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Religious education: Religious Education Centers
Religious Education Centers of the Moscow Diocese
The Life-Giving Source Orthodox Center at Tsaritsyno
The Religious Education Center in Samara
The Religious Education Center in Obninsk

Religious Education Centers of the Moscow Diocese

Go and teach all nations (Mt. 28,19). This commandment of the Lord to the apostles applies to Christians today as well. With prohibitions of the Soviet times in the past, an opportunity has presented itself again to do this kind of work. Millions of people are now coming to Christ, "drawn" by the faith, seeking to enter the church fold. One of the most important tasks for the Church, therefore, is to help those souls who seek the truth to find God and to understand and accept the Gospel. They should be led to review their past lives and make repentance. They should be taught to communicate with Christ in prayer and to become full-fledged members of parishes, members of the Church and children of God.

At present, some communities have succeeded in combining various forms of religious educational activities and social service.

The experience of church life in the Moscow diocese has shown that large central parishes that are served by a dean or several clergy are becoming foci of religious education and spiritual life of the local population. Through their active efforts for religious education, these parishes have managed to find personnel for extensive external educational activity.

Working in these centers are normally several young and active priests who maintain good contacts with young rectors of other churches in the district. Good relations they have established with the local administration and directors of local enterprises have helped them to overcome complex organizational and financial problems encountered in the educational work.

Here are some examples of work carried out by religious education centers in the Moscow diocese.

Balashikha district

Its dean is Archpriest Nikolay Pogrebniak, rector of the church of the Transfiguration at Balashikha.

There are several parish schools for both children and adults. Once in a fortnight, lessons are given at the vocational school, medical school and High School No. 5 at the town of Reutovo. The Church has maintained cooperation with the local military registration and enlistment office, holding catechatical talks with the young people of call-up age. A chapel has been opened at the Military Engineering University. Courses have been conducted two or three times a week at the Police School and the State Administration and Social Prognostication Academy. A chapel has been opened at the district hospital to tend to its patients. Catechetical talks have been held with children at the Saltykovsky Sanatorium for Consumptives. A chapel has been arranged at the orphanage in the town of Zheleznodorozhny.

Two conferences were held on "Totalitarian Sects" and "Orthodoxy and Culture". Medical conferences have been held with the participation of the clergy. In Reutov, an photo-exhibition was arranged, devoted to Orthodox cultural monuments. Concerts and performances have been given on feast-days. An international choir festival took place in the district in which choirs from Bulgaria, Germany, Belarus and Ukraine participated.

The deanery has published Orthodox Word and Transfiguration monthlies, as well as Christian supplements to town newspapers. Priests have given weekly talks on radio and television.

Klin district

Its dean is Archpriest Boris Balashov, rector of the church of Our Lady the Joy to All the Afflicted in the town of Klin.

The district parish school works in eight kindergartens and five adult groups. The clergy teach the history of Christianity at High School No.1 in Klin. The chair of theology has been opened at the local Social Technology Institute. There is a library as well as video- and audio-libraries at the parish school and the chair of theology. Lessons have been given to children and their mentors in kindergartens and to the staff of the social service committee.

For 4 years now, a 4-type page The Orthodox Klin newspaper has been coming out as a supplement to the district newspaper Sickle and Hammer with its 19000-copy circulation, and Orthodox literature has been published. Christian programs on radio and TV have become regular features.

Among regular events are also recitals given by Orthodox performers as well as Christmas and Easter presentations. There is an exhibition of icons and painting and a photo-display on "The Holy Land" and "the Beauty of the Native Land". The faithful have made regular pilgrimages to holy places. Summer camps have been organized.

Recently a Week of Orthodox Culture was observed in the town. During it, a conference was held on sectarian studies.

The deanery has taken spiritual care of prisoners, sending them letters, parcels and books, as well as two children's boarding schools, houses for the elderly and two hospitals. Churches have been opened in both hospitals and in the house for the elderly.

