Giving Away the Chance of a Lifetime
Church project in Achinsk to be restarted
M o s c o w – “One doesn´t give away the chance of a lifetime!” That was the reaction of Vitaly Vlasenko (Moscow), the Russian Union of Evangelical Christians-Baptists´ (RUECB) Director for External Church Relations, following his visit to an idle construction site in Achinsk/Central Siberia. The pastor and his 60-member congregation had actually already decided to sell the unfinished, oversized building and use the funds to purchase family dwellings at two locations and remodel them for church usage. One interested buyer would like to turn the structure – it measures 24 x 24 metres (79 feet x 79 feet) - into a factory.
But Pastor Vlasenko responds: „It happens only once in a lifetime in Russia that the authorities in one´s own city will present us Baptists with a prime piece of land in the centre of town for the construction of a church. An opportunity like that will never happen again in Achinsk! We dare not offend city fathers in view of their generosity – we otherwise will never be able to show our faces there again!” He also notes that an uncompleted structure can only be sold at a price far below its actual value. “And this is not even the money of the Achinsk congregation,” he adds. “This house belongs to the people in North America who donated the money for it.” Primary donator to date has been a congregation in Casper/Wyoming.
The Department Director notes that even now in Russia it is nearly impossible to transfer the legal status of a building from private to public. This could become increasingly problematic in the future, for numerous Baptist “houses of prayer” are still private dwellings in legal terms.
The parcel of land was presented to the congregation in 2000. From 2003 until 2006, the site was filled with the sounds of hammering and sawing. Yet when the congregation´s energetic pastor, Peter Grichany (Chernivtsi), was forced to return to his native West Ukraine for visa and health reasons, the project ground to a halt.
Since his departure, the shrunken congregation is overtaxed by the logistical and strategic challenges. The structure with seating for 300 to 400 direly needs a plan for its completion and utilisation. Vlasenko adds: “Windows and a heating system are the next things that need to be installed. After that, one can move in.” The building was to be constructed for a truly bargain price: The Casper congregation had donated $50.000 towards the project, an additional $30.000 are needed for its completion. The guest from Moscow felt that up to half of the building could be rented out as office space for the time being. That would cover running costs up until the time when the congregation requires the entire building for its own needs.
“The potential of this location is nearly breathtaking,” Pastor Vlasenko insists. Many church members have recently left for greener pastures in other Protestant congregations. A talented pastor would nevertheless be able, with God´s help, to win back many of the old and new believers for the cause of the new church downtown. Other Baptist congregations in the Krasnoyarsk region have committed themselves for the first time to helping fund the project. This historical town of 114,000 is located 170 kilometres to the west of Krasnoyarsk right on the primary transportation routes between Western Russia and the Far East.
But now, Director Vlasenko has one worry more: The local congregation was willing to reconsider on the condition that Moscow headquarters come to its aid in the search for additional funding and expertise. Anyone having interest in this project is heartily invited to contact the Department for External Church Affairs in Moscow.
Following the uncontrolled religious boom of the 1990s, the situation in Achinsk makes apparent once again the need for centralised agreements and consultations on matters of church construction. The RUECB continues to expand its architecture department to this end.
The RUECB, Russia’s largest, unified Protestant church, represents approximately 80.000 adult members in 1.750 congregations and groups. Its President is Yuri Sipko.
Dr. William Yoder
Department for External Church Relations, RUECB
Moscow, 10 May 2008
A release of the Department for External Church Relations of the Russian Union of Evangelical Christians-Baptists. May be
published freely. Release #08-22, 664 words.