On returning I drew up a list of no less than 40 people who made me welcome and whom I need to remember in my prayers. Most I already knew personally. Only two people I wanted to meet and was unable to, both in St Petersburg. It would be incorrect to mention any one person of family in particular. A big thank you to everyone equally
A lot of kids this time, which is always fun, generally very well-behaved, several of them hitting adolescence, leading me to wish parents strength and patience. Two people who were unwell last time I visited now seem a lot better, a couple of new ones are going through the mill health-wise and psychologically and need to go on my special needs diptychs.
The big surprise successwas a visit to Tutayev, a medium-sized town on the Volga, half-way between Yaroslavl and Ribinsk, where I was a guest of Fr Innokenti, a local late vocation priest I met through the intermediation of ieris_m. Fr Innokenti and I spoke for hours in his middling English and my middling Russian on pastoral work in a small-town setting. They are blessed with a good bishop, whom I immediately liked and celebrated with in a tiny village. The town and immediate neighbourhood has a number of old churches, one of which, the Resurrection Cathedral, in Tutayev, had remained open throughout the Communist period and still had a full set of pre-1917 icons and appurtenances. Being pre-1917 does not make them beautiful, but it is a change from the usual Sofrino.
No Sofrino either in the church of St Peter and Paul at the Pedagogical University in St Petersburg, where I was invited to serve on Sunday. Perhaps the most ‘up-to-date’ Russian church I have celebrated in: sanctuary space largely visible to the congregation (including a sizeable contingent of deaf and dumb and mentally handicapped people), the kiss of peace right across the congregation before starting the Eucharistic canon, gospel book nicely bound with a simple silver ornamentation, an attractive Siena-style crucifixion icon on the east wall, priest clean-shaven, deacon preaches also….
The atmosphere general was more subdued than on last visits. Thankfully no discussion of western morality and of same-sex marriages, high on the propaganda agenda two years ago. Ukraine a near non-issue. A somewhat ‘grin and bear it’ attitude to the general power situation, both in state and church. Let’s get on with our lives. In one sense, normality.