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EEPN Toolkit: Learn

What do Presbyterians believe?

At the 225th General Assembly (2022) of the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.), the overture “On Expanding Mission Engagement and Education with Eastern Europe” was adopted. The text of it reads:

Direct the Presbyterian Mission Agency to strengthen our accompaniment in the region impacted by the war in Russia and Ukraine and listen deeply and broadly to the many voices in the region, through the following actions:

Direct World Mission’s Office of the Middle East and Europe, in collaboration with the Office of Compassion, Peace, and Justice, and including the International Peacemaking Program, Presbyterian Disaster Assistance, and the Office of Public Witness, to:

a. continue communication with church and civil society organizations, including Orthodox and Protestant churches and Non-Governmental Organizations (NGOs).

b. publish articles that help Presbyterians understand the complexities within the region and our own country’s engagement.

c. develop and promote a reading list and study guide/tool kit in cooperation with the Belarus, Ukraine, and Russia Mission (BURM) Network for churches and individuals interested in learning more.

d. identify opportunities for youth engagement across the region and include youth from the United States.

e. prayerfully consider and take action to stay engaged with the ongoing refugee and humanitarian crises and offer other practical responses.

History

The area that we in the United States refer to as Eastern Europe has a very long and interesting history. It is interesting to see the maps of the area in just the last 400 years.

Current state of society in Russia, Belarus and Ukraine

Major ethnicities of the region have been in place for centuries.

  • Moscow Protestant Chaplaincy: Established in 1962 as an English-speaking ministry. It is led by a rotation of pastors from the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.), the Evangelical Lutheran Church of America, the United Methodist Church, the American Baptist Church and the Reformed Church in America.
  • Baptist churches: Baptist churches have existed in Russia since well before the years of the Soviet Union, starting in the last third of the 19th In 1944, two groups joined to form the Russian Union of Evangelical Christians-Baptists, the denomination with which PC(USA) currently partners. For more information, see britannica.com/topic/Union-of-Evangelical-Christian-Baptists.
  • Lutheran churches: Lutheran churches have been in Russia for several hundred years. One branch, the Evangelical Lutheran Church in Russia and Other States, is related to the Evangelical Lutheran Church in the U.S. Many Germans came to Russia as needed agricultural workers and their church came with them. For some time, the Lutheran Cathedral in Moscow belonged to the state; however, in celebration of the 500th anniversary of the German Lutheran Church in 2017, the building was returned to the church. Another Lutheran church is the Finnish Lutheran Church, which is related to the Lutheran Church, Missouri Synod in the U.S. It’s in Russia because of earlier shifting borders between Russia and Finland.
  • Work of Father Vladimir Klimzo: He shared the story of his family’s move to the out-of-the-way village of Davydovo, the rebuilding of the church there, and their call to care for those with disabilities. Before he was a priest, Fr. Vladimir was a guitar builder and guitar teacher; he continues to use his musical gifts, as do a number of the people who have joined in his ministry. The summer camp* in Davydovo ministers to children with a variety of disabilities, but autism is one often dealt with.

*During the years of the Soviet Union, it was customary for children to attend summer camp. Here is information about one of them: rbth.com/history/335209-artek-soviet-pioneer-camp.

Russian Humanities

Art

Historic paintings, especially those by Ilya Repin (born in Ukraine, studied in France, painted life as it was, not traditional European art); also, Vasily Surikov. During the 1860s, a group called “The Wanderers” was formed. Their goal was to show Russian life as it was — at the time, and in the past — rather than copy from Western subjects as the Academy in St. Petersburg had traditionally done. For more information, read “The 10 Greatest Russian Artists Ever” by Alexandra Guzeva (article dated July 18, 2023).

Music

Classic composers, largely from the 19th and 20th centuries, included Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky (relatively cosmopolitan in his outlook) and the “Mighty Handful, ” César Cui, Alexander Borodin, Mily Balakirev, Modest Moussorgsky and Nikolai Rimsky-Korsakov.

Literature

Works by Alexander Pushkin, Fyodor Dostoevsky, Lev Tolstoy, Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn and Anna Akhmatova. For more information, see meettheslavs.com.

Movies

For the “30 best Russian movies of all time,” visit flickside.com for descriptions. See also films about Cheburashka, a little animal with huge ears who accidentally gets shipped to Russia in a crate of oranges. By watching the earliest stories in the series, you can see representations — including some spoofs — of life in the USSR.

Ashes in the Snow – A 2018 movie about things that took place during World War II in Lithuania. The film follows the life of a 16-year-old aspiring artist and her family as they are deported to Siberia during the dismantling of the Baltic region by Stalin. Download the lesson plan.

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