Voronesh Celebrates a Common Spiritual Heritage
Peter the Great is part of the Story
M o s c o w – Inter-confessional highlight of a five-day visit to Voronesh by the ensemble Blagovestie (Proclamation) was a concert on 23 November in the city´s Orthodox seminary. In his talk there to 100 seminary students and professors, the group`s Director Boris Berezhnoi (Moscow) emphasized that his group had come to share the joint spiritual and artistic heritage of all Russians. Being that this 17-year-old ensemble restricts itself to Russian folk instruments, its connections to Russia´s cultural heritage are obvious. “We ourselves also stem from the Orthodox faith,” Berezhnoi stressed. “My parents were Orthodox, and my grandfather was a ministrant in his Orthodox congregation. Today our ceremonies may differ, yet we Baptists and Orthodox are united by the person of Jesus Christ.”
In a word of greeting, the seminary Prorector Nikolai Makeev told his students: “We only know of the Baptists from our books. Yet today we have the rare chance to become acquainted with each other and to feel the spirit of togetherness.” The musicians were overwhelmed by the cordiality of the students. Following the concert, a tour through the seminary and a joint supper with prayer, the Prorector continued: “We don`t know whether you have really liked us. But we in any case have liked you. He invited the ensemble to come back for an additional visit. Being that the seminary`s Rector had already preached at a Baptist church in Voronesh, the concert was essentially a return visit.
Yet the local club of war veterans stood up the ensemble repeatedly by failing to show up for two concerts. Instead, the club sent forth an 80-year-old female veteran as scout to record everything on tape. After the seminary concert she exclaimed: “Before I could not have imagined such high-quality music and level of professionalism. You have given me moments of joy comparable to being in 7th heaven!” It´s been a long time since I have felt so near to God.
Concrete spiritual results were also countable. During the concert series approximately 25 persons accepted the Christian faith. In one evangelistic service alone at the “Mir” house of culture, 17 accepted Christ.
Pastor Berezhnoi attributes the city`s excellent inter-confessional relationships in part to no one less than Peter the Great (1672-1725). The Tsar had fostered shipbuilding in the city on the Don River by hiring on German and Dutch specialists. Soon thereafter, a Lutheran church became a part of the city´s skyline. Berezhnoi assures: “This city has a long tradition of excellent relations between Protestants and Orthodox. Today, those relations are again beginning to blossom.” An Advisory Council of Churches includes virtually all: Baptists, Pentecostals, Adventists, Orthodox and Catholics. “This Council is attempting to start the kind of dialogue which prohibits any kind of enmity among the people of God.” In his closing, Prorector Makeev had declared that Christ´s teaching, his spirit and love “unite all true believers”.
Dr. William Yoder
Department for External Church Relations, RUECB
Moscow, 28 November 2007
A press release of the Russian Union of Evangelical Christians-Baptists. May be published freely. Release #07-51, 475 words.