Kolomna district

Its dean is Archpriest Mikhail Yalov, rector of the Cathedral of the Epiphany in the town of Noginsk.

There are four parish schools for children and two parish schools for adults working in the deanery, as well as an Orthodox grammar school. Optional lessons for 10 groups have been given at a private high school. The secondary schools have introduced the subject called the Basics of Orthodox Culture. Courses have been opened for kindergarten and school teachers; work has been carried out in the kindergarten.

The deanery has entered into cooperation with military units. Thus, a church of St. Alexander Nevsky is functioning in the Stromyn garrison. Weekly divine services have been conducted at the restored prison church of St. Tatiana. A hospital church has been established at the house for the elderly. Catechetical talks have been held at the boarding school for deaf-mute children at the town of Elektrostal. Through the efforts of the Sunday school and the high school, theatrical performances were organized and shown to the inmate of the house for the elderly and the orphanage.

The Church has taken part in local cultural events, such as an art exhibition devoted to St. Sergius of Radonezh. Once in every three weeks, a newspaper Voskresenie (Resurrection) has come out, with part of copies distributed free while the rest being published as a supplement to the district newspaper. Orthodox literature has also been published.

Daily talks have been held on the radio. The Church has also maintained active cooperation with the regional TV channel "Moskovia".

Stupino district

Its dean is Archpriest Mikhail Redkin, rector of the church of All Saints.

The church runs a parish school for both children and adults. Lessons have been given in two kindergartens, a preliminary school, a school of arts and a children's artistic club.

Archpriest Mikhail Redkin has conducted talks on Orthodoxy on the local TV. The clergy of the deanery have also taken part in the regional programs "Sincere Word" and "Russian House". The local radio broadcasts the program called "The Light of Orthodoxy". A live TV round-table conference was held on Alcoholism and Drug Addiction among the Youth with the participation of clergy, militiamen, the local youth committee members and a psychologist.

An Orthodox Stupino newspaper has been published. The deanery has also published some books and brochures devoted to the 500th anniversary of the Belopesotsky monastery of the Holy Trinity. Articles have been published in The People's Newspaper, The Field of Russia, and Country Life.

Meetings were arranged with writer Krupenin, People's Artist Kochetkov and V. Bochkarev of the Maly Theatre. Charity performances have been given in the hospital.

There are regular displays of children's drawings and odd jobs. The latest exhibition was devoted to the 500th anniversary of the Belopesotsky monastery. Sunday school children have given performances in the hospital. A Week of Orthodox Cinema was conducted. Member of the local clergy took part in the conference on the Socially Insecure Family.

We have given only a few examples of the work carried out by the religious education centers in the Moscow diocese. This work has been set going in other districts too. One of the problems encountered in this kind of work is the need for the centers to combine their efforts, to start sharing their experiences through joint conferences, seminars and exhibitions, to develop common educational methodologies and cultural programs and to set up diocesan advanced courses for teachers.

Archpriest Boris Balashov
Religious education officer
Moscow diocese
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The Life-Giving Source Orthodox Center at Tsaritsyno

The Life-Giving Source Orthodox center, a regional public organization at Tsaritsyno, was registered in 1996. The center's membership included the rector, clergy and parishioners of the church of Our Lady the Life-Giving Source, as well as representatives of the local municipal administration. The center was founded with the blessing of His Holiness Patriarch Alexy of Moscow and all Russia as an educational and charitable organization. Archpriest George Breyev, rector of the church, was elected chairman of the center. The structure of the Orthodox center was determined by the tasks that it set itself.

The center has used the facilities of the Sunday school that has functioned at the church since 1991. The center also includes a library of Orthodox literature boasting of over 9500 titles, a charity station for accepting and distributing second-hand clothes. In 1997, some 2400 people came here for help. A video-room for Orthodox films functions twice a week. The clergy of the church have conducted religious talks, interpreting the New Testament and the Psalter. A psychiatrist gives counsel on Wednesdays and Thursdays, while a lawyer receives people twice a month. The center has a bookstore and a music shop for Orthodox choirs. All the structures of the center have worked free of charge, being financed by the church and through donations.

