Install

Get the latest updates as we post them — right on your browser

. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Churches Deserve Full Resurrection

Church bells, silent through seven decades of official atheism, now peal from an increasing number of Moscow's Russian Orthodox chapels. Formerly used as museums, warehouses, offices and hostels, thousands of these churches are reopening throughout Russia in the wake of communism's collapse.


St. Basil's Cathedral on Red Square, recognized around the world as the symbol of Russia itself, was given back to the Orthodox church last year, along with seven churches inside the Kremlin.


The return of places of worship is not limited to Orthodoxy. Mosques and synagogues are being reestablished as well. Moscow's Historical Mosque, across from the Kremlin, now gathers the Moslem faithful after 57 years of serving as government office space and an engraving studio.


The Russian government's commitment to returning places of worship appropriated by the Soviet state is to be commended.


But legal and economic complexities are encumbering this process.


St. Andrew's Anglican Church, a historic brick structure on Ulitsa Stankevicha in central Moscow, is caught in just such a purgatory. Built in 1882 by the British foreign community, the church was seized by the Bolsheviks in 1920 and gutted of its money, furniture and relics. Since then it has served as a hostel, diplomatic mission and, finally, a recording studio.


Today, the church's ornate stained-glass windows are covered by acoustic panels. A glass sound booth is cut into a rear wall of the sanctuary. The grounds are overrun with weeds, and old files and boxes of records spill out into all of the hallways.


After lengthy negotiations, the Church of England received permission last year to hold services in the recording studio Sunday mornings. In June, the first permanent minister in 73 years was attached to the Anglican congregation.


But the Melodiya record company is reluctant to turn the premises over. If suitable replacement offices were provided, a company executive said, Melodiya would vacate the church quickly.


The time has come for the Russian government to step in and serve as a catalyst in this process. Other premises must be found for Melodiya, and the church returned to its spiritual mission.


The new Anglican canon, the Reverend Chad Coussmaker, says that once the Church of England regains control of the church, it could be used in ways that help Russia, like providing office space for British-based aid organizations.


With Moscow's Anglican community approaching 1, 000 or more according to Coussmaker's estimates, the resurrection of St. Andrew's is long overdue.