided
by family. On the other hand, Anton Kuzmin, a college student from St.
Petersburg, came to the church only last year.
"Some of my friends make jokes about me going to the Methodist
church," said Kuzmin, "but I keep going because going to church changed
my life. My mother, who is Orthodox, did not understand what I was
doing. I finally persuaded her to go with me to church once, and now
she knows what I do on Sundays. I am trying to influence my friends and
my family because they also need to know Jesus Christ."
The panel was moderated by the Rev. Michael Ratliff, an executive
with the Division on Ministries with Young People at the United
Methodist Board of Discipleship, and Elena Kim, director of education
and church development of the Eurasia Area. Ratliff and Kendra Dunbar
of the Board of Global Ministries served as staff for the young adult
Prior to the panel, Ekaterina Pugacheva of St. Petersburg told the
consultation that she sees great promise for successful youth ministry
in Russia because younger people do not have the same hostility to
faith that was common in the communist era. "People are coming to
church through their children," she said, noting that she first went to
a United Methodist church when she was seven years old.
The St. Petersburg District sponsors an annual student forum that each year has an increase of participation, up to 150 in 2008.
The four Ukrainian students said that they came to the small United
Methodist community in Lviv several years ago because they wanted to
learn English, and classes were offered by missionaries. They found the
Methodist spiritual and social way appealing.
"Student ministry is still the heart of the mission in our city," said
Iryna Pyrch. "It is an ecumenical Protestant work, but some of us have
joined The United Methodist Church and are hoping soon to have a church
of our own."
"We are at a time of changing generations," says the Rev. Sergei Nikolaev.
Andrey Tatchin, also from Lviv and enrolled part-time in the Moscow
seminary, spoke at a special service marking the 100th anniversary of
the official registration of Methodism in Czarist Russia. He said that
young people in his culture are looking "to know God with their hearts,
their minds, and their hands."
The anniversary year also marks the 120th year since the first
Methodist church opened in Czarist Russia, in present-day Lithuania. A
new book on the history of Methodism in Russia from 1889 through 1931
was unveiled at the consultation, and its author, the Rev. S T
Kimbrough, gave a talk on this history at the anniversary service. The
book is published by the United Methodist Commission on Archives and
A consultation highlight was a presentation on the introduction into
Eurasian United Methodism of The Upper Room, a daily devotional guide
and the Walk to Emmaus, an experience in spiritual growth. Both are
ministries of the Board of Discipleship.
In his report on the church in Eurasia, Všxby reviewed financial
challenges caused by global economic conditions and declining
contributions from U.S. churches. He said that Russian congregations
are trying to become more self-sufficient, and he forecast positive
outcomes for the church despite a weaker economy.
Information on the Russia Initiative can be obtained by contacting the Rev. James Athearn at firstname.lastname@example.org or Vladimir Shaporenko at email@example.com.
*Wright is the information officer of the United Methodist Board of Global Ministries
News media contact: Linda Bloom, New York, (646) 369-3759 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
Bishop Hans Vaxby: “We are not a big church in Russia.”
Dr. S.T. Kimbrough, Jr.: “What they accomplished in that short period of time was phenomenal.”
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Nikolaev heads Moscow United Methodist seminary
Russia Initiative emphasizes ministry with young people
Board of Global Ministries
Board of Discipleship
United Methodist Church in Eurasia