Tuesday, January 17, 2006

Taking God into Space

"During Soviet days, religious celebrations in the city were forbidden. But as soon as Kazakhstan declared its independence, a small group of people at the spaceport petitioned the Russian Orthodox bishop of the nearby city of Akmolinsk to open a parish and send an ordained priest.

"The bishop consulted with church officials in Russia, and in June 1992 they sent Father Sergey to Baikonur. With the Russian space program nearly bankrupt, the situation wasn’t the easiest. The congregation grew rapidly, however, and soon there were too many attendees to fit into the small store during services.

"Easter 1994 marked a major turning point for the congregation, when about two thousand people crowded the street outside the makeshift church and city officials approved a live TV broadcast of the services."

(read the full story at http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/10729300/)

The newly-consecrated church building in the city of Baikonur (formerly known as "Leninsk") was open for services for the Nativity of our Lord, just ten days ago.

How is it possible that a congregation of 2,000 people could grow so quickly? How is it that they could raise the funds necessary to build a temple? After all, their priest was sent by a bishop of the MP.

Can any of us say that our congregation has 2,000 people? Does any congregation in our entity have that many people?

There will be some who will say, "Numbers aren't what is important." Numbers alone are not a good indicator one way or the other -- but something must be said for a people who had been denied an opportunity to express their faith to have responded in such a way when given the freedom to do so.

"Bring forth therefore fruits worthy of repentance, and begin not to say within yourselves, We have Abraham to our father: for I say unto you, That God is able of these stones to raise up children unto Abraham." (Luke 3:8) And, no doubt, His own children from the stones of atheist Soviet Russia...

unworthy Priest John McCuen