Voices from Russia

Sunday, 22 June 2008

The Church Presented a Festival for Tens of Thousands of Kids in the Ukraine

The Baptism of Grand Princess Olga (Part One of the Triptych “Holy Rus“)

Sergei Kirillov

1993

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Why are we noting the 1,020th anniversary of the Baptism of Russia this year? What’s so special about this date? Possibly, the way to find the simple and obvious answer shall be paradoxically complex, but the answer’s there. True, it isn’t so much connected with a concrete date as it is with church and public events and those who initiated them. A shared historical journey and economic collaboration aren’t the reasons for, but rather, the consequences of the unity of Russia and the Ukraine. The baptism of Prince St Vladimir’s realm became the basis for the spiritual centre of Kievan Russia. Today, for Russia, the Ukraine, and Byelorussia, this isn’t simply a memory; this is a reality, which must be proclaimed as widely as possible, including in the language of the contemporary youth culture. “The 1,020th anniversary of the Baptism of Russia is a joint church/state celebration in which we send up prayers of thanksgiving to Almighty God for the fact that our motherland was enlightened by Orthodoxy, first, in Kievan Russia, and, then, to the farthest corners of the Russian land”, noted His Holiness Patriarch Aleksei of Moscow and all the Russias. Those working on the various activities of the international public project “The Day of the Baptism of Russia” take these well-spoken words as their guideposts.

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A setting from the liturgy by Bishop Ionafan Yeletskikh of the UOC/MP (a determined foe of the schismatical and Uniate opponents of the Church)

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In 2006, the proposal that the Day of the Baptism of Russia become an annual public holiday in Russia and the Ukraine united well-known people prominent in the fields of culture, business, the church, and the general community. It was such a brilliant and obvious idea that the Presidents of Russia and the Ukraine supported it, as did Patriarch Aleksei of Moscow and all the Russias and Metropolitan Vladimir of Kiev and all the Ukraine, the First Hierarch of the canonical Ukrainian Orthodox Church/MP. The first event of the festival project attracted some 100,000 people. A concert on the Pevcheskom Pole (Singer’s Field) in Kiev was opened by Metropolitan Vladimir of Kiev and all the Ukraine in his office as president of the organising committee of the festival. Amongst the participants were the chorus of the Kievo-Perchersky Lavra, the jazz singer Nino Katamadze, and the rock bands Bratya Karamazovy (Brothers Karamazov) and DDT. In the intermissions between the musical offerings, the crowd was addressed by Academician Pyotr Tolochko, Archpriest Andrei Tkachev, and Deacon Andrei Kuraev. Other festival activities were divine services, the laying of the cornerstone of the Church of Prince St Vladimir, and the blessing of a complex of bath-houses on the banks of the Dnepr River, not far from the Assumption Kievo-Pechersky Lavra.

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“The Baptism of Russia, the Embrace of the Faith by Holy Prince Vladimir, became a turning-point in our civilisation. I wish to draw your attention to that action from which everything began. This celebration should proclaim the message that we possess ancient and common roots, spiritual, historical, and cultural, and all of that’s due to our common baptism in the font of the Dnepr. We desire to unite the efforts of prominent people in cultural life, including contemporary musicians, historians, and clergy around this central objective of our project”, said Yuri Molchanov, deputy chairman of “The Day of the Baptism of Russia”. Molchanov went on to say that “The Day of the Baptism of Russia” is a charitable project. “No commercial or political advertisement of any sort was allowed at any of our festival presentations. We’re staging a large and colourful holiday event, which we hope shall be interesting and well-liked by all who come”. In 2008, the project widened its scope considerably whilst retaining its original form. This first wide-spread celebration of the Day of the Baptism of Russia happened to coincide with the 1,020th anniversary, and, unexpectedly, this date resonated loudly. Many young people saw it in a symbolic sense, for the 1,020th anniversary is a combination of the numbers 1,000 and 20. The present generations in their 20s were too young to participate in the celebrations in 1988 of the Millennium of Russia, so, they wished that the holiday would be repeated for them.

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Deacon Andrei Kuraev (1963- ), great contemporary Orthodox preacher

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The first part of this year’s tour was completed on 29 May in Chernigov. The Russian rock group DDT, the band Bratya Karamazovy from Kiev, and the young rockers of Skay from Ternopol performed in the squares, parks, and stadiums of 18 Ukrainian cities. Along with the rockers, church choruses, folk ensembles, and Orthodox missionaries and preachers appeared. The most-well known Orthodox preacher was Deacon Andrei Kuraev, who accompanied the musicians for the entire trip.

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“We’re trying to combine the word of the preacher with contemporary art”, explained Yuri Molchanov, before the tour began. “The clergy can take advantage of the fact that we can gather a large crowd of people together, so that they can reach them with the word of the Church, which sometimes seems ineffective in the midst of today’s world”. All possible means of contemporary multi-media technology were employed in this missionary effort. All the concerts were opened with a video welcome by Metropolitan Vladimir of Kiev and all the Ukraine, which were transmitted on large monitors on the sides of the stage, and during the intermissions computer animations of the Baptism of Russia were shown. Deacon Andrei Kuraev shared his impressions. “Ten years ago, when I first started to go to rock concerts, of course, many said nothing, but they pointed their fingers at me in church. Oh, there were so many who posted on the Internet about the sorry behaviour of Deacon Andrei.

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Today, my work has the blessing of the church, and, indeed, some of our metropolitans give sermons at rock concerts. Metropolitan Vladimir of Kiev did so at our rehearsals in Kiev last year. During our tour, Metropolitan Nifont of Lutsk, Metropolitan Iriney of Dnepropetrovsk, and Bishop Panteleimon of Ivanovo-Frankovsk preached from our rock stage. In all the other cities, the bishops sent their priests to give a message to the audience at the concert. This means that there are changes happening in the church. In one city, I shared the stage with a local priest, but I said nothing, for it was simple to look from the stage to the audience. We were standing quietly in the corner, and I whispered in his ear, “Father… THIS is your flock”. You know, it seemed to me that he shuddered. Could it be…? This was the first time in his life that he realised that his flock was not only the grannies at services, but all the people in town. Here were young people, perhaps, even with a glass of beer in hand. This change is very important for the church itself. It’s a reshaping of its pastoral and missionary vision, which, I hope, shall result in many clergy going beyond the curtain that separates parish life from the ordinary life of our cities surrounding our churches”.

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Who can restore our memory of the past? This is a difficult question, and not only do historians, politicians, and public figures search for answers, but, the Russian Orthodox Church is also involved in the search for the evidence of the spiritual heritage and history of Rus-Russia. The experience of missionaries shows that any conversation about the past that isn’t reinforced with a firm and obvious connection to the present is never convincing. Preaching is only successful when we turn to the needs and problems of contemporary mankind and answer its questions and incomprehension concerning the spiritual life. This is why we must recognise that the experience gained by the organisers of the 1,020th anniversary of the Baptism of Russia tour is important and relevant.

22 June 2008

Sergei Chapnin

Senior Editor, Tserkovnogo Vestnika (Herald of the Church)

Arkhiereisky Sobor Russkoi Pravoslavnoi Tserkvi 2008

Official website of the Archpastoral Council of the MP 2008

http://www.sobor2008.ru/425299/index.html

 

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