Thought for the Day - 16 August 2012
It looks as if Vladimir Putin will go on ruling as Guiding Democrat of All the Russias for some time to come, and there is no doubt that many voters prefer his “strong” regime to the chaos that preceded it. But widespread public protests show that many Russians are tired of the present set-up and want something better, especially if “management” involves corruption and ballot rigging.
Where stands the venerable Russian Orthodox Church when it comes to honest elections? After 70 years of state atheism, it is playing a prominent role in the public life of the new Russian state. But has this ancient church sold out to the new Caesar in the Kremlin?
The writer and researcher Mikhail Roshchin, of The School of Oriental Studies in Moscow, accepts that “the church, sinceTsarist times, has been accustomed to stand close to the authorities, and – to a large extent – to serve their interests.” But he insists that the public utterances of the top leadership do not represent the varied views of the membership as a whole. “Both liberal and conservative attitudes are to be found among the lower clergy and the laity, who gather in numerous parishes throughout the country.” Roshchin concludes that the Patriarch is must attempt to hold the balance between contrasting tendencies within the church. This may partly explain– if not justify -– his erratic behaviour.
Just after the Orthodox Christmas (January 7th) the Patriarch was interviewed on state TV channel, Rossiya- 1. “Legitimate protest” he declared – “should lead to a change in political direction. When the authorities remain insensitive to protests, they suggest that they are unwilling to put their own house in order.”
So far, so positive. But by February 8th the Patriarch was giving active support to Putin’s re-election campaign. Addressing the candidate in person, he said “I thank you, Vladimir Vladimirovich,for the huge part you have played in setting our country on a straight course.” The opposition leader and former chess champion Gary Kasparov compared his role to that of the Prime Minister who“plainly...and bluntly” saluted Hans Anderson’s naked emperor as a “ greatman”.
The Patriarch’s ambiguity stands in contrast to the forthright deeds and words of some of the parish clergy.
Father Dmitry Sverdlov, for example, served s an electoral observer. and reported ballot rigging in favour of the ruling party – United Russia. The official response - says Roshchin was “worthy of the theatre of the absurd” . It declared that the protesting observers were “not guilty in any way and would not be subject to criminal proceedings”. Father Dmitry comments that the church should be “above politics” but not “outside politics”. “Doing something is to exercise influence, but doing nothing is to exercise influence too.”
Another priest, Andrey Zuyevsky, has been even more outspoken. “ The present authorities are repellent to Christians, especially to young believers and newcomers to the faith.. Our leaders are often seen to cross themselves, to bow before icons and even to take communion, suggesting that it is acceptable for a Christian to practise deception and humiliate others. Not so; for the Christian life calls for daily repentance, recognition of sin, and a desire to overcome it.”
Today’s Russian Orthodox Church is much more than Vladimir Putin’s poodle. It speaks with many voices – and not all of them are repeat the official line. Many express the same concerns as other members of civil society. “Nowadays” writes Archpriest Aleksey Uminsky: “ People of many and varied persuasions gather on the public square; but they are united by one thing – they don’t want to go on living like this any more.”
First posted 3, March 2011, Foreign & Commonwealth Office website
Reverend Canon Dr Gary Wilton, The Church of England Representative to the EU & Canon of the Pro-Cathedral of Holy Trinity, writes:
Everywhere you look religion is still with us. This is despite the enlightenment predictions that the death of religion was imminent.
Micklethwait and Wooldridge in their 2009 God is Back conclude:
"On the street and in the corridors of power, religion is surging worldwide. From Russia to Turkey to India, nations that swore off faith in the last centuryor even tried to stamp it outare now run by avowedly religious leaders. The global rise of faith will have a dramatic and far- reaching impact on our century."
God is undoubtedly back, religion is everywhere – west, east, north and south. And it has a huge impact on international relations and public policy. But how do we talk about it, and how do we discuss the really difficult topics, when even framing the questions can be painfully tricky?
During the last six months political leaders in France, Germany and the UK have all declared that multiculturalism has failed. But in what ways has it failed? Has it failed completely? Has it failed in the same ways across the world? If it has failed what will replace it? And where does that leave the religions that are thriving across the globe and thriving in so many local communities? How does government govern a religiously plural society post multiculturalism?
In the UK, the new governments Big Society debate has ushered in a re-consideration of the place of religion. Some see religion as a problem that needs to be solved. The new government sees it as part of the solution… "I want to send an important signal that we value the role of religion and faith in public life…" stated Minister Eric Pickles.
