One part of Moscow’s Days of Orthodox Youth program was the Orthodox youth forum Feodorovsky gorodok (“Theodore Town”). A delegation of the Russian Orthodox Church Outside of Russia participated: Protopriest Andrei Sommer, Vice President of the Synodal Youth Department; Protopriest Boris Henderson of the Western American Diocese of ROCOR; and Protopriest Ilia Limberger (Diocese of Berlin and Germany).
Fr Andrei talked about this forum and plans on working with the youth of Russia and abroad.
- We participated in the Feodorovsky gorodok youth forum at the invitation of His Eminence Archbishop Alexander of Kostroma and Galich, the President of the Youth Department of the Moscow Patriarchate. Before that, representatives of the Russian Church Abroad twice participated in the Nativity Readings, but this is the first time we take part in such a large event. Its aim is the creation of a plan for youth ministry, which will be submitted for review to His Holiness Patriarch Kirill.
- Fr Andrei, what is the Feodorovsky gorodok?
- The All-Russian Orthodox forum Feodorovsky gorodok is the focal point of the All-Russian Youth Movement created in 2002 with the blessing of His Holiness Patriarch Alexy II of blessed memory. For six years now, Feodorovsky gorodok has served as the meeting place of Orthodox youth from different dioceses of Russia, from the Far East and Kamchatka to St Petersburg and Kaliningrad. This is the first year that representatives of the Russian diaspora have participated.
The chief components of the forum are meetings, discussions and presentations, and they were held in a picturesque corner on the outskirts of Moscow, at the boarding house of Russian State Social University. There we met with both government and church officials, including Boris Mikhailovich Lukichev, member of the Presidential Administrative Council for Internal Policy; the renowned missionary Protodeacon Andrei Kuraev and Protopriest Vsevolod Chaplin, Head of the MP Directorate for Cooperation with the RF Government, and many others.
Fr Vsevolod was right to note that now all the prerequisites exist for creating a new Orthodox youth movement. Not only should clergymen play a role, but Orthodox laity, politicians and economists. For the believing youth are also future politicians, the future President, Prime Minister, future generals and businessmen. That is why a community is needed where these people, while still laypersons, would change society itself.
- At the forum, each diocese made a presentation of their youth programs. What in your opinion can the Russian diaspora garner from the experience of youth ministry in Russia?
- Among the many worthy projects we heard, I recall the presentation of a youth camp of the Mordva Diocese. They don’t distinguish between Orthodox and youth of other religions, or those who have not yet found the path to the Church. And this is very important for those who live in multi-confessional countries.
The camp reminds one of our society, because in essence it is Orthodox: the day begins with morning prayer, there are divine services, studies in catechism, but all of this is done in a non-compulsory manner. There is a great deal of time devoted to sports, which the kids love.
- This forum coincided with Russia’s Day of National Unity, and the celebration of the Kazan Icon of the Mother of God, which is especially loved and revered in the Fatherland. What impressions do you take with you from that?
- First of all, it was especially pleasing for me to have the opportunity to serve in Kazan Cathedral on Red Square together with His Holiness Patriarch Kirill. The participants of the Days of Orthodox Youth then began a procession of the cross from the Cathedral to the Manezh, where the “Orthodox Rus’ 2009” exhibition was held. Moscow Mayor Yuri Mikhailovich Luzhkov attended the opening. I thanked him personally for his warm attitude towards the Russian Church Abroad. That same day we met with the Patriarch, where the leader of the Russian Orthodox Church thanked the participants of the forum for their missionary efforts towards the spiritual education and edification of the youth, and called upon everyone not only to plan the goals of youth ministry, but to pursue results and bring all these good initiatives to fruition.
- The Youth Department of the Synod of Bishops has a long track record of successful work with youth. There is much that can be said about the remarkable, spiritually-edifying pilgrimages to the Holy Land, the holy sites of Russia and Egypt… After the signing of the Act of Canonical Communion with the Church in the Fatherland, new possibilities emerged for contact between the youth of Russia, the countries of the CIS and Orthodox youth on other continents. What new forms of cooperation will be used in the near future?
- Our department has developed a plan on working with youth which we submitted to the Synod Youth Department of the Moscow Patriarchate. But I’d like to point out that in fact, it has already been implemented. It includes the Days of Orthodox Youth in our own dioceses, the winter and summer camps, pilgrimages to Orthodox holy sites, etc.
We are working on creating an Orthodox youth website in Russian and English along the lines of the V kontakte site.
There is already an agreement in place with regard to cooperation in making exchanges, joint participation in youth forums and conferences with the St George the Victory-Bearer Center of Orthodox Youth Programs, established by the Diocesan Commission on Youth of the City of Moscow. We will work jointly with this Center in establishing associations for the strengthening of youth contacts.
We returned from Moscow not only with new ideas, but with concrete methods to effectuate them.
I would like to note that we were only able to participate in such a broad and serious forum thanks to the support provided to us by the Fund for Assistance to the Russian Orthodox Church Outside of Russia, to which we owe our deep gratitude.
The five days of the forum flew by. We came back to our own dioceses, but in spirit, in faith and works we are all one. In our age of division and individualism, such conciliarity is especially important.
Interviewed by Tatiana Veselkina