The Sunday school. The Sunday school at the church of Our Lady the Life-Giving Source at Tsaritsyno was organized, with the blessing of Archpriest George Breyev, in October 1991. In September 1997, the school began its seventh academic year. At present, the school is attended by five-year and older children and their parents. In total, some 3 550 people come to the school every Saturday. Forty-two teachers taught at the schools in 1997-1998.

The primary task of the Sunday school is to foster family life spiritually and culturally and to give assistance to parents in giving Christian education to their children. The following religious disciplines are taught in the school: God's Law, Orthodox catechism, Church Slavonic, liturgics, hymnography, iconographic studies, the history of Russian saints and Christian devotion. Most of the students are parishioners of our church. Under the spiritual guidance of our priests, the children are given religious instructions, which help them in life.

In the center, children are engaged in various activities in study groups and workshops throughout the week except on Sundays. There were 18 study groups and workshops acting at the Sunday school in 1997-1998, such as circles for choir singing, church embroidery and sewing, painting, crocheting, frivolite braiding, playing the piano, wood frescoes, English language, mathematics, physics, architectural design and electrical engineering. All lessons are given free of charge. During the academic year, the best creative works produced in workshops and studios are displayed at district and city exhibitions in which the participation of the Sunday schools has been repeatedly awarded. During Easter, the school organizes displays of painted wooden handicrafts for sale outside the church.

During the academic year, the Sunday school arranges excursions and pilgrimages to monasteries in Moscow and the Moscow Region for both children and adults. During these trips, students have an opportunity to come in touch with great Orthodox shrines and to learn details about major historical events in the life of Russia and the Church. Last year, students went on ten excursions and pilgrimages to various places.

Theatrical performances and concerts devoted to church feasts, such as Christmas, Easter, the day of the locally venerated Icon of Our Lady the Life-Giving Source, have played an important part in the formation of the students.

In the 1997-1998 academic year, a special emphasis in the Sunday school was made on work with teenagers and young people who were to choose their life path and who needed spiritual support from priests, teachers and parents. The principal areas of work with them are reading and interpreting Holy Scriptures, spiritual talks, tea parties with interesting people, trips, excursions, literary, poetic and musical soirees and charitable actions. The youth group made up of young boys and girls from 17 to 25 assembles every Sunday. At present, there are 17 people in it, and the number of its participants is constantly growing. It is planned to arrange a trip of the youth group to an Orthodox summer camp at the end of the academic year. The group will also work to put the territory of the church and the Orthodox center in order and will make charitable visits to hospitals.

We have shared the approaches we have developed and the experience we have gained in educational work at annual International Christmas Reading. The presentations made by the director of the Sunday school in its sections on "Sunday School" and "Family and Church" have been traditionally accompanied by displays of works produced by students in workshops and artistic studios.

The work of the Sunday school and the Orthodox center has provoked increasing public interest and attention. Reports on their work have been published in such newspapers as The Life-Giving Source, Family Orthodox Newspaper, Moscow Church Messenger, Messenger of the South District and the "Light" section of the Meeting journal.

The Orthodox library.The church library has occupied a noticeable place in the work of the Orthodox center. After it was moved to Solnechnaya Street, its fund has been considerably increased. Now it amounts to 9500 books, not considering a great number of magazines and newspapers. The whole fund has been systematized, and alphabet and issue catalogues are being developed.

Last year 844 readers registered in. Half of them are regular readers. In 1998, nearly 13110 books were lent. Over 20 people come to the library every day.

Among the readers are also students of the Sunday school, for whom a section for children's Orthodox books has been set up.

One of the focuses in the work of the library is family. We have launched a large fair called "Family is a Little Church". It helps parents in efforts to give their children Orthodox education.

The library often becomes a place for discussions on particular issues, bibliographical reviews and book displays to mark great church feasts. For many, the library has become today a kind of a bridge uniting the world and the Church. The Orthodox book helps people to find and strengthen the saving faith. Indeed, St. Paul said, "Faith comes by hearing, and hearing by the word of God".

