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A Divine Cause

at 03/07/2008 19:31

St. Andrew's, built in 1882, is not only the single Anglican church in all of Russia, but also Russia's only English Neo-Gothic structure. In tune with its international significance - and its dilapidated building - St. Andrew's has begun an $8 million international fundraising campaign to help restore the building to its 19th-century splendor, while introducing to the interior the 21st-century functionality needed by the worshippers and outreach organizations that call the church home.

The fundraising campaign kicked off mid-2007. Its first stage, which was entirely self-funded by the congregation, is already complete. The church looks to raise $810,000 over the next year to complete the second of the four stages. For this, the church is reaching out - a charitable trust has been started in the United Kingdom, with a second fund being started in the United States.

The campaign is appealing to all for help - from the "Buy a Brick Club," which asserts that "no donation is too small," to designating "Platinum" donations of $100,000 or more. The campaign's first major donor is Dallas businessman Jerry Fullinwider, a Presbyterian whose business brings him in and out of Moscow.

Pat Davis Szym­czak, the Restoration Chair, told The Moscow News that Fullinwider "is very typical of the congregation we've got here." Sunday services at St. Andrew's are attended by more than 150 worshippers of more than a dozen nationalities, primarily from English-speaking countries. Worshippers come from various Christian denominations. Some come into Moscow for a couple of days, and others make the city their home. The average member stays for 2-3 years, said Szymczak.

The restoration fundraising campaign is trying to contact the many who have come through the church over the years. Szymczak described the network that has evolved as similar to a university alumni network, with prior church members now located all over the world.

Donations are also expected, primarily from England, from people who have no personal connection with the church. As a member of the worldwide Anglican Communion, St. Andrew's is part of the Church of England, and the priest of St. Andrew's, Reverend Canon Simon Stephens, is the Special Repre­sentative of the Archbishop of Can­terbury to the Russian Orthodox Church, making St. Andrew's highly significant for Russian-English relations. "We have very warm, cordial relationships with the Moscow patriarchate," Father Simon told The Mos­cow News.

And in addition to being Russia's only English Neo-Gothic building, St. Andrew's is the only standing example of its architect, Robert Knill Freeman of Bolton. Thus the church is truly unique.

The $190,000 raised in the first stage of fundraising primarily covered legal work to clarify the church's title to the building and property, in addition to funding project management and preliminary budgeting and scheduling.

Sorting out title rights has postponed the restoration: plans have been in place since the 1990s. From the 1960s, the church was used as the recording studio Melodiya. World-famous names in classical music, such as Dmitry Shostakovich and Mstislav Rostropovich, recorded at St. Andrew's. Worship began once a month in the church in 1991 and soon became more frequent.

In 1994 upon the state visit of Queen Elizabeth II to Russia, then Russian Prime Minister Viktor Cher­nomyrdin ordered the return of the property for free use for religious, community and charitable functions. Under Russian law, all religious property is state property, but a religious organization can receive the right to free use of that property. But Cherno­myrdin's ruling was not immediately effected. Only around this past New Year's did the church succeed in getting the property rights registered to the Russian state.

Melodiya, which occupied the building until this past year, continues to claim a structure that the studio added onto the church in the 1960s, while the Moscow Historic Monu­ments Commission, which protects St. Andrew's as an Historic Architectural Monument, has recommended that the added structure be demolished as part of the restoration. Its roof is caving in, explained Szymczak, and its design is not structurally correct for the church building.

The church is employing the real estate services firm Cushman and Wakefield to direct the pricing, budgeting, scheduling and fundraising of the entire restoration project. In the upcoming year, an architect will be selected from among Russian architects at the several Historical Preser­vation Institutes in Moscow. The Moscow Historic Monuments Com­mission will oversee all work.

Project Manager Simon Yurchenko, in speaking to The Moscow News, stressed the historical and engineering reasons motivating the restoration. Investigations have found that the church's foundation is in poor condition and must be repaired. The project aims to restore the church's "original exterior to its original appearance," Yurchenko said. A three-story Victo­rian-style Vicarage on the property will also be restored. The gardens will be designed to host outdoor community events.

One pride of St. Andrew's is its main hall, where weekly classical-music concerts feature professional musicians. Its acoustics, the church website claims, are topped in Moscow only by the hall of the Moscow Conservatory. Resto­ration will preserve and update the acoustics, and a new organ and bells will be installed to replace the originals lost in the 1920s.

The church interior will be contemporized to fit ministering needs. Plans envision classrooms, seminar rooms, offices and a community kitchen, which will all be used by the outreach organizations based at the church.

"The Anglican church in Moscow is very much a servant church, serving both the expatriate community and the wider Moscow community," said Father Simon. He said that the church regularly cares for "hundreds, if not thousands of people."

The church's charitable outreach includes the Russian Orphan Oppor­tunity Fund, which provides tutoring for children and young adults from Russian orphanages, many of whose educations are far below their age level. St. Andrew's also hosts Moscow's only English-language Alco­holics Anony­mous meetings, which are offered several nights a week. Often a person flying in briefly on business will call the church about attending a meeting, Szymczak said, emphasizing the range of people affected by the church's outreach. Also based at the church is the Old World Foundation, which uses a twelve-step program to counsel substance abusers and their families.

Esther Daniels, active member of St. Andrew's of the past two and a half years, feels that the church "offers both spiritual and cultural comfort for many that perhaps don't feel at home in the big city." She added that she has found friendships at the church that will stay with her wherever she goes.

St. Andrew's was built in 1882 by Scots and English manufacturers.

It replaced a chapel built on the site in 1825 by British merchants.

Anglican worship in Russia dates from 1553, when Tsar Ivan IV granted the right to non-Orthodox worship to maintain moral teaching among British merchants in Moscow. These merchants were the first to trade with medieval Muscovy. Where they worshipped, however, remains unknown: no record mentions an Anglican church in Russia until the 19th century.

Szymczak told a legend that the original British traders proposed to Ivan IV to build wooden pews for Russian Orthodox churches, but Ivan replied that "Russians will always stand in the presence of God."

St. Andrew's was originally realized through the businessmen that made up its congregation. The gates were cast by the Smith boilermaker family whose factory still stands near metro station Ulitsa 1905 Goda. The gothic designs on the façade of department store TsUM come from the Scottish retailers Muir and Mirrielees, who also built St. Andrew's.

Today's congregation is also bringing all its means to the plate. "It's the same today," Szymczak said of the reconstruction. "We've got people in certain key industries, which are the things that attract today's merchant class, whatever they are."

Father Simon concluded: "I think we're tremendously privileged to be given this opportunity to restore St. Andrew's of Moscow to its former glory." 

By Alisa Ballard

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