Missionaries performed mass baptism of soldiers at northern Cosmodrome
Archangelsk, September 20, 2011
Teachers and students of the St. Tikhon Orthodox Humanitarian University visited the “Plesetsk” cosmodrome near Achangelsk with a missionary program. The trip was made at the invitation of Archpriest Artemy Emke, rector of the Church of Archangel Michael in the town of Mirny.
Temporary army service is an opportune time for preaching about Christ, considers Fr. Artemy. The missionary trips have been organized over a period of eight years, twice per year, in conjunction with the educational department of the cosmodrome. St. Tikon’s faculty has periodically participated in these programs.
Participating in this session were priest Dimitry Lin, Hieromonk Andronik (Rodionov), eleven students, author and performer Artem Belov, as well as Deacon Maxim Pavlovsky, who spent his army service in one of the cosmodrome compounds.
Over five days, the missionaries visited four compounds. In each, a short concert was performed, and priests taught the basics of the Orthodox faith, answering the soldiers’ questions. After the discussions, all who desired it received the Sacraments of Baptism and confession. On the next morning, Divine Liturgy was served. 1200 in all attended the talks, 99 of them were baptized, and 240 went to confession. About the same number received Communion, reports the press service of the diocese of Archangelsk and Kholmogory.
“I have to admit that I was not expecting such a broad scope,” commented Fr. Dimitry Lin. “The trip was very full, I would even say straining, in part because of the large number of services.
“In a sense, the missionary trip was a revelation to me. Here, in the army, I met for the first time young men from various corners of our homeland. Up until then I had only met with people from Moscow—graduates and students. Now I understand how greatly Muscovites differ from people who come from other towns and villages.
“As it turns out, 80 percent of all mandatory military personnel are Orthodoxy people, that is, they are baptized,” continued Fr. Dimitry. “But they do not know anything—not God’s commandments, not the services, nothing. In general they have a poor understanding of what the Church is, and why they became Christians. I see this a as a disaster, especially since I myself worked for many years in the department of education and catechization of the Russian Orthodox Church, where we were supposed to be concerning ourselves with this same religious enlightenment. Unfortunately, there is a great lack of laborers in the field of spiritual enlightenment today, but what does get done brings forth its fruit in time.”
Fr. Artemy considers that one fruit of this missionary work at the cosmodrome is the construction of house church on the premises. Since 2009, churches appeared in the educational center of military astronautics. At the present time, a church dedicated to All Saints is under construction on the forty-third division of “Plesetsk”. Commanders of two more military divisions have come forth with the initiative to build churches. The priest has noticed a significant improvement in relations with military command. “During the first years of the mission we would meet with a lack of understanding and indifference from the officers, but gradually the situation is changing. I was very glad at their sincere desire to help, and their interest in our work.