The church shop.A church shop functions at the Orthodox center. Sold in it is a wide range of Orthodox religious books, calendars, icons, various church utensils, audiocassettes, etc. There is also the only music shop in Moscow to offer some 30 music collections as well photocopies of over 50 previously published collections which can be bound in a soft or hard cover at request.

The Orthodox psychological consultation office.The psychological consultation service functioning at the Orthodox center has a twofold role to play. On the one hand, it offers a kind of support for priests in cases where psychological problems experienced by their parishioners demand a special study and professional attention. On the other hand, this service can become an organic means for individual catechetical work. It can help people who are still far from the Church to see the Christian truths through the prism of their own life, their own spiritual pain and their own problems and family collisions.

The psychological consultative service has existed for two years. People are received by experienced psychologists with scientific degrees who are parishioners of our church.

Over 500 consultations have been given, and the number of requests for help is constantly growing. Our task is to extend this work and improve its organizational forms.

The publishing of Orthodox music. The Orthodox center began publishing music a year ago. This kind of work was necessary because the publishing of music actually ceased in the Soviet period, while in recent years music has had a very modest place in the Orthodox publishing efforts.

At present, the Orthodox center has published 15 music collections and over 15 works by various authors. It has started a series "Sunday Service Hymns" including the texts and music of hymns of various complexity which are most often used in choral practice as well as versions of the most popular vocal melodies.

The Orthodox secondary school.In this academic year the center is to begin running a parish secondary school called "The Life-Giving Source". This year the first three grades will begin functioning. In future, it is planned to open the other classes including the graduation class. The educational process will be based on the basic curriculum adopted in Moscow, supplemented with such disciplines as religion and the Church Slavonic language. In addition, the preliminary school will teach English beginning from the first grade, and the number of languages taught will increase in the secondary school.

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The Religious Education Center of St. Sergius of Radonezh and His Parents, Sts Cyril and Mary

The religious education center of St. Sergius of Radonezh and His Parents, Sts Cyril and Mary, was established in 1998 in keeping with the decision of the 1994 Bishops' Council "On the Tasks of the Russian Orthodox Church in the Field of Religious Education" and with the blessing of the ruling bishop, Archbishop Sergius of Samara and Syzran.

The aims and tasks of the religious education center

The primary task of the religious education center is to intensify the educational and missionary work of the theological seminary and to turn it into a leading center for religious education and methodology in the Samara diocese.

The most important tasks of the center are the following:

  • To involve the students of the theological seminary in practical educational, missionary and formation work with Orthodox and secular educational institutions and various organizations, as well as children and the local population in the city of Samara;
  • To involve parishioners and other people in Samara in the process of religious education in order to give them systematic knowledge on the basic Orthodox teaching, the history of the Russian Orthodox Church, liturgics and the Church Slavonic language;
  • To train missionaries, catechetical teachers and Orthodox educators for intensified missionary and formation work in the city;
  • To establish a citywide Orthodox cultural leisure center for the youth and the people.
The director of the center is Hegumen Veniamin (Labutin), assistant rector of the Samara Theological Academy.

The religious education center is to be formed in two stages.

The structure in the center at the first stage

The first stage of the formation of the religious education center will be completed in 1998-1999. The primary task of the first stage is to unite basic educational and missionary units that have been already established and functioned at the diocesan theological seminary and the diocesan department for religious education and catechism.

The following units and services will be put in the basis of the seminary's center for religious education at its first stage:

1. The seminary church of Sts Cyril and Mary of Radonezh. Certainly, the main component of the center is the church. Indeed, the divine service unites all: teachers, students and those who come to the center for their "daily bread" of religious Orthodox formation and education.

2. Catechetical courses for school-teachers and students of institutions of higher education in Samara. These two-year courses were established in 1996 and reorganized in 1998. Before the reorganization the students studied only one year. The center has introduced a cyclic practice of teaching. It means that a cycle of lectures on a particular subject is read twice in a week for one or two months without being interrupted by other disciplines. At the end of a cycle the students are to pass a test. Those who will graduate from the courses successfully will be granted certificates of religion teachers.