The signal from Wilton Park is that to be part of the solution, religion needs to be part of the discussion. If religion is excluded from the discussion, inadvertently we might be making it into the problem.
Difficult questions need to be framed and asked in ways that are open, welcoming and safe. No, Wilton Park is not about to become a seminary. But it is a place where the international policy maker can meet the peacekeeper, the humanitarian and the theologian. Maybe asking the difficult questions about the failure of multiculturalism is the beginning of religiously plural societies that just might succeed.
Yesterday at the service of thanksgiving for the late Queen Mother and Princess Margaret, an extract was read from The Compassion of God and the Passion of Christ. The author, Eric Abbott (1906-1983) was Dean of Westminster and a close friend of the Princess, also – as it happens – of Fr John Findlow who confirmed me and his wife Irina who taught me Russian. It is peculiarly fitting, as you will see, for our conference:
To God be the glory for ever and ever: Amen.” Let us then live, speak, work, and pray, “to the greater glory of God”, “ad majorem Dei gloriam”. This will afford us the same motive as Christ our Lord had. This will direct all our work to an end beyond ourselves. This will afford us a worthy ambition – the glory of God and the Kingdom of God. It will also strengthen us when life seems to lack purpose, to lose its cogency. “Ad majorem Dei gloriam” will also lift us out of our self-centredness, to look beyond our own glory to God’s. It will give us a simple and salutary form of self-examination – “where is the glory I am seeking, in the things I do and say?” It will help us to see that we are instruments only in the hand of our Lord; to realise that we enjoy being used; but “not unto us, not unto us, but unto thy name give the praise.”
Then let us add to the glory that we seek to give to God, the very important word “Amen”. “To him be the glory: Amen”. “Amen” is our saying Yes to God’s will. “This,” says God, “is what must be”; and we say “Amen”. “Amen” is what Christ’s Mother said at the Annunciation. “Amen” is what all the saints have said to the demands our Lord has made upon them. “Amen” is what every Christian man and woman must say in accepting their particular vocation. “Amen” is what we say when things are hard but inevitable. It is not false passivity; it is active acceptance of God’s will. Try to say “Amen” to those things in your life which are clearly the will of God. Try not to say “Amen” to things which should not be accepted.
“Amen” is the last word to be spoken. Therefore in speaking it, we shall try to finish our work, finish the tasks that God has given us to do, believing that he will not summon us away from this world until we have had our chance to show him at least a token of what we would do for him perfectly, if only we could.
Then we realise that our life and our work can never be quite tidily finished. But this is only to say that the final “Amen” to our lives which alone can make them good, can only be spoken by God; by God who spoke the “Amen” to his beloved Son’s life on earth, raised him from the dead, and then by the Holy Spirit’s power made his life and his death endlessly fruitful for good, until the end of time.
When we come to the end, therefore, let us commend our spirits to God our Creator and Redeemer in faith, believing that he who raised Jesus from the dead will be able to take what we have done for him, whether explicitly or implicitly, and will gather it into his Kingdom, to be in that Kingdom that particular enrichment of the Kingdom’s glory which our particular life had to contribute.
For there is something which only you can bring into the Kingdom of God. Therefore let us live this life to the greater glory of God, say our “Amen” when the end comes, and trust that Almighty God from his side will forgive us, will accept us in his beloved Son, and will himself pronounce upon our little life his own “Amen”.
The Compassion of God and the Passion of Christ.
Alexander Men was murdered 22 years ago on his way to take morning service at his small country church on the morning of Sunday Sept 9 1990. News of his assassination reverberated round the world, because he had made a name for himself in the short span allowed him by the Gorbachev policy of 'glasnost', through his writings, broadcasts and public lectures. Men was a scholar, scientist and social reformer as well a parish priest of Novaya Derevnya, a small village between Moscow and the seat of the Russian Orthodox church at Sergiev Posad. He pioneered pastoral care in hospitals and prisons, started the first Sunday School in Russia for the children in his parish and was a regular visitor to old people’s homes to comfort the elderly, then often living in terrible squalor and neglect. He was a man of extraordinary personal charisma and charm, happiest sitting at a small table in a Moscow flat with friends, coffee mug in hand, or pottering in his garden (he was a botanist by scientific background) but capable of enthralling an audience of millions thirsty for explanations of the cultural, religious and historical questions which, under the Soviet regime, they had so long been denied any right to debate. He was an excellent parish priest, but also a converter to Christianity of many of the so-called 'wild tribe' of the Russian intelligentsia, including the musician/poet Alexander Galich who wrote a haunting song in exile in Paris in honour of Men 'When I Return'. Another convert, the international virtuoso violinist Vladimir Spivakov, has sponsored many events in Men's memory, including two remarkable animated films by Gary Bardin 'Ugadkii Utyonok' (The Ugly Duckling) and 'Adagio', with musical accompaniment conducted by Spivakov.
