The BWC group bid an emotional farewell to the people of Voronezh and stepped back on the train, which was almost like stepping back several decades to the sleeping berths in a movie like Murder on the Orient Express. The Russian countryside rolled pat as we slept, and we awoke back in Moscow.
The day was spent at the Way of Salvation UMC with the Rev. Elena Kotelkina, superintendent of the Moscow North District, and pastors and laity of the Moscow churches.
After the bold and pioneering ministry of Voronezh, the spirit of Moscow was subdued. In recent years, six of the 12 United Methodist churches have closed. The reasons are varied, but, Kotelkina attributes the decline, in large part, to the pervasive influence of the Russian Orthodox church, which places significant roadblocks in the path of Protestants seeking to do ministry in Russia.
Kotelkina believes it is only a “heart to heart” approach that will bring people into church.
She has great hopes in pastors like the Rev. Alexander Bogdanev, whose name literally mean “gift from God.” As pastor of Sulanita church, which meets in his apartment, Bogdanev receives no salary. The churches of the Moscow district do not have partnership relationships to provide such assistance.
Bodanev explains that his mother was a pastor and he feels called to care for his mission field. “Our vision,” he said, “is to be a vision community that can
change the society. That is a prayer.”