Right Worship in Moscow?
by Michael Gallo
With nationalism on the rise in Russia, those who seek reforms in the Russian Orthodox Church face strong opposition from both the Church and groups outside the Church, including death threats from ultranationalist groups. Such was experienced by Fr. George Kochetkov, who earlier this year was removed by the patriarch of Moscow from his post as pastor of a large, successful Moscow parish, known as the “Meeting of the Ikon of the Vladimir Theotokos.” Although Fr. Kochetkov’s situation is now partially resolved because he has been given permission to continue his ministry in another building, his story and that of his parish illustrate the tensions between conservative and progressive elements within the Church and tensions with the Russian nationalist movement.
Fr. Kochetkov began an illegal ministry as a lay catechist in the days before perestroika, reaching thousands of unchurched Russians with the light of the gospel. Out of this he founded an institute now known as the Moscow Higher Orthodox School, which serves 1,000 to 1,500 students and offers instruction from Christian basics to university-level courses. Fr. Kochetkov also founded a fellowship of Christians who lead a common life and help in the work of the institute. In addition to the fellowship, and the institute, a parish was formed, and all three ministries made use of a centuries-old monastic facility that had formerly been confiscated by the Soviet government for secular purposes. The Moscow patriarchate gave its approval to the establishment of Fr. Kochetkov’s work.
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Michael F. Gallo , a graduate of Wheaton College, is a public school teacher in Chicago, Illinois.
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