An international conference 'Russia: lessons and legacy’ www.alexandermenconference.com will be held in Moffat, Dumfries and Galloway 14-17 Sept 2012 at St Andrew's Church, Moffat and the Moffat House Hotel. The conference will discuss topical issues inspired by Fr Alexander's life and work The question 'Why Moffat?' is simply answered: both Elizabeth Roberts and the Rev Dr Ann Shukman, the co-authors of 'Christianity for the Twenty-First Century – the Life and Work of Alexander Men' (SCM Press 1996, now available to download as an ebook from Amazon), an account of Fr Alexander's life and times, with selections of his writings and broadcasts, now live in or near Moffat. The third member of the Scottish triumvirate organising the conference, Dr Donald Smith of the Scottish Storytelling Centre and John Knox House in Edinburgh, sponsored in 2000 a co-production with Moscow theatre director Mark Rozovsky of a play 'A Russian Rehearsal' telling the story of Fr Alexander's murder, based on T S Eliot's 'Murder in the Cathedral'.
The Moscow partner of the conference is Dr Ekaterina Genieva OBE, director of the Rudomino State Library for Foreign Literature (known by its Russian acronym VGBIL for short), who was herself a long-time colleague, friend and parishioner of Fr Alexander both in Moscow and at his country church. Dr Genieva was awarded her OBE for her long and distinguished collaboration with such institutions as the British Council and the BBC World Service, both of which are housed under the wing of her library - along with the cultural centres of a dozen other countries, including France, Japan,and the USA. Dr Genieva - 'Katya' to her many friends worldwide - demonstrated enormous courage at the time of the coup which ended the Communist regime in Russia, allowing the printing facility of her library to issue bulletins about the swiftly-changing situation, to be rushed off the presses and onto the streets. She more recently refused to close the office of the British Council when the Russian government was displeased with certain of the Council staff's activities.
The conference in Moffat will host visiting speakers from the USA, France, Germany , Russia and the UK; sessions will be designed to encourage audience participation, debate and discussion of a variety of issues of topical interest, as well as offering a unique opportunity to learn firsthand about the church and the man who inspired the conference through personal contacts.
Moffat – see www.visitmoffat.com is an ideal location for such an event, surrounded by the green rolling hills of the Southern Uplands of Scotland, a coaching stop and spa that has welcomed visitors since the 17th century and before that, traditionally, the home of Merlin, believed now to have been a historical shaman/druid advisor to Arthur the British warlord celebrated in literature, poetry and film.
I have memories of Dr Ekaterina Genieva, ‘Katya’, going back nearly 30 years. She had come to Britain with two other star Russian students of English language and literature some years before I met her, as a guest of the now defunct Great Britain-USSR Association which I had joined in 1962. I came to know both her companions too, in later years. One of them, the magnificent Georgy (pronounced Gay-org –ee) Andzhaparidze, became a publisher. He was introduced to John le Carre (David Cornwell) in the course of le Carre’s researches for his The Russia House. George – as he was known to his Engish-speaking friends - had a cameo role, playing himself, in the movie of The Russia House starring Michelle Pfeiffer and Sean Connery. While the highly extrovert and excitable George was compering the premier at a cinema in Moscow, he slipped and fell from the stage sustaining fatal injuries.
Katya was someone I visited every time I was in Moscow from 1983 onwards. She was a senior librarian at VGBIL the State Library for Foreign Literature, housed in a vast building in central Moscow with tentacles extending the length and breadth of the Soviet empire. Under various idiosyncratic Russian rulers, including Andropov, she got on quietly with being a librarian. In her flat there was a ‘holy corner’ with icons and photographs of her various spiritual mentors. She would speak of Father Alexander Men, her parish priest at the church of Novaya Derevnya (New Village) where she had a dacha. We often spent weekends at the dacha, in winter and summer but I did not meet Fr Alexander until just before Easter in 1990.
