Choir from Siberia Enriches
United Methodist Russia Consultation
by Elliott Wright
Leawood, Kansas -- They came from the Singing Christians United Methodist Church in Kurgan, Russia: 12 young women, filling the hall with musical praise and prayer as joyful, as gentle as an angelic chorus.
Charles Wesley, a singing British Christian and brother of Methodism's founder, surely smiles from his heavenly composing desk whenever he hears this youth choir from a city in southwestern Siberia.
The choir from Kurgan is one of the miracles of the Russian Initiative of The United Methodist Church. The 13th consultation of the initiative met on November 15-17 at the Church of the Resurrection in Leawood, Kansas. The 275 participants could hardly contain their enthusiasm for the choir's versions of well-known hymns and a Russian spiritual repertoire
The Russia Initiative is sponsored by the General Board of Global Ministries, the international mission agency of the denomination. Consultations take place about every 18 months to deepen the relationship between partner congregations of the church in Eurasia and the United States. This year, 67 people from Russia, Ukraine, and Moldova took part, the largest number ever.
The Rev. Ludmila Yegorova, a former music teacher turned pastor, directs the choir of the seven-year old Singing Christians Church. "It is not just the choir that sings," she said through a translator. "The whole congregation sings. We sing the liturgy every Sunday. We sing for children at an orphanage. We sing at hospitals and kindergartens; we sing for the blind and for the elderly. Jesus comes to us and is with us when we sing."
Even to a musically untrained ear, the sound of the choir is remarkable--sweet or troubled; questioning or confident, in keeping with the spirit of the words and music. The rendition of "How Great Thou Art," soared and reverberated in the rafters of the high-ceiling youth center of the 14,000 member Church of the Resurrection. A Russian folk song about a young woman who loses her sweetheart's ring had a haunting sadness.
The Kurgan choir's presence at the Russian Initiative meeting was made possible by the First United Methodist Church of Springfield, Illinois, which is the partner of the Kurgan congregation. The choir dedicated a song to Walter Hill, a layman from the Springfield church, who played a special role in making the trip happen.
Kurgan, a city of some 375,000 people, is on the Tobol River and the Trans-Siberian Railroad in the Ural Mountains area. It is a regional center for both agricultural products and manufacturing. A majority of the population is of Russian descent. It is part of the United Methodist Eastern Russia and Central Asia Annual Conference, a vast area incorporating seven time zones.
The Singing Christians Church has about 55 members, 20 of them young people. It is particularly involved with ministry to 90 children in a local orphanage. The members make handcrafts, including crochet and needlepoint, which are sold to raise money for the orphans. Proceeds from the sale of the choir's CDs go to the same ministry. The CDs and crafts were available at the consultation.
Rev. Yegorova received her pastoral training at the United Methodist Theological Seminary in Moscow, one of the major institutions related to the Russia Initiative.
The Kurgan youth choir has become well known within Eurasian Methodism and is in demand to sing at conferences, camps, and other gatherings. In addition to hymns, it sings traditional and classical Russian songs.
The choir was scheduled to be in the United States for two weeks, going from Kansas to Springfield to sing at First Church, and then on to Washington, DC, for appearances there and in northern Virginia.
*Elliott Wright is information officer of the General Board of Global Ministries.
Date posted: Nov 20, 2007