On November 6, 2012, as part of the Pravoslavnaya Rus’ [Orthodox Russia] exhibit in Moscow, a book on the history of youth ministry abroad, today’s missionary movement, the forms and methods of working with youth with the aim of drawing them nearer to the Church and educating them in the spirit of traditional Russian Orthodoxy was presented. The title of the book is From West To East. Experience of Youth Service in the Russian Church Abroad.The author is Protopriest Andrei Sommer, Vice President of the Synodal Youth Department of the Russian Orthodox Church Outside of Russia.
This monograph is a unique, foundational effort in which the history of the missionary movement from the early 20th century to our day. Lavishly illustrated, it contains hard-to-access archival passages.
Clergymen, members of Synodal departments of the Moscow Patriarchate, foundations, social organizations, teachers and members of the press participated.
Opening the event, the Vice President of the Publishing Council of the Russian Orthodox Church, Hegumen Evfimy (Moiseev), noted that one of its goals was to encourage youth to read this book.
Fr Andrei discussed the thematic chapters of the book, gave a brief video presentation and answered questions. His responses led to a lively discussion and exchange of experiences.
Special attention was devoted to the fruitful cooperation of the Synodal Department on Youth Matters.
The book includes chapters revealing the history of the missionary youth movement beginning with the early 20th century in Russia and Western Europe stretching to today on five continents, where Russians found themselves after the October Revolution, united under the spiritual leadership of the Russian Church Abroad.
Youth work in the Russian diaspora became one of the main challenges and undertakings of the hierarch of ROCOR: the First Hierarchs Metropolitan Anastassy (Gribanovsky) and Metropolitan Philaret (Voznesensky) exerted special energy in applying the forms and methods of youth ministry available to them at the time with the aim of preserving the Orthodox faith for future generations and their native culture. Readers will find unique memoirs and photographs which were offered by those who participated in youth groups, high schools, youth camps, scout organizations and other entities which brought young people together for decades on end.
The new book is not only an excursion into history, but a textbook on methodology, where the reader will find abundant material devoted to the various forms and means of youth ministry in the Russian diaspora: Orthodox youth groups, the scout movement, summer children’s camps, symposia, diocesan and All-Diaspora youth conferences, and recommendations on organizing youth projects and events. The author opines that the most valuable part of the book is the invaluable experience of youth ministry collected over decades which the Church Abroad preserved and hopes to share with her compatriots in the Homeland.
With the signing of the Act of Canonical Communion, the gates were opened which once divided us. Efforts at healing wounds inflicted by the October Revolution and Civil War of the 20th century on the souls and fates of more than one generation of Russian émigrés today lie upon the young people.
The final section of the book is comprised of the writing of young people themselves. These include essays written before pilgrimages and international youth forums and after their conclusion. Israel, Palestine, Egypt, Moscow, St Petersburg… The culmination of many joint meetings of youth from various countries of the Russian diaspora, Russia and the former CIS to holy sites was the 12th All-Diaspora Youth Conference held in 2011. Their thoughts and words are very personal. Writing these essays is mandatory for young people wishing to apply for these events, which are held jointly with young people living in Russia and the countries of the CIS.
The full-color book is of high quality, and the reader will not only glean useful information and recommended methods of youth ministry but a genuine esthetic pleasure in reading the book.
Youth ministry is difficult work, it takes all the energy of the devoted counselor. But this is not enough to wisely and gingerly tread upon the missionary’s path in rearing young generations and lead them to the path towards salvation. Protopriest Andrei and his editors intended this unique book to be a gift to the children of the united Russian Church on the fifth anniversary of the reestablishment of unity, with the blessing of the First Hierarch of the Russian Church Abroad, His Eminence Metropolitan Hilarion of Eastern America and New York.This book was recommended for publication by the Publishing Council of the Russian Orthodox Church and is useful for youth missionaries throughout the countries of the Orthodox world.