My elder daughter Abi had been living with Katya and her family while studying voice at the Moscow Conservatoire. Abi met Fr Alexander, and went to his many public lectures and decided to be baptized at Easter. Several months later, Fr Alexander was killed with a blow to his head from a sharp instrument, widely believed to have been a sapper’s spade of the sort issued to the Soviet Special Forces, wielded expertly from behind him, while his attention was focused on something being shown to him that had required him to open his briefcase and take out his spectacles – in other words, a two-man professional job. Shortly after the murder, two young men, were reported to have boarded the ‘elektrichka’ suburban train Moscow-bound. They have never been traced. The fax telling us the news was sent by Katya from Georgy Andzhparidze’s office – in those days, fax machines were the strictly controlled privilege of regime trusties.
After the murder, Dr Donald Smith of the Church of Scotland’s Scottish Story-Telling Centre had the brilliant idea of commissioning a play from myself and Moscow theatre director Mark Rozovsky to dramatise the story for a western secular audience at the Edinburgh Festival. Our chaplain at the British Embassy, Chad Coussmaker, suggested that we base the play on T S Eliot’s Murder in the Cathedral.
Donald came out with me for the premiere of the play entitled ‘Murder in the Cathedral: A Russian Rehearsal’ at Mark’s theatre ‘At The Nikitsky Gates’. Donald and I flew in and were immediately informed that we were going to be part of a VIP delegation on a visit to Rostov on Don, a town on the southern borders of Russia in Cossack territory. Surprised but unable to resist, we flew to Rostov where Donald distinguished himself by singing a Scottish ballad at a reception on a replica of Peter the Great’s warship which is moored there.
On our return to Moscow, we saw the play, which was most effective and moving. Ironically, or perhaps aptly in light of Fr Alexander’s own ethnic origins, the Theatre at the Nikitsky Gates is predominantly a Jewish theatre, and the company tours their repertoire for the Russian-speaking Jewish diaspora in cities through the USA.
Sadly, the play cannot be performed in Britain because T S Eliot’s widow Valerie forbids any adaptations of his work.
After the death of her friend and mentor, Katya threw herself into work , using the library’s facilities to print pro-democratic bulletins in the tumultuous days of the fall of Communism. The printing works of the library were housed in the church of SS Cosma and Damian, now restored as a fully-functioning place of worship, pictured in a recent Facebook posting by Bishop Seraphim Sigrist. Katya became the director of her library, where she offered space to the BBC and many foreign cultural organisations and ran George Soros’s Open Society organization in Russia, supporting free speech and economic liberalism along the lines described by Friedrich von Hayek in The Road To Serfdom.
I owe Katya more than I can say: for making it possible on many visits over the years for me not only to see a great panorama of Russian places outside the two great cities of St Petersburg and Moscow from Archangel to Jaroslavl, Kolomna to Rostov on Don, but also to participate in a family life; for hosting the British Book Trust’s Children’s Books of the Year Exhibition and giving it a great send-off (by the British Ambassador Brian Fall) before the two identical sets of books went off to tour round Russia; for organizing a tour for me, my agent Rosemary Sandberg and my publisher at Piccadilly Books; but above all for making it possible for me to meet Fr Alexander a few fateful months before he was assassinated.
One of my favourite sayings of Fr Alexander's - the great encourager - is that we should never despair of Christianity, its squabbles, failings and faltering confidence, because, in the great scheme of things, humanity has existed for many millennia, while Christ came into the world a mere two thousand years ago: Christianity is just a seed that is still to blossom and bear fruit. In the spiritual sense then are we not still 'neanderthals'?
Have we become sceptics and doubters? Then let us expand our gaze, look around us, for 'God has given us two books, the Bible and nature'. We live in God's created world, in God's time.
Do we feel our beliefs are threatened and challenged by science? Then let us see the world as God's creation and remember that it is God who has given us rational and enquiring minds to learn - through science - of his greatness.
Does the violence and cruelty of the world bring us to despair? Then let us remember that 'history is moving forward through trials, catastrophes and struggles towards the kingdom of God'. The seeds of the Kingdom are already within us, and 'in all that is beautiful, creative, and good we can spy the secret activity of Christ's grace'.
Fr Alexander who imparted this full and confident faith to so many others was well aware of the threats to him personally from the unreconstructed forces of the old regime. He spoke once of himself and his followers as rabbits at play while the hunters are hunting each other. And the hunters did come for him that September day in 1990 on the wooded path to the station.
