by: Clayton Childers

11 DEC 2018

Seventeen Russian pastors and church leaders, (3 men and 14 women), gathered on October 15-20 near the city of Vladivostok for a five-day training on the United Methodist Social Principles. Rev. Andrei Kim, DIstrict Superintendent for the (Eurasian) Far East District, said: “This is our first opportunity to host a Social Principles training in the Far East of Russia. Travel is always a challenge in our district; the district covers three zones. A number of participants for this event travelled twenty-three hours by train to attend.”
Each participant was asked to prepare and present a sermon on a particular issue of social concern. Sermons addressed: Capital punishment, domestic violence, abortion, humane treatment of animals, care for the environment, alcohol and addictions, artificial insemination, welcoming the differently abled, and ministry with the poor.
Rev Dr. Clayton Childers, Director Conference Relations for the Board of Church and Society teamed with Eurasia Episcopal Area Church and Society director Rev. Irina Margulis to serve as primary lecturers for the gathering. Rev. Margulis, who also serves as District Superintendent of the Moscow District, said: “We are so pleased to be able to partner with the Board of Church and Society and the Far East District to bring this event to the Far East of Russia after having hosted similar trainings in Sochi, Moscow, Bishkek, Kyrgyzstan. In each location participants have expressed a new appreciation of the church’s Social Principles and a commitment to share them with others.”

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A cultural outing included a trip to Vladivostok where the group attended a ballet performance of “Sleeping Beauty” at the Mariinsky Theater.
Participant comments included:
“I am very grateful to the organizers of the seminar and teachers. God helped me take a fresh look at events and people I hadn't paid attention to before. I have learned that our Church is universal and I participate in its ministry.” Elvira Solnechnaya. Komsomolsk-on-Amur
“The most important thing I have learned is to hear the opinions of many people and to accept or at least try to understand a different position from mine and come to a reasonable compromise. The seminar is very useful for teaching in faith and tolerance.” Tatiana Kogay , Komsomolsk-on-Amur
“Thank you for the opportunity to learn new knowledge and skills in this seminar. Teachers who shared their experience of service, their knowledge helped me to understand the social principles of the UMC. Thank God for the precious time.” Olga Switnitskaya , Khabarovsk.
“Thanks for the seminar. I used to read Social principles, it was boring and incomprehensible. This time everything was in my head and was accepted by the heart. The exercises were great, we will use them in the congregation.” Pastor Irina Hong, Komsomolsk-on-Amur
“This seminar helped me see the needs of people through Jesus ' eyes. I have more love in my heart now, and I want to share warmth with people. I am very glad that I came here to study, because my worldview has completely changed and I opened up to serve people from the world.” Natalia Mazigula. Komsomolsk-on-Amu

Clayton Childers, reporting
Photos: © General Board of Church and Society UMC