Counselling for a Very Special Group of Believers
A “Centre for Pastoral Support” is to be founded in the coming year
M o s c o w -- „That which occurs in the world, also occurs to a lesser extent among us. We also are subject to temptation.” That is how Pastor Sergey Vladimirovich Babich (Moscow) reacts to the fact that pastors from the “Russian Union of Evangelical Christians-Baptists” (RUECB) also fall into sin and dependencies from which they cannot liberate themselves without outside support. Pastors are frequently tripped up by issues of family, sexual dependencies, alcohol and financial difficulties – as is also the case among Christians in general. “But pastors are a very special group of believers,” this member of the RUECB’s Pastoral Department adds. “They already regard themselves as educated and experienced in the issues of living. It seems sometimes that they are no longer seeking answers for themselves – they are only giving them to others.”
A new programme envisioned by the Pastoral Department stresses effort in two realms: prevention and rehabilitation. Topics are to include a healthy outlook on life, positive sexuality, marital growth, the rearing of children and the formation of truly spiritual personalities. Pastors desire that their gatherings involve less theory and more practical cues on how best to react to failures, conflicts, disappointment and doubt. During a planned, 10-day course, pastors are to receive daily, highly-confidential and highly-qualified counselling. Time-outs for individual discourse with God and with other pastors in small groups are also planned.
Babich was able to visit German Baptist headquarters in Elstal near Berlin for the first time on 30 June. He met there with pastors Olaf Kormannshaus and Friedbert Neese. Neese is responsible in particular for the well-being of that church’s ordained members. He also met with the Baptist pastor and counsellor Hermann Hartfeld near Cologne. The Russian guest was particularly interested in the forms of “Supervision” prevalent among German pastors. In such sessions, which take place on a regular basis, a circle of colleagues responds to the personal issues and needs described by a pastor who is also present. Not infrequently according to Babich, God then “resolves problems in a miraculous way” through the joint counsel with colleagues.
This Moscow pastor regards prevention as a vital element in the training and development of pastors. According to
him, it can no longer be tolerated that “immature or newly-converted persons unprepared for this kind of service be appointed pastors. The brother must be prepared for such a task. Appointment
demands that he meet certain prerequisites regarding character and training - and he must be able to obtain that training.” Babich envisions a kind of vicariate lasting from one to three years
and involving regular meetings with colleagues, a mentor or a senior pastor (“bishop”).
Regarding rehabilitation, Babich states: “Life must go on for a pastor even after a personal catastrophe or fall. A pastor who truly has given himself to the service of God for many years should not feel himself afterward to be a pariah needed only by God. The breakdown of a pastor’s marriage should not mean that he will be excluded automatically from all forms of church service.” In hopes of greater justice and true help for those involved, the process for prevention and rehabilitation will need to be coordinated and standardised.
Sergey Babich is hoping that the consultations in Germany can soon resume and that he might draw further on the German experience. He is striving along with a team of colleagues to expand this service into as many regions of Russia as possible. He reckons that the “Centre for Pastoral Support” will begin working at a concrete location in the environs of Moscow within the coming year.
Director of the Pastoral Department is Alexey Vasilevech Smirnov, leading pastor of the “Association of Brethren Congregations” (ABC) in Dedovsk near Moscow. The ABC relates closely to the RUECB.
William Yoder, Ph.D.
Department for External Church Relations, RUECB
Moscow, 2 October 2009
A release of the Department for External Church Relations in the Russian Union of Evangelical Christians-Baptists. Release #09-29, 622 words, 3.927 keystrokes and spaces.
Note from September 2020: Sergey Babich is no longer living in Russia. For roughly two years, he has served as pastor of a Russian-speaking congregation in Strasbourg/France.