At our conference we shall celebrate this courageous and faithful man whose last words were, 'Christianity is the sanctification of the world, the victory over evil, over darkness, over sin.'
The Alexander Men 2012 conference came about because Ann Shukman and I met for a casual catchup lunch in Moffat, south Scotland, at the recently opened Brodies restaurant one day in May or June 2011. Well done, Brodies! Ann had come to live in Lochmaben about 20 miles southwest of Moffat, some years before, and I had moved into Moffat in December 2009 from my former home further north in south Lanarkshire. The circumstance of our finding ourselves living so near to each other was providential, because when we first worked together (on our book Christianity for the Twenty-First Century), Ann was living in Oxford, 300 miles away. The idea of holding a conference to review Fr Alexander's life and work arose spontaneously during lunch, unplanned. We agreed then and there to pool some of our own money in a kitty and get started. Moffat Book Events, then in its infancy, was fully committed to organising its second- ever event that October 2011, so I asked Alistair Moffat organiser of Borders Book Festival, Scotland's biggest and best book festival outside Edinburgh, author, Vice chancellor of the University of St Andrews and much else beside, if he could recommend an experienced local conference organiser who would take the Men conference project on. He immediately suggested Sarah Mathieson of Vantage Events Ltd in Melrose. Within a few weeks, Ann and I met and appointed Sarah and soon we were joined by Donald Smith whose roots are as deep and far-reaching as Alistair's in Scotland's cultural life. Since then, Marilyn Elliott administrator and co-founder of Moffat Book Events has also joined the conference organising committee as treasurer, and succeeded in securing Scottish Charitable Organisation status for MBE - a very necessary enhancement for fund-raising. The minister of St Andrew's, Moffat, Adam Dillon also generously offered his church as our conference venue, and sits on our committee. It was agreed during successive meetings over time that we wanted the themes explored at the conference to reflect the sort of man Alexander Men was: someone not only conversant with the arts and sciences, but completely at home with artists and scientists; happiest sitting in an old pair of trousers and open shirt with a mug of coffee at a table with friends. In other words living the gospel, walking the walk day and night as well as talking the talk when appropriate. He was greatly loved by his parishioners and friends of all sorts and conditions, because he radiated great and good power; he was free. He is said to have performed miracles of healing, but he would never have promoted himself in that way whatsoever. It is this extraordinary individual, whose life and works we look forward to celebrating in September 14-17 2012 with an eye to our own troubled times. We being: his family, friends and followers from far and wide, and those who may not yet have heard of him and may be interested in learning more about him and the light he cast on all aspects of life.
Elizabeth Roberts, Moffat
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In 1990, the Director of the All-Union State Library for Foreign Literature, known in Russia by its acronym VGBIL, an immensely powerful institution at the forefront of the drive for liberalisation in what was then the USSR, Mrs Ekaterina (Katya) Genieva, introduced my daughter Abi to Fr. Alexander Men, who was Katya's close friend, colleague and parish priest at Novaya Derevnya, where she had a weekend dacha. By this time, Fr. Alexander had a weekly prime time TV programme addressing general historical, cultural and philosophical as well as religious questions, and was giving lectures on a wide variety of topics every day of the week at halls and auditoriums in Moscow and other big Russian cities. He had been allowed to visit Italy where his daughter lived, and was due to go later in the year to Germany with General Secretary Gorbachev as part of a select top level retinue. Abi was living with Katya and her family while she studied voice at the Conservatoire as part of the language practice requirement of her degree course in Russian at Swansea University. Katya had become a friend of our family over the 10 years that I worked alongside my husband John C Q Roberts, being myself both a Russianist and a long-standing (since 1962) member of the Great Britain-USSR Association, of which John was Director. At Easter 1990, Abi decided to be baptised by Fr. Alexander, so I went out with my daughter Elly to meet him and discuss details such as her baptismal name. We arrived as Sunday service was ending and while we waited our turn to meet the great man, about whom we had heard so much from Katya, the three of us lingered to look round his little church at Novaya Derevnya ('New Village'). As is traditional in the Russian church, an open coffin decorated with a bright red paper frill was set up on a stand in the middle of the church (Orthodox churches have no pews), and it was explained by our guide that the name of the deceased diminutive elderly lady awaiting burial, was Agafiya. When it was our turn to be admitted to Fr Alexander's small office in a building beside the church, Fr Alexander was looking with the architect at plans for a new baptistery to be built beside the church.