Lectures will be given by the teachers of the seminary. The students will study the following subjects: the New Testament, catechisms, history of the Christian Church, Biblical history, history of the Russian Orthodox Church, liturgics, comparative theology and the Church Slavonic language.

It is planned to make, beginning from the second year, a broad use of the courses teachers as Orthodox lecturers. A seminar has been held monthly for those students who are already engaged in conducting optional classes on a particular Orthodox subject such as the Basic of Religious Culture or giving religious instruction. Altogether there are eleven such teachers.

3. The seminary's Sunday school for children. It has been functioning since 1995. There are ten children, with some of them making up an Orthodox children's choir. There are two grades in the school. Studying in the first grade are children from 6 to 9 years of age. The second grade is attended by children from 10 to 13. Classes are held every Sunday and consist of three lessons. The first-graders study the year cycle of feasts, Biblical history and learn to sing. The second-graders study the history of the Church and continue studying Biblical history and church singing.

4. Weekly religious and educational talks with parishioners and other people about Orthodox faith and the history of the Church. Attended by some 80 people, these talks have been held since 1995. While the catechetical courses have been intended for teachers, the weekly lectures held on Mondays are open for all those who wish to listen to them. The primary purpose of the lectures is to establish a living contact with parishioners of Sts Cyril and Mary's church and to give them knowledge necessary for Orthodox Christians. A considerable part of a talk, therefore, is set apart for a question-answer sessions.

5. The organizing group for conferences, seminars and round tables intended for various groups of the populations.This group organizes the following three city conferences a year:

  • St. Alexis Readings for school masters and teachers, as well as librarians. The first reading took place in February 1993.
  • Sts Cyril and Methodius Readings. These educational readings are intended for schoolchildren in Samara. The first of them took place in May 1998.
  • St. John Readings for the scientific community in Samara. The third reading took place in October 1998.
In November 1998, the center also organized a diocesan conference on "Burning Problems of Russian Education and Medicine".

6. The seminary's museum of church history. The staff of the museum have organized various excursions for schoolchildren in Samara. On average, about 400 people go on excursions every month during the academic year. The best students of the seminary have acted as guides. For seminarian this is a good practice in communication, while children find it more interesting and stimulating to listen to believers of their age.

7. The traveling group of seminarians to carry out missionary and catechetical work in summer camps during the summer period. In 1998, this group held talks with children in three summer camps. The most successful were the talks about Orthodox summer feasts held on the date of the feasts.

8. The traveling concert group of seminarians.Recitals given by the seminarian choir have proved to be very popular among people in villages and small towns in the Samara region. As a rule, they are held in local cultural clubs by prior arrangement with the rector of the local church. These concerts are given on a regular basis, on average once a month.

9. The library. The seminary's library has a reading room accommodating 100 people. It is widely used not only by seminarians and professors, but also students of the catechetical courses, listeners to Orthodox lectures, as well as students and professors from many educational institutions in Samara.

10. The bookstore. The ongoing selling of books, icons and church utensils is one of the forms of propagating Orthodox knowledge. In purchasing books, the bookstore takes into account the needs of those who study at the catechetical courses.

Prospects for the development of the Center

During the second stage in 1999-2000, it is planned to extend the facilities of the center by adjusting a special building for its needs, for its territory will be used for a cultural leisure center for the city and a rehabilitation center for teenagers.

At this stage, it is planned to launch the following units of the seminary's center for religious education.

