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Diaconia: Brotherhoods

Orthodox Brotherhood in the Name of St. Prince Alexander Nevsky (the city of Nizhni Novgorod)

The Orthodox Brotherhood of St. Prince Alexander Nevsky in Nizhni Novgorod was founded as a religious organization in February 1991 by a group of lay people and clergy of the Diocese of Nizhni Novgorod with the blessing of the diocesal bishop. Metropolitan Nikolay of Nizhni Novgorod and Arzamas is among the founders of the Brotherhood.

In the end of June of the same year the Brotherhood received in its possession St. Alexander Nevsky Cathedral, one of the largest churches not only in Nizhni Novgorod but also in Russia. This splendid church was built upon the confluence of the Volga and Oka rivers in the last quarter of last century by Russian merchants in the territory of the world famous Nizhni Novgorod Fair. The brotherhood is responsible for the restoration of the cathedral, a XIX century architectural monument of Federal significance, using any available help from both religious and secular official structures and benefactors. However, the most of the invested funds are those earned by the Brotherhood. Today restoration of facades has been virtually completed. Forthcoming is internal repair of the church. Services have been held for over 4 years in the warm upper Makarievsky chapel. The main wish and goal of all members of the Brotherhood is to start service in the main area of the church.

In December 1994 the Brotherhood completed the restoration of the Chapel of St. Martyr Varvara at the former Yagodinsky Monastery of the Presentation of the Blessed Virgin in the Temple. At present the chapel is used for services in commemoration of the innocent victims of the persecution times.

One of the Brotherhood's established tasks is to promote Orthodox religious enlightenment and education at the parish and diocesan level.

For several years, two-year catechizers' courses that train teachers of the Word of God for primary and secondary educational institutions of the city have been operating in a restored parish house belonging to the Brotherhood. Throughout its operation, three groups of diploma catechizers totaling 100 persons have graduated from the courses. Some of the courses graduates and priests of the Brotherhood talk to the people who are about to receive baptism or the sacrament of wedding, to god-parents of baptized babies, and answer believers' questions.

One priest, a member of the Brotherhood, weekly talks to the youth. All who wish it are welcome to get together and discuss unclear questions, hold dialogue, and deepen their knowledge at the evangelical readings.

To the best of its abilities, the Brotherhood counteracts the thrust of sectarian preachers who become active in Nizhni Novgorod, especially in summer months. To provide Orthodox enlightening to the lay people, the Brotherhood have several times invited hegumen Augustin (Anisimov), a renown Orthodox missionary from the Ivanovo diocese, who gave lectures in the parish house conference hall.

Publishing activity of the Brotherhood has become possible largely due to implementation of the project of the Round Table "Education for Change and Diaconia" within the assistance to the Russian Orthodox Church from the World Council of Churches. The funds received were used to acquire electronic equipment to set up the editorial and publishing complex of the Brotherhood.

The Brotherhood also has its Sunday school. In parallel with the Sunday school, many children (several dozen) attend a school of icon-painting basics and the choral class. In summer they took to shifts in an Orthodox summer camp organized in the Gorodetsky region.

The Brotherhood organizes pilgrimages to holy places of the region. Each Saturday a bus belonging to the Brotherhood takes pilgrims from the cathedral to the Diveyevsky monastery.

From the very beginning, there was an Orthodox library with its reading hall and a book lending section for believers in the parish house under the St. Alexander Nevsky Cathedral. At the moment, the library holds over 1,600 volumes; about twenty five hundred people living in Nizhni Novgorod and its region use the book-lending section.

Starting from February, 1993, the Brotherhood has been publishing a "Pravoslavnoye Slovo" ("Orthodox Word") newspaper. A part of the circulation is distributed among subscribers; the rest is free. Throughout the time the newspaper exists, 90 issues have been published. Newspaper circulation amounts to 10,000 copies; starting from 1997 the newspaper is published in sixteen A3 pages of new design.

There are icon painting and restoration workshops, and an icon-painting basics school. At the moment they perform a big order - a new iconostasis for Makarievsky chapel of the St. Alexander Nevsky Cathedral.

A "Church Shop" is a book-trading structure of the Brotherhood. The Shop regularly makes wholesale purchases of Orthodox literature and churchware directly from Russian publishing houses and manufacturers. At the same time, the "Church Shop" has set up a wide network of book retail shops (over 20) and distributors in Nizhni Novgorod. It provides the goods to numerous parishes in village regions.

A shop affiliated to the "Church Shop" has been opened in Sormovo, the largest industrial district of the city. An affiliate of the Brotherhood library operates in the district.

The Brotherhood also runs a "Book by Mail" service that allows virtually any Orthodox to receive books and churchware from the mail-order catalog. At the moment the Brotherhood "Book by Mail" service monthly forwards about 250 parcels even to the remotest regions of Russia (Kaliningrad, Primorsky, Transpolar, and Krasnodar regions) as well as to Ukraine, Byelorussia, Kazakhstan and other CIS countries. A number of orders has been mailed to foreign countries. From time to time, free parcels are mailed to penitentiary inmates.

The "Church Shop" offers its library collector services to Orthodox sections of parish and Sunday schools libraries for acquisition of books.

The Brotherhood maintains contacts with numerous other church structures and organizations, particularly with the Round Table "Education for Change and Diaconia".

Publishing activity of the Brotherhood has become possible largely due to implementation of the project of the Round Table "Education for Change and Diaconia" within the assistance to the Russian Orthodox Church from the World Council of Churches. The funds received were used to acquire electronic equipment to set up the editorial and publishing complex of the Brotherhood.

The Publishing House of the Brotherhood registered in the Ministry of Press and Information of the Russian Federation in November, 1993, has prepared, by blessing of Metropolitan Nikolay of Nizhni Novgorod and Arzamas, master copies and published over two dozen titles of books and brochures. Among them, the book "Fundamentals of the Art of Holiness" by Bishop Varnava (Belyaev). Publication of the first volume of the book was commended by His Holiness Patriarch Alexy II of Moscow and all Russia who in his letter to the Publishing House appreciated the importance of the work. Meanwhile, the Publishing House has plans to publish a series of illustrated books for children.

Today the St. Alexander Nevsky Brotherhood has united many people of Nizhni Novgorod who care for the future of Orthodoxy in Russia. Numerous structures operating under the Brotherhood are effective, and it is this form of the church life organization that makes them so fruitful.

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