A Russian-language book entitled From the West to the East: Experiences in Youth Ministry in the Russian Church Abroad has just been published. The author is Protopriest Andrei Sommer, Vice President of the Synodal Youth Committee of the Russian Orthodox Church Outside of Russia. “Working with youth is a special type of missionary work, it takes a special type of leadership” says the author. “Just imagine, you find yourself in a foreign country, with a different language, a different culture, a different spirit. The same applies to youth—they are like their own ‘special nationality,’ they have their own language, subculture, their own view of life.”
The book includes chapters which reveal the history of the youth missionary movement beginning with the 20th century in Russia and Western Europe to the present day, on the five continents Russian people found themselves settling in since the October Revolution in Russia, where they united under the spiritual leadership of the Russian Church Abroad.
Youth ministry in the Russian diaspora became one of the main focal points of the cares and aspirations of the hierarchs of the Russian Orthodox Church Outside of Russia: First Hierarchs Metropolitans Anastassy (Gribanovsky) and Philaret (Voznesensky) expended a great deal of energy to employ all of the forms and methods of work with youth available at the time with the aim of preserving for future generations the Orthodox faith and native culture. The book offers the reader unique recollections and photographs shared with the by those who participated in the groups, high schools, children’s camps, scout organizations and other entities which brought young people together for all those decades.
This new book is not only an excursion into history but a textbook of methods where the reader will find abundant materials devoted to various forms and methods of serving the youth in the Russian diaspora: Orthodox youth groups, the Scout movement, summer children’s camps, symposia, diocesan and All-Diaspora conferences, and also contains recommendations on organizing youth missionary projects and events. In the author’s opinion, the best material in the book is the invaluable experience in missionary work amassed over decades, which the Church Abroad preserved and which it is eager to share with its compatriots.
With the signing of the Act of Сanonical Communion, the gates were opened which had once divided us for many years. Efforts to heal the wounds inflicted upon human souls and human fates by the October Revolution and Civil War of the 20th century affected more than one generation of Russian émigrés, and today lie upon the shoulders of our youth.
The final chapter of the book contains writings of the youth missionaries themselves. These include essays of young people written on the eve of international youth forums or afterwards: in Israel, Palestine, Egypt, Moscow, St Petersburg… The culmination of these joint meetings of youth from various countries of the Russian diaspora, Russia itself and the nations of the CIS on pilgrimages to holy sites occurred at the 12th All-Diaspora Youth Conference in 2011. The thoughts and feelings they reveal are very personal. Such essays are required of every young person applying to participate in international conferences or pilgrimages/work programs, which are now held in conjunction with youth from Russia and the CIS.
The volume contains numerous illustrations which add visual impressions to the contents of each chapter. These archived photos, painstakingly gathered by the author from personal collections and archives of the Russian Church Abroad, are supplemented by contemporary photos, which comprise a chronicle of youth ministry within a now-united Russian Church.
This publication includes high-quality graphics, which ensure that the reader not only benefits from useful information and recommended methods of youth service, but enjoys genuine aesthetic pleasure from the book.
Youth ministry is a difficult task and demands all the energies of anyone devoted and inspired to participate in it. But this is not enough to wisely and carefully tread the missionary path of educating young generations, in leading human souls to salvation. Fr Andrei and his editors produced a unique book which reveals a great deal on this topic for the contemporary missionary. The idea originated as a form of a gift for the flock of the united Russian Church on the fifth anniversary of the reestablishment of her unity, and published with the blessing of His Eminence Metropolitan Hilarion of Eastern America and New York, First Hierarch of the Russian Orthodox Church Outside of Russia.
The Publishing Council of the Russian Orthodox Church recommends this book as useful for missionaries and youth directors in various countries of the Orthodox world.
The book can be obtained from Sretensky Monastery in Moscow and the Synod of Bishops of ROCOR in New York.