Who must include the priests: as it was before the revolution – now

The number of priests is down by three times compared to pre-revolutionary times. And that metareligion “zakhozhaev” contain a temple and a priest. The regular congregation is much smaller, about 3% of the population, and to support the priest they can not. We clearly see this in the example of ROCOR, which forced the clergy to work on a secular job and live seven days a week. On the other hand, if the people keep the Church a fee for baptisms, funerals, religious services, these people have a Church in pre-revolutionary sense. Yes, they do not go to Church, but without them to keep the temple would be impossible. Sobur Denis, lecturer at St. Tikhon’s Orthodox University (pstgu), about what the choice is before today’s parishes.

Photo: simbeparhia.ru

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Sobur Denis

One of the most important events in the history of the Russian Orthodox Church of the XX century was the holding of the local Council of 1917-18. For the first time members were able to come together to discuss their issues of concern. Each diocese was represented by the ruling Bishop, two clergyman (a priest, the second could be anyone: from acolyte to vicar Bishop) and three laymen.

Perhaps for the first time in the history of the Russian Church, the candidates of the Cathedral elected by the parishes. The parish Council sent its representative to the deanery. These representatives elected electors. And on the diocesan Assembly elected delegates to the Cathedral. The short era of freedom between the February revolution and the final victory of the Bolsheviks allowed to discuss openly standing in front of the Church problems.

Today we have the opportunity to see what he was talking about at the Council with the documents published by Novospassky monastery. One of the major divisions of the Church was V “Division on the welfare of the parish”. This Department enrolled 152 people – almost a third of the Council members. A meeting of the Department was held on 31 August 1917 at the 3rd (16th) of April, 1918, only about six months.

A meeting of the local Council of 1917

Issued but protocols and materials division amounted to a weighty Tome at 900 pages. Studying these materials, you can learn a lot about the state of the Church at the turn of the eras. And most importantly, to read serious discussion on the issues of the dispensation of the parish, the election of the clergy and many other issues that are still relevant in the Russian Orthodox Church.

For landlords, the priest was a peasant, for the peasant landowner

In pre-Petrine Russia, a rural community was quite self-governing parish unit. She built a temple to contain it, chose the candidates to the priesthood and sent them to the Bishop for ordination. Entrance of the clergy, was opened, the transition from parish to parish, too, did not pose a problem. This has led, for example, to the emergence of “sacral priests.” They were standing at the crossroads (“city”) and offered their services: prayers at home, prayers for the dead etc. Is a stray clergy seemed inappropriate and from a Christian point of view and from the point of view of the Empire built by Peter I.

Created by Peter system the main task of the Church was seen to help the state in solving its problems. Was done with a heavy focus on the education of the clergy. In the Synodal period (XVIII-XIX century) no longer such a thing as illiterate priests leading the service from memory.

In 1808, held a very successful reform of theological education known to us and created a three-tier system of theological schools (College-Seminary-Academy). But education is an expensive thing, and the state did not plan to take its contents. The burden of the costs of the system of spiritual education rests on the parishes. In particular, in 1808, it is withdrawal of the total accumulated receipts of funds (sometimes with the help of the police). In response to this is double-entry bookkeeping in parishes who did not want to give their money to the diocese.

All the XIX century the state of the various reforms trying to solve this problem. On the one hand, the state needs educated priests. Recall that the priests were lying, and the function of the Registrar, and bringing to the people of the state decrees. At the same time, the poverty of the peasantry did not allow them to have their own parishes.

Increasingly, the priest was seen as the official, seizes people’s money on their children’s education. Stronger grew the gap between priests and flock.

The state tried to introduce new charges, for consolidating congregations and thus to improve the maintenance of the priests. So, in 1869, only 18 dioceses intended to deprive independence 2000 parishes and bring the state of 15 000 is sacred – and clergymen, including nearly 1,500 priests. Bishop of Minsk Eugene (Sursilov) wrote that “the reduction in parishes severely affected parishioners; almost all of them began to Harbor hostile attitude to the clergy, considering it only the originator of the reform and the reform of explaining his self-interest”.

In the end, this state policy has led to terrible division between the peasantry and the clergy. The priest in the village had become a stranger. For landlords he was a peasant, for the peasant landowner.

Photographer V. Kolotilov, Kashin, the family of a priest. The end of the 19th century

The peasants did not understand the desire of the priest to buy books, educating the sons (and at the end of the XIX century and daughters). And I didn’t want to pay for it.

The delegates of the local Council of 1917-18 year, said that after the revolution of 1905, the peasants refused to pay for the rites, arbitrarily reduced the already agreed amount, and just openly mocked. After the February revolution of 1917, the situation became even worse. Farmers were selected by parish land, expelled priests.

