On October 30 the train No.175 Vorkuta-Moscow, carrying a church, arrived at the Yaroslavl railway station in Moscow. It was the first missionary trip of a church in a train. The special car was consecrated by His Holiness Patriarch Alexy II of Moscow and All Russia on October 18 in honour of the icon of the Mother of God called ‘Hodegetria’, or ‘She Who Shows the Way’. The church in a train has covered 4000 kilometeres.
With the blessing of His Holiness the Patriarch meeting the train was Archbishop John of Belgorod and Stary Oskol, chairman of the Moscow Patriarchate Department for Mission. Also meeting the train was Ms.G.Klestova, deputy head of the passenger services of the Moscow Railways.
During the trip, which lasted 10 days, the missionaries celebrated 9 Divine Liturgies, made 3 processions with the cross along central streets of the cities which they visited. 1870 people were baptized. Taking part in the missionary trip were clergymen of the Belgorod diocese of the Russian Orthodox Church, staff members of the Moscow Patriarchate Department for Mission, faculty and students of the Belgorod Theological Seminary with missionary orientation. Every day they met with the inhabitants of the distant places and told them about the mission, the Church and the foundations of the Orthodox faith. The choir of the seminary students gave concerts of religious hymns in the Slavonic, Georgian and English languages, as well as concerts of Russian and Ukrainian folk music. Thanks to the benefactors, the missionaries had an opportunity to disseminate religious literature free of charge. The healing of the souls was accompanied by the assistance to medical doctors. Many local hospitals were given necessary medicine free of charge. With the blessing of Archbishop John all occasional services during the trip were performed free of charge.
A press-conference was held on the results of the trip, taking part in which were Archbishop John of Belgorod and Stary Oskol, Chairman of the Moscow Patriarchate Department for Mission; Ms.G.Klestova, deputy head of the passenger services of the Moscow Railways; Archpriest Sergy Popov, a staff member of the Department for Mission who served as rector of the church in a train; project author deacon Georgy Savin and manager of the ‘Invarkorp’ pharmaceutical company Mr.V.Nilov.
Archpriest Sergy Popov, who led the group of missionaries and served as rector of the church in a train, said that it was not fortuitous that the new missionary train made its first stop in St.Petersburg. The history of missionary trains in Russia dates back to the late 19th century. In 1896 a train with a church was produced at the Putivl factory on the order of Tsar Nicholas II, now canonized as a passion-bearer. Now, after over 100 years, the missionary train repeated the route of its predecessor in the beginning of the trip. From St.Petersburg the train went along the south of the Archangelsk region. According to Archpriest Sergy Popov, these are places almost without Orthodox churches, and the railway road is virtually the only connection with the rest of the world. The time-table of the trip was drawn up in such a way that the train moved at nights so that the doors of the church would be open at 09.00 a.m., and a pilgrimage of the locals would begin. Indeed, people rushed to the church in the endless stream, while the train was at the station.
According to Archbishop John, there were also dining-car and sleeping-car for missionaries on the train. The Archbishop emphasized that it was a trial run, which should be comprehended and developed with all positive and negative factors being taken into account. Plans for the future include trips to the distant regions of our country, Siberia and the Far East among them. Also, the missionaries will probably make trips by air. One of the projects is ‘the air procession with the cross’. The plane with the most venerated holy items of the Russian Orthodox Church will fly round the whole country along its borders.