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Round Table Projects: Regional education-diaconia projects
The Siberian Religious Center
The St. Alexander Nevsky Brotherhood's Center of Religious Education

The Siberian Religious Center

THE PROBLEM: The Russian Orthodox Church suffered the greatest losses in regions, especially in Siberia. A Siberian Religious Center is needed to render methodological assistance to the emerging diakonical and educational centers in Siberia.

The aims of the project:

  • to set up a Religious Center at the Parish of All Saints Who Shone Forth in the Russian Land to promote continuous religious education and diakonical work and to build a gymnasium as a major unit in educational work;
  • to disseminate throughout Siberia the experience gained by the Siberian Religious Center in diakonia and religious education.
The project has been carried out by the parish of world-famous Akademgorodok. This parish has at its disposal great intellectual resources and strong relations with the local scientific structures and various scientific and cultural institutions. In September 1992 the Center opened an Orthodox Gymnasium of St. Sergius of Radonezh. At present there are 118 children studying in seven grades. The gymnasium offers general secondary school education, as well as special courses in Russian History, Literature, Catechism, the Slavonic and Greek Languages, Church Singing and Art. In August 1994, the gymnasium opened a children's choir school. In 1994 the gymnasium opened a pre-school department (kindergarten). It has been attended by 40 children. The kindergarten has become an initial unit in the system of continuous religious education. The project envisages a summer school with an enlarged catechetical course for children and their parents. Since 1991 a children's camping school has functioned at a 4,4 sq. km.-summer camp bought by the parish.

The work of the Orthodox gymnasium at Akademgorodok has attracted attention of church leaders and secular educational institutions in Siberia and the Far East. The curriculum and educational aids developed by the gymnasium have been sent on demand to schools seeking to restore the tradition of religious education and formation. The Center has organized a Sisterhood of St. Great Princess Elizaveta Fyodorovna. The sisters are engaged in visiting sick people at home, standing on duty at hospitals and taking care of elderly people at the House of Invalids and children at the local orphanage. Together with Medical Vocational School No.13, the Sisterhood has been engaged in training nurses. Sisters regularly stand on duty in four major hospitals in the area. The sisterhood has also organized for patients to meet and talk to priests, to be baptized, to make confession and to receive communion.

The need to help the poor and unemployed and to introduce children to working skills has prompted the gymnasium to set up special handicraft workshops for sewing, embroidery and knitting. In its methodological and publishing work the Center aims at preparing and publishing curricula, educational aids and methodological recommendations for gymnasia, Sunday and general public schools. The Center has already published 'Russian Literature', a text-book which passed an all-Russian contest for renovation of humanitarian education in Russia. Another book, 'A History of Russia', has been prepared for print. The Center has also prepared for publishing a bibliography of educational programs, methodological and educational aids on religious instruction, as well as various text-books on doctrinal disciplines.

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The St. Alexander Nevsky Brotherhood's Center of Religious Education

THE PROBLEM: As traditional centers of intellectual forces and materials and human resources, Moscow and St. Petersburg have soon become leaders in religious and diaconical work as well. The process of regenerating religious education and social work has been much more difficult in regions.

The aim of the project:

to establish a center of religious education in the Nizhni Novgorod Region for promoting diakonia, religious education, book-selling and publishing work at the Diocese of Nizhni Novgorod.

To achieve its goals the project has set up a "Church Shop". It has become one of the largest Orthodox book-trade organisations in the region. It has purchased Orthodox books and church utensils in bulk directly from publishers and producers in Moscow, St. Petersburg and other cities. The Church Shop has established a network of retail book-trade dealers in Nizhni Novgorod. It has provided goods for many parishes in the region and can deliver them in bulk. It also runs a Book by Mail service through which any Orthodox believer can order a book or a church article from a catalogue. The Church Shop has also rendered services to parishes, Sunday schools and libraries in acquiring and replenishing Orthodox libraries through its central book collector.

The Brotherhood has run a two-year catechisers' course. It has trained religious instructors for secondary schools and higher education institutes in the city and the region. The Brotherhood has also run a children's icon-painting class, as well as a Sunday school and a choir school. An Orthodox library with some 9000 titles has been arranged at the St. Alexander Nevsky parish house.

According to the project, the brotherhood has organized its own publishing body and a small printing house to produce some of its editions. The brotherhood has published a number of religious and educational books which are in great demand in the Nizhni Novgorod and other regions. Since February 1993 it has published "The Orthodox Word" newspaper, which has been distributed free. There have been 40 issues, with 3 special issues. It has a circulation of 10.000 copies and has come out in 8 A3-type pages.

The Center has also developed diakonical work. Thus, it has regularly delivered food and humanitarian aid to the sick and the elderly in the Nizhni Novgorod Region, using the bus bought under the project.

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