Russia Day 5 – Partners in Voronezh

United Methodists from the Black Soil District met the group as the train pulled into Voronezh, 400 miles southeast of Moscow.

Two years ago, the Baltimore-Washington Conference entered into a partnership with the Central Black Soil District, which has 11 churches, which range in size from 4 people to 50.

United Methodists in Russia, said the Rev. Charles Harrell chair of the BWC’s Russian Initiative, are breaking with the traditions of the Russian Orthodox Church, which tends to view religion as centered around the liturgy and a sacred place. United Methodists are introducing a church that is about relationship with Christ and one another. The idea that the church is its people is new.

The Rev. Igor Volovodav, the Black Soil superintendent, welcomed the group with prayer as they traveled to Camp Voronezh, a United Methodist facility in the woods by a riverside.

In a gazebo under the trees, Volovodov shared his hopes that the churches of the Baltimore-Washington Conference will enter with meaningful spiritual partnership with the churches of his district. “I believe God is at work through personal connections,” he said.

The BWC will be working to provide spiritual and financial support to grow churches in Russia, developing a program for leadership training and create and support ministries involving youth, children, and social justice issues.

That afternoon, Russian and English voices blended together in conversations and for the doxology, which was sung before dinner for grace. As the day drew to a close, the pastors of eight Black Soil churches joined those from the BWC in celebrating Communion and they joined, with the Rev. Irina Mitina, in a common “hallelujah.”

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