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Examining the new Russian hymn book
"Alleluya, Alleluya." The sound of young Russian voices streamed through the silver birch trees on a warm August day, the sweet notes of a recorder adding to what was something of an ethereal experience. I was in the Soforino Centre, just north of Moscow, for the 2009 Russian Bible School and, apart from the birds, was probably the only mortal to hear these delightful sounds of praise.
Around me were the criss-crossing pathways through the woods that connected the korpus, or accommodation blocks, that had once formed this centre for "holidays for the workers" under the former Soviet administration. Soforino was where groups of workers from Russian State Television, in the days of the USSR, had benefited from healthy communal activities. Now brothers, sisters, young people and interested friends from all over the Russian Federation, Moldova, Ukraine, Kazakhstan and Latvia, had come together at this centre to increase and strengthen their understanding of a life in Christ and the future blessings in his kingdom.
Attending the school were nearly 100 Russian-speaking members, with eleven from the UK. John Botten and Stephen Palmer took the main studies on Isaiah and Simon Peter. A Beginner’s Class was run concurrently in a separate building, covering first principles and led by the main speakers, together with Igor Podgaisky, Tim Collard, Iain MacDonald and Michael Lewis. John took the main class through some of Isaiah’s most majestic passages, drawing out the practical lessons for those whose lives bring challenges which many in the West don’t share. Stephen brought us face to face with a very human Simon Peter, identifying through the Psalms the common experiences of David and Peter and making us think hard about just what the “keys to the kingdom” were. These adult studies were ably translated by Elena, Igor, Alexander, Sasha and Dmitrij.
By minimising what we took out in our luggage, we managed to get a huge quantity of the newly-printed Russian hymn book to the school, and each member received a copy. Then John set to in his engaging and inimitable fashion to encourage everyone to sing. With a piano that could have well been around when Lenin was a lad, John worked masterfully at coaxing a pleasing tune out of the instrument, following this up with a solo (in English) so that no one was in doubt how the tune went. By the end of the week there was a real enthusiasm for singing and the new hymn book was given a resounding vote of confidence.
|"Go into all the world and preach the gospel to the whole creation." (Mark 16:15)|