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2549: St Andrew's, Moscow, Russia
St Andrew's, Moscow (Exterior)
Photo: Voznesensky and used under license
Mystery Worshipper: Haywood.
The church: St Andrew's, Moscow, Russia.
Denomination: Church of England, Diocese in Europe.
The building: A Victorian Gothic church, the only such building in Moscow, consecrated in 1885 and seemingly transported from leafy Surrey. The design incorporates angels holding a thistle, a rose, a shamrock and a leek, representing Scotland, England, Ireland and Wales, respectively. During the October Revolution in 1917, the church tower was used as a machine gun post by the Bolsheviks. The communists confiscated the building in 1920 and converted it to a hostel for diplomats. In 1964, owing to its excellent acoustics, it was given to the state-owned Melodiya record company for use as a studio. After the collapse of the Soviet Union, the government agreed to return the building to religious use; however, Melodiya did not vacate the premises until 2001. A major restoration effort was begun in 2008, and today the church's large interior is decorated by banners and beautiful icons.
The church: They are a gathered community of people from around the world, whose common bond is the English language, and, for some, the links with Anglicanism. They acts as a cultural centre in Moscow as well as a church, hosting concerts by musicians from Russia and abroad. They manage a program to channel financial aid to Russian orphanages, and maintain ecumenical ties with the Russian Orthodox Church and the Moscow Protestant Chaplaincy.
The neighbourhood: The building is right in the centre of Moscow, about 10 minutes walk from Red Square and the Kremlin.
The cast: The Revd Canon Dr Simon Stephens, chaplain, led the service and preached. The readers were Satchit Rose and Nicolette Kirk. The intercessor was Kostia Ushanov.
The date & time: Pentecost Sunday, 19 May 2013, 11.00am.

What was the name of the service?
Sung Eucharist.

How full was the building?
Comfortably full downstairs, but the balcony was empty.

Did anyone welcome you personally?
Yes – three people, most impressive! A warm welcome from Canon Simon, then another lovely welcome from a gentleman named Ivan and from another member of the congregation.

Was your pew comfortable?
Yes. The Anglicans have not taken to the Orthodox tradition of standing, so there were comfortable chairs.

How would you describe the pre-service atmosphere?
Quiet and reverential, with some piano music playing in the background.

What were the exact opening words of the service?
"Please stand for the processional hymn, number 461."

What books did the congregation use during the service?
Common Worship and Hymns Old and New.

What musical instruments were played?

Did anything distract you?
One little girl insisted on scraping her chair on the floor. The sound went right through me. Also the heat (I know it's Moscow!) People were fanning themselves with their orders of service. Apparently the previous week it had been freezing cold.

St Andrew's, Moscow (Thistle)
Photo: Smallbones (Public Domain)

Was the worship stiff-upper-lip, happy clappy, or what?
Formal but friendly. We had a sprinkling of water thrown over us during the worship, which was a new experience for me – great, as we were all wilting with the heat. I loved their way of bringing the international community together in the words of welcome and the worship.

Exactly how long was the sermon?
11 minutes.

On a scale of 1-10, how good was the preacher?
8 – The chaplain has a friendly style, and I really warmed to him. Very clear and not too fast – really important for those for whom English is a second or third language.

In a nutshell, what was the sermon about?
It was Pentecost, the birthday of the Church. The sermon considered the young disciples and how they, through their transformation at the first Pentecost, helped the Church to become universal. We, too, have received our own gifts in God's Holy Spirit; how do we use them? How can these transform the places where we live and work? We must let our gifts flow out to make a difference. Let us pray for a more militant Church and rededicate our gifts to others.

Which part of the service was like being in heaven?
As the three communion hymns were not enough to cover the entire ceremony, the pianist added some classical selections to fill the gap. They were exquisite! That and the visual experience of the sacrament still happening felt very spiritual.

And which part was like being in... er... the other place?
Something was not right with the microphones – it was very difficult to hear the intercessions.

What happened when you hung around after the service looking lost?
Several people came and spoke. This is a very friendly congregation. I think they were as pleased to see another English speaker as I was to see them.

How would you describe the after-service coffee?
Wonderful. Lovely cup of coffee. Nothing to say it was fairly traded – I'm not sure if fair trade coffee has reached Moscow yet. Some scrumptious Russian sweets and nibbles. Champagne was on offer as well – I think just for Pentecost – for those for whom it wasn't too early in the day.

How would you feel about making this church your regular (where 10 = ecstatic, 0 = terminal)?
10 – If I were living in Moscow, it would be a natural home for a non-Russian speaking Christian – although I would also want to sneak out occasionally and go to some of the fabulous Russian Orthodox services.

Did the service make you feel glad to be a Christian?
Yes – a lovely sense of the church members looking after each other. For example, they have a gardening group, which is a great way of people getting to know each other. The results were spectacular, helped by the good weather no doubt.

What one thing will you remember about all this in seven days' time?
That piano music, the wonderful welcome, and the sense of an international English speaking congregation in the heart of Moscow.
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