The religious situation of the era is well described by the delegates Council. For example, the priest Ponomarev quoted one woman, who came to baptize three children: “I believed that the revolution we are given freedom in its entirety, so I can leave the kid unbaptized. But when I went to allowance, I have asked the birth certificate, so I came to baptize the child and to the testimony” [1, p.225].

“How to start a revival of parish life”

“What is coming?” – this question had to be answered for the participants of the Department of welfare of the parish. This question had the legal side (who is the owner of the Church and parish property) and organizational (choose the parishioners of the priest or the Bishop appoints), and spiritual (how to create the conditions for the pastoral care of a priest to his parishioners).

The most difficult was the last, a spiritual question. To formalize some specific documents was not possible. To help the pastors was written “Introduction to the parish Charter.” The Introduction of legally to nothing obliges, but contained General advice to the priest on how to begin the revival of parish life. In the first part of the Introduction was due to the long forgotten truth: a Christian is saved not alone. Synodal division between the clergy and the world of the members of the Council oppose the need for the unity of Christians according to the word of the Apostle Paul (1 Cor. Chapter 12, Rome. 12:3, 6-8).

“…the clergy and the flock, the laity should, as far from God talents and assigned tasks, to contribute to the dispensation of the parish for your purpose of achieving salvation of the soul of each and every Christian believer. Care about it gives you the opportunity and space for everyone to put their strength and ability as better for the salvation of his soul to work for Christ: the Liturgy and the Church, another in philanthropy, a third in education, another in the exhortations and denunciations of the lost, etc., according to the Apostle, for the perfecting of the saints, for the work of Ministry, for the edifying of the body of Christ“.

In the second part of “Introduction to parish by-laws” follows docenterna right device “ancient parish” which “actively cared for the ecclesiastical education and charity”, and sounds the call to gradually restore the “ancient order of things in the parish.” The section ends with a call to “gradually but firmly” to restore the ancient order of things through the introduction of a new parish Charter.

The most important looks of the third part, describing how to begin the dispensation of the Orthodox parish in terms of the undoubted persecution of the Church. This is a practical section, talking about the need to hold a record of parishioners who wish to remain faithful to the Church in the new conditions. Before this you need to conduct interviews with parishioners in the Church and in the villages.

Special emphasis will do on “essential personal participation of every believer in the dispensation of the parish as a sacred Christian duty to save his soul, without execution what is Christian debt will be a dead member in the body”. The separation of the Synodal period, the authors oppose the unity of believers in Christ. Despite the past century, this part of the “Introduction to parish by-laws” remains more than relevant. In fact, it is a road map for the transition from the Synodal management style to the Cathedral:

“But for all that, you cannot begin to shepherd the implementation of the Charter of the Orthodox parish, not having prepared although some of the parishioners to the conscious and active participation in this case. Undoubtedly, every pastor in the parish there are several particularly pious and intelligent members. They should unite around him, inspiring them to parish business, and to attract others to do this. So gradually create in parishes large or small circles and the Commonwealth of adherents. They are the immediate assistants of the pastor and guides its efforts in the parish. This procedure will gradually and intelligently prepared not random and blind, and the appropriate elections and Parish Council and other ministries in the parish. Only after such careful preparation and you can proceed to the implementation of the adopted Church Cathedral of the Statute on the Orthodox parish.

In managing the Affairs of the parish shall be elected by the most pious and zealous of the members of the face, and in addition, shall be elected and such zealots, which can be useful for close observation of a case in the parish: one will be in charge of education, another a charity, a third to oversee young people, sometimes watching the sectarian propaganda, that is for raising children, etc. in addition, for the convenience of monitoring the life of the parish and the leadership of the business, the whole parish is divided into areas and commit ourselves to a particular congregation observers and managers”.

Introduction to the new parish Charter sets the direction in which you would have to develop our parishes, if the Bolsheviks failed to stay in power. As mentioned in the Cathedral the priest Egorov:

We hope that our future is not so bleak as painted it for us Archbishop. Anthony. Hardly will there be the impoverishment of the candidates for the priesthood to have to put in the priests who came. We write a Charter not for the present transient time, and for many years future. To the old procedure to return should not be” [1, p. 252].

“Looking for the priest’s place, have a pleasant baritone”

However, when it on the Cathedral came to practical matters, the final decisions have been quite conservative. A huge discussion about the election of the clergy. This idea had as their explicit supporters and radical opponents. Many even believed that the problem of selectivity exaggerated.

