Area Churches Make Western Christmas Merry

MTThe Catholic Cathedral will hold Mass in Polish, Russian and English on Dec. 25.
Since Dec. 24 and 25 are regular working days in Moscow, it can take a little effort to create all the trimmings and trappings of a Western Christmas.

But expatriate Protestants and Catholics display just that energy, carving out a separate world of children's pageants, lessons and carols and candlelit midnight services away from the ordinary workaday hustle and bustle of the capital.

Many gravitate to the city's two main pre-revolutionary, non-Orthodox churches: the Roman Catholic cathedral near metro Ulitsa 1905 Goda and St. Andrew's Anglican Church off Tverskaya Ulitsa.

At the Cathedral of Immaculate Conception, a traditional Christmas Day Mass -- with a noticeable Polish influence -- will be held at 9 a.m. and 6 p.m. in Polish, 10 a.m. and 7 p.m. in Russian and 3 p.m. in English. On Christmas Eve, the church will hold Mass at 8 p.m. in Russian, at 9 p.m. in Polish and at midnight in Spanish and Russian.

St. Andrew's features a high-church Christmas, English style. On Dec. 24 at 4 p.m., the congregation's children host a Nativity play and at 11 p.m., the church will be lit with candles for a midnight service. On the morning of Dec. 25, communion is held at 8:30 a.m. Services are held in English.

A traditional lessons and carols session modeled after the King's College service was held at St. Andrew's on Dec. 15, and remaining days in the lead-up to Christmas will feature similar concerts, taking advantage of the church's excellent acoustics, beautiful interior and central location.

Where these establishments leave off, a host of Protestant groups pick up.

Other Protestant congregations around town are newer to Russia but no less celebratory. Whereas both the Catholic and Anglican churches have existed for hundreds of years, some Protestant groups are relatively new in town.

The Protestant Chaplaincy also gathers in St. Andrew's during the Christmas season. The non-denominational group, which is affiliated with the American Embassy and has operated in Moscow for 40 years, will conduct an English-language service at 7 p.m. on Christmas Eve, Chaplain John Calhoun said.

The International Baptist Fellowship is another homeless organization that gathers regularly in the Moscow Economic Club for what youth leader Bill Breckenridge calls "a relaxed setting for worship." The IBF is not technically affiliated with the American Baptist Church. It offers a laid-back environment featuring guitar and piano music. The services are in English with translation into Russian.

Chris Ohan, another IBF leader, said: "It doesn't really matter that we don't have a permanent location, because we're just a bunch of Christians getting together, singing and reading the Bible, so the environment doesn't matter so much. We have to take [the Bible] seriously when it says, 'whenever two or three are gathering in my name, I am there.' We don't have any choice."

This Christmas season, the IBF will gather at 11 a.m. at the Moscow Economic School on Dec. 22 and again on the same day at 6:30 in the Hotel Rossiya for evening Christmas prayers. On Christmas Day, the group has planned an evening fellowship at the IBF church office.

Other small groups that worship in apartments, cultural centers or even movie theaters include the International Christian Assembly, the Moscow Christian Center and Mission Living Faith.

Despite these planned festivities, spending Western Christmas in Moscow takes considerable adjustment for the city's religious community.

"There's definitely a feeling of homesickness, but we know that the Lord brought us here," Breckenridge said. "It's also very, very cold, which makes us miss home even more."

The Roman Catholic Cathedral of Immaculate Conception is located at 27 Malaya Gruzinskaya Ulitsa, 255-9700, Metro Ulitsa 1905 Goda.
The Roman Catholic Church of St. Louis is at 12A Ulitsa Malaya Lubyanka, 925-2034, Metro Lubyanka.
St. Andrew's Anglican Church is at 8 Voznesensky Pereulok, 229-0990, Metro Tverskaya.
The Protestant Chaplaincy can be reached at 143-3562 for worship schedule.
The International Baptist Fellowship is based at Kotelnicheskaya Naberezhnaya 1/5 Kor. B, Podyezd 1, Apt 6., 915-6119, Metro Taganskaya. The Moscow Economic Center is located at 29 Ulitsa Zamoryonova.
The International Christian Assembly holds services in the Central House of Writers' concert hall at 10 Krymsky Val, 338-1150, Metro Oktyabrskaya.
Mission Living Faith is at 21 Shmitovsky Proyezd, 959-6110, Metro Ulitsa 1905 Goda.
Moscow Christian Center worships at 24 Novy Arbat, 344-1344, Metro Arbatskaya.