The impression he made on me was lasting and life-changing; of someone quite exceptional working at the very limit of human power verging on the Christ-like (he was credited by perfectly sober witnesses to have powers of healing which were, quite understandably and properly, never promoted) to accommodate the demands being made on him, which were continual and came relentlessly from every side. We had brought with us a from a friend dying of Aids in Los Angeles, a gift of disposable needles for the children's hospital where Fr Alexander (against tough official opposition) was pioneering a chaplaincy service. He wrote a note of the address of the hospital on a little scrap of paper, which now hangs framed in my house, to send to our friend for future consignments,. Then we turned to the question of Abi's baptismal name. Abigail had not been baptised, and the name is an Old Testament one. Abi suggested that since Fr Alexander had lost one Agafiya from his congregation, she might take that name. A fan of the British detective story, Fr Alexander's eyes twinkled. 'Then you would be Agafiya Christie?' he said. Later that summer, weeks before he was murdered he added in a postcard to Katya: 'Give my love to Agafiya Christi'
News of Fr Alexander's death in Semkhoz at the gate of his house came by fax to our house in London on the morning of Sept 10 1990, the day after he was attacked with an instrument - now believed to have been a sappers' spade as used by the Soviet special forces - , on his way to get the train a couple of stops up the line to take morning service at his church in Novaya Derevnya, on the electric rail line between Moscow and Sergiev Posad, the monastery seat of the Patriarch analogous to Canterbury for the Church of England . The fax was sent by Katya from Raduga, an official publishing house, one of very few organisations licensed at the time by the regime to possess a fax machine, courtesy of George (Georgy) Anzhaparidze, the Managing Director of Raduga. George, who was widely believed to have been a ranking officer in the KGB, later fell sensationally to his death from the stage at the Moscow premier of The Russia House, the Hollywood movie starring Michelle Pfeiffer based on the novel by John le Carre, in which George appeared playing himself.
Abi was devastated and I, who knew him far less well, was also deeply shocked. We had been expecting him in London the following week where he was due to speak at a conference at the School of Slavonic and East European Studies. I was invited to give an instant assessment of the scale of Russia and the world's loss on the BBC Radio 4 Sunday programme that weekend. I decided to do what I could to promote knowledge of Fr. Alexander from then on. One of my oldest friends, Robert Dudley, who was then a publisher of Christian books, agreed to publish a cycle of Fr Alexander's Easter sermons Awake to Life, to which Robert's parish priest Richard Harries (later Bishop of Oxford, now Lord Harries of Pentregarth) wrote an introduction; later, Robert came out to Moscow for the 'presentation' of the book, and met Katya.
A couple of years later, I was in Moscow, again on literary business, staying at the Patriarch's hotel, built originally to accommodate the dignitaries who had come to Moscow in 1988 to celebrate the 1,000th anniversary of the Christianisation of Russia. I came down to breakfast one morning and sat at the communal table with John Bowden, director of SCM Press and translator and publisher of the Bonhoeffer letters. In the course of the conversation, I mentioned Fr Alexander Men.He said: 'You are the third person to have mentioned that man's name to me on this visit (he was in Moscow at the invitation of the Patriarch, to advise on publishing). When we are both back in London, we must meet to discuss doing a book'. When Bowden came to see me, I had laid out on the dining table all the materials I had. Then and there, we decided what form the book should take:- a series of characteristic excerpts of his work, to be chosen by someone close to him whose judgement was considered sound by others in his immediate circle, with a biographical introduction giving the reader an idea of his life and character.
Having signed the contract with SCM, I went back to Russia to start the process of collecting sample writings, sermons and excerpts from his books. His followers were largely still in shock or in hiding, fearing that the same fate might befall them. Communications both within Russia and to and from the outside world to Russia at that time were extremely difficult: telephones were rationed and bugged, photocopiers, where they existed, were kept in locked cupboards to which only authorised persons, party trusties, had a key. Mobile phones, of course, did not exist. As an example of the kind of precautionary steps that were thought necessary: following Alexander Men's death on Sept 9, I went out to Russia in October 1990 to attend the traditional '40th day' services, which included a ritual meal at Novaya Derevnya, attended by a crowd of clerics including the Metropolitan and Gleb Yakunin plus only three women: Fr Alexander's widow Natalya Federovna; Katya Genieva and myself.; before I left, I was asked to take back to England a suitcase full of tapes, videos, photographs and other materials because it was feared that the KGB would try to destroy them all. The man nominated to select the material for the SCM book was a follower of Fr. Alexander's, Fr Ignatiy Krekshin, who had been sent with one other monk to re-open a monastery, closed during the Soviet era persecution of Christianity, near the Tchaikovsky estate at Klin 60 miles northwest of Moscow. I went there in the depths of winter, with a car and driver provided by Katya, as discretely as possible, in deep snow. Fr Ignatiy gave me a sheaf of papers, variously typewritten or photocopied, to be smuggled back to London to be translated. His single fellow monk put on a wonderful spread, a positive banquet, and I visited the medieval facilities before I set off back to Moscow.