Even during the pre-Council presence in 1906, Professor A. I. canonist Diamond said: “it’s Better if our Church remains the Chief Procurator, the representative of the sacred person of the Sovereign than to be in it by the legislator and the Lord so earnestly recommended to us… the people’s Assembly” [CIT 1, p. 38]. But had the election of the clergy and a more sober opponents. So, FR. V. M. Sevlievski told the Council: “With each passing day, each new speaker in my mind strengthens the belief that great on the idea of the elective principle in terms of cash really can’t to practical application…

We must confess, our parish is in decline. He is sick, he is in a state of decomposition and decay. Internal living forces in it waned. All life, light, good scattered small sparks and muted and suppressed by more powerful bad influences and currents.

The voice of the devout and pious people has remained inaudible and insignificant. And if so, whether as a regenerating means to provide such ward the right of election of candidates of the priesthood?” [1, p. 194-195].

Different speakers at the Council were talking about that started with the February revolution, the election of “de facto” have led to many problems. The clergy “began to depend on electors, often non-religious” [1, p. 200]. During the election the beginning was “easy to see a priest of some “Bolshevik”” [1, p. 203]. Real elections in parishes has led to the fact that “parish priests now and selects those that would agree to take less for the rites, – to the mental development of the priest the congregation is not enough” [c. 349]. Even where the election was made by the Church people, they are more interested in external things: the ability to be a good serve and speak the message.

As a result, the Newspapers appeared monstrous in fact the ads: “Looking for the place of the priest. Have a pleasant baritone. The education received is average. Served in the parish for 25 years”.

During the lengthy discussions, the members of the Department on the improvement of the parish could come up with a compromise procedure for the selection of a priest. Anyone wishing to take the vacant place was to petition the Bishop. The congregation might also offer their candidate. The Bishop was removed from the list of those candidates who were considered undesirable, and passed the list to vote in the parish Assembly. If the ward refused the proposed candidates, he had to offer to the Bishop the new candidate. However, this complicated compromise formula did not receive the support of the Cathedral. The final wording was left the right to elect the Bishop, “which the election takes into account those candidates, which seeks parish.” Thus, despite all the shortcomings of the old system, in those circumstances, the election to replace her has not found.

The last of the fundamental issues related to the ownership of the Church property. After long disputes and numerous recounts of the votes, a compromise was made: to divide the property on Church and parish with the establishment of two legal entities. the property of the Church were the building, liturgical objects, candle profit mug collection. The parish property was all that was being sacrificed “to meet the religious, educational and charitable needs of the parish”.

This decision, on the one hand, kept the usual order of mandatory funding “the General Church and the General diocesan needs” at the expense of the legal entity of the Church. On the other hand, in the framework of the legal entity of the parish had become possible to raise funds for the goals that will define for themselves the congregation. Decisions at the parish meeting was determined by a simple majority of votes, i.e. it does not obey the rector or Bishop. Thus the parishioners had nothing to fear from the withdrawal of funds by the diocese for the “good of the Church”.

After the Council of 1917-1918 years – beyond the borders of legality

Unfortunately, the Cathedral parish adopted reforms have not reached the parishes. A new Charter was left unknown to the majority of the priests and parishioners. The real situation in the wards was determined by the political situation in the country. In the 1920-ies the parish office, de facto passed to the laity, to religious backbone of the parish, who remained faithful to the Church in beginning of the persecution. In the cities, actively develop various forms of educational and charitable activities of the parishes that had brotherhood.

The end of the NEP and collectivization led to increased repression against “clerics”. The authorities struggled with all the potentially dangerous believers, whether priests or laity. By the end of 1930-ies in the USSR only a few hundred operating temples. But local parishes often continued to exist beyond the boundaries of legality.

Persecution in the 20th century

During the great Patriotic war and after it the Soviet government required the support of the Orthodox Church. It concerned how support in foreign policy, and the contributions of parishioners in the various state funds. Feeling the change in the situation, the Church authorities took on the Cathedral in 1945, a new provision on the administration of the parish. The power of the parish returned to the Abbot. The Abbot, in turn, was obliged to obey the Bishop.

The situation remained until the beginning of the new, the Khrushchev persecution of the Church. Nikita tried to fulfill his promise to “show on TV last Soviet ass”. Among other methods of struggle had changed the governance of the parishes. Material responsibility for the parish passed into the hands of elders, to the position which the Soviet authorities put their people. This primarily concerned the rich cemetery and Cathedral churches in the country were not so much. Controlling the finances of the parishes, the Soviet government was controlled by the Bishop, financing seminaries, etc. This situation generally persisted until the end of the Soviet Republic.

The fall of the Soviet system led to the interim version of the Charter of 1988, which connected the statutes of 1918 and 1945. In recent decades, the Charter several times been edited in a larger increase of the role of Bishop in the life of the parish. Finally, in 2011, was adopted the new version of the Charter, under which the power of the Bishop, the parish is full and unconditional.