  1. A chapel or a domestic church in the new building of the center.
  2. A leisure center with a network of workshops for children and adults,
  3. A diocesan Orthodox grammar school
  4. A city video-lecture-hall with a video- and audio-libraries or a People's Orthodox University.
  5. A society of Orthodox teachers.
  6. An annual Orthodox summer camp for the center's children.
  7. A rehabilitation center for assistance to victims of totalitarian sects and drug-addicted teenagers.
  8. Publishing work.
Hegumen Veniamin (Labutin)
Director of the Center
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The Religious Education Center at the Church of St. Martyrs Vera, Nadezhda, Liubov and their Mother Sophia

This center for religious education was founded in 1995 with the blessing of Archbishop Clement of Kaluga and Borovsk. In the beginning it was a small parish with a Sunday school. After His Eminence appointed a new rector of the church and director of the religious education center, Father Gennady (Yevdachev), in 1997, the center has considerably broadened the feild of its work and at the present time has several structural units.

The Sunday school. At present, there are nine groups studying for the first, second and third year. The children's Sunday school works according to a 5-year program developed for us by the Synodal Department for Catechization. We were offered several programs calculated for studying for two and three years. But we decided that if children of 6 or 7 come to us, it is unwise to leave them without spiritual care when they are 8 or 9. After five years of studies, children will be able to not only assimilate serious knowledge of religion, but also acquire an experience of Orthodox common life and relations according to Christian commandments. Teenagers of 15 and 16 will be able to move to an evening Sunday school that is directed by the second priest of the church, Father Alexander (Bryazgin).

To support the teachers professionally, specialists in Orthodox education were invited from the Synodal department for catechization throughout the year and seminars were held for kindergarten and school teachers.

Along with the Sunday school, a religious art school was established for children and adults to learn painting, applied arts, sewing, embroidery and knitting.

Together with the Cossacks in the town of Obninsk,a school of Russian martial arts was founded for children not so much to learn the technique of wrestling as to receive patriotic education in the spirit of Russian traditions.

The library of the center. Today the library boasts over 3000 titles. Under the influence of literary talks and events organized by the library to introduce people to holy places in the Kaluga region, many townspeople have become its frequent visitors. They not only lend books, but also bring books and magazines from their home libraries, thus considerably replenishing the fund. Today there is a need to extend the facilities so that the library could have its own reserve, reading-hall and computer support.

The work of the library has proved beneficial for the spiritual potential of the town. The town authorities have even permitted to open anOrthodox education group in the kindergarten. The six months of its work have shown that we have steered the right course. The parents of children of several groups in this kindergarten approached the director with a request to introduce Orthodox education in their children's groups too. It is planned to open in this kindergarten the first Orthodox pre-gymnasia in the town.

In order to bring the word of God to every parishioner, anOrthodox Word newspaper has been started. Keeping pace with adults, children, through the efforts of their editorial board, published the first issue of their own newspaper called "Little Seeds". All the material for this newspaper was compiled by children themselves.

In 1998, the center opened a museum of Orthodox culture. Represented in its exposition are ancient icons, liturgical vestments, old church books and other things.

Along with this area of work, the center has conducted various educational events on a regular basis. In September 1998, with the blessing of Archbishop Clement, the center held the first educational reading on the occasion of the Nativity of the Mother of God. The reading was attended by the governor of the region, local administration officers, clergy and regional and local educators. Among the participants were also professors of the Moscow Theological Academy, staff members of the synodal departments of the Moscow Patriarchate and other representatives of the clergy and pedagogical intelligentsia. The reading showed a great interest of the public in Orthodox education. The presentations made at the reading will be published in a book, which is eagerly expected in all the parishes of the diocese. Thus the religious education center is becoming a methodological center for education and enlightenment in the Kaluga diocese.

The regional festival of people's creative work, called "The Christmas Star", has proved a great success. Participating in it were over twenty children's and fifteen adult professional and amateur teams, including Sunday schools, Orthodox grammar schools, secondary schools and kindergartens. The festival was held at the local House of Culture. It lasted for eight hours and the hall was filled to capacity. The joyful atmosphere of a Christian feast did not leave indifferent even the secular part of the public. This success, in spite of the great tiredness of the center's team after the Christmas celebrations, has inspired us with hope that our plans to instill Orthodox traditions in the life of our town and region, with God's help, will come true.

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