For most of 1992, my husband was in the process of retiring and in 1993 the year of his actual retirement - I was teaching at the university of Yaroslavl. In 1994, we moved out of London into the house at Crookedstane Rig we had built in my forestry plantation, later to become my home, in the southern uplands of Scotland. For the book, I had gathered together a team of volunteers to attempt translations of the texts and they were of a pretty mixed quality. Due to the other pressures on my time and my own limitations as a translator/editor, the time came when I turned for help to Ann Shukman, who took over magnificently the business of producing a professional translation and writing a well-researched biographical note placing Fr Alexander in his time. Others Richard Harries and Cardinal Lustiger, who had met Fr Alexander briefly en route to meet the Patriarch -, and Abi also provided material. The book launch in 1996 was held in Oxford, attended by Rowan Williams, then Bishop of St David's in Wales.
From then on, sustaining Father Alexander's memory has continued to be an important part of my life, including this ebook version of Christianity for the Twenty-First Century to coincide with preparations for an international conference to be held in Moffat, Scotland Sept 14-17 2012. in Fr Alexander's honour. The conference will provide an opportunity to debate what lessons can be learned for the conduct of successful ministry in a largely secular culture in the light of his experience. Over the years since Fr Alexander's death, I have had frequent meetings with Pavel and Natalya Men at Semkhoz, Novaya Derevnya, VGBIL and at the Fond A. M. office in Moscow above the church of SS Cosma and Damian, which I first knew before it was re-opened when it was a deconsecrated Soviet printing press belonging to VGBIL. I have also met Fr Alexander's son Michael (Misha) who was a deputy mayor of Moscow now Governor of Ivanovo region. I not only attended Fr Alexander's 40th day service at Novaya Derevnya, I was one of the invited speakers at the secular memorial service in the Bolshoi Zal of the Library on the 40th day, attended by many of the great and the good in Soviet society, including film-makers, politicians, academics, writers, painters and leaders of the three officially recognized faiths, the Metropolitan, Chief Imam and the Chief Rabbi. I have attended many of the annual commemoration conferences both in Russia and in the USA; helped to make a film about Fr.Alexander with three US film makers; co-wrote, at the suggestion of Dr Donald Smith of the Church of Scotland's Edinburgh arts centre, with Mark Rozovsky of the Theatre at the Nikitsky Gates, the play A Russian Rehearsal, based on a group of actors rehearsing T S Eliot's Murder in the Cathedral, telling the story of Fr Alexander's life and death. I attended the ceremonial opening of the new baptistry which Fr Alexander was planning when I met him at Novaya Derevnya with Abi and Elly that day in April 1990, and later was present at the laying of the foundation stone for the church since built on the spot where he received the fatal blow on the path to the station at Semkhoz. I enrolled in the Institute for Orthodox Christian Studies at Cambridge to understand orthodoxy; joined the council of the Fellowship of St Alban and Sergius; embarked on a translation of Fr Alexander's correspondence with Sister Ioanna Reitlinger, published in Russia as Umnoe Nebo; supported the Community of the Servants of the Will of God who have in their safe keeping Sister Ioanna's tryptych and icons made for the Fellowship of St Alban & St Sergius chapel in Ladbroke Grove (where my Russian teacher Irina's husband John Findlow was chaplain, hence the dedication of the first edition of Christianity for the Twenty-First Century to him and Irina). I gave several talks about these letters and Sister Ioanna including at a conference in Greece, one of many occasions at which I have been reminded of what appears to me to be the discreet but nevertheless relentless, strenuous and continuing efforts being made by the official church to counter Fr Alexander's influence and wherever possible to prevent his books or thoughts or reputation from spreading.
Elizabeth Roberts, Moffat