Metareligion “zakhozhaev” contain a temple and a priest

Six months ago, I first briefly met Department documents about the Church landscaping. I then thought I found the answer and that a return to the Constitution of the parish, adopted by the local Council of 1917-1918, can solve problems facing parishes today. But recently, while preparing a report on the Cathedral, I realized that the practical problems, were then, have now been resolved.

The poverty of the clergy, the former a typical feature of the Synodal period, have been solved through radical consolidation of parishes. In 1914, according to statistics, approximately 50 thousand priests 100 million Orthodox believers of the Russian Empire. Today, according to the calculations of father Nikolay Yemelyanov, we have about 17 000 of parish priests in the Russian Federation, which nourished 70% of the Orthodox population, that is, the same 100 million people [2, p. 91].

The number of priests is down by three times compared to pre-revolutionary times. This, incidentally, is quite in the spirit of the reforms of the Synodal period. Due to this enlargement to a priest accounts for about 6,000 of Orthodox citizens of Russia. It’s about 75 baptisms and 75 funerals a year.

And that metareligion “zakhozhaev” contain a temple and a priest. The regular congregation is much smaller, about 3% of the population, and to support the priest they can not.

We clearly see this in the example of ROCOR, which forced the clergy to work on a secular job and live seven days a week.

On the other hand, if the people keep the Church a fee for baptisms, funerals, religious services, these people have a Church in pre-revolutionary sense. Yes, they do not go to Church, but without them to keep the temple would be impossible. But if we give the Orthodox, but mecocerculus Russian citizens to choose their clergy, whether we believe that they will choose the best? Or, as he wrote the Cathedral clergy will choose who sings beautifully and less requests for the rites?

At the same time, we understand that such an enlargement results in an even larger gap between the Orthodox Russians and the clergy. The situation is repeated in the Synodal period, when priests begin to perceive how the officials and take the discontent of citizens of the state policy.But the increase in the number of priests in today’s conditions is impossible. And again, for financial reasons. If today it was the beginning of the 90s, many of the current altar servers would’ve been priests. But the current number of priests is sufficient for baptism born babies and committing req. The increase in the number of clergy will reduce already low wages. In Moscow today it is difficult to place the priest even quite educated and worthy candidate. Just because the same income of the temple, the Abbot will have to be divided into more parts.

Photo: spbda.ru

Of course, we have plenty of empty parishes in the province, but the Orthodox Russians who live there barely make ends meet, and usually not able to provide the priest with the content even at the subsistence level.

At the time, the Americans proclaimed the principle: “No taxation without representation” (no taxation without representation). But whether supporters of election of the clergy want to do this? Do you wish to entrust the election of the priests of the “zakhozhaev” who pay for the rites? Or, on the contrary whether regular parishioners for the right to elect a priest to take and the obligation to pay him a fixed salary? Alas, I do not see a simple solution.

Need a bit of common sense and experience

Most of all I was surprised that the most controversial idea of the Cathedral: to divide the assets of the Church and parish – just realized. Church property now remains in the full ownership of the episcopate. But active Orthodox Christians (the laity and priests), seeking self-service can simply create their own legal entity. This may be a non-profit organization, charitable Foundation that allow you to implement any “religious and educational” or charitable undertaking. Current Russian legislation allows it to do. Yes, it’s not easy, but really. Moreover, do not have to create your – you can just join an existing project.

The charitable sector in Russia is growing, there are many educational projects. And yet we see that the main problem is not the lack of opportunities. Just today, too few people are willing to devote their lives to a particular service. Or even just to support this Ministry financially.

Everyone wants to believe that if you change the leadership, change and society. But I personally have this great doubt. The real problem lies much deeper. Especially because today there are many opportunities for preaching, and for education and for charity. Just need a bit of judgment and experience. Discretion in how to organize a case. And experience that a big project should not be linked with the legal entity of the parish, as there is in any moment to change of the rector and close this area of Ministry.

It was not time in the modern history of the Church. But despite these problems, we have all the possibilities to create “large or small groups and community zealots”, inspired by the Introduction to the regulations adopted by the Sacred Council of the Orthodox Russian Church of 1917-1918, the Cathedral of the new Martyrs. The opportunities are there, but the zealots still less than I would like…

[1] Documents of the Holy Council of the Orthodox Russian Church of 1917-1918. T. 14. The minutes of the meetings and materials of the Department of welfare of the parish. M.: publishing house of Novospassky monastery, 2017.

[2] FR. Nikolai Yemelyanov. The role of the priest in the formation of the religious practices of modern Russian Orthodoxy (theological analysis). Thesis for the degree of PhD.N. M: 2017.

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