Young Russian pastor shares courageous journey

Kira Volkova believes her opportunity to speak to the United Methodist General Conference, as part of the first-ever Young People's Address, is a result not of her own work but "what God wanted me to do."

In her part of the April 24 address, the young Russian pastor spoke of the struggles faced by The United Methodist Church and Protestant churches in general in a country dominated by the Russian Orthodox Church.

Volkova told about young people who hide their faith from their families. "It takes courage to admit you are a Protestant Christian in the Orthodox society where rituals and traditions can seem more important than personal relationships with God," she said.

The Young People's Address fell on the same day that The New York Times carried a front-page story on the difficulties Protestants face in Russia, and one example used was of a United Methodist congregation.

Carried by faith

The strong faith of Volkova, a church planter, has carried her through her first two years working in the distant city of Kirov. Her ministry there is marked by compassion for the people in this northeastern Russian city that borders Siberia.

She works at the hospital, particularly offering hospice care to families with children dying of cancer, and visits and prays with women who have young children and find it hard to come out for worship. She also holds weekly worship and Bible studies in a rented hotel room.

But Volkova said the barriers she faces in Russia are daunting. "Sometimes I wonder why I should go on," she acknowledged.

The Russian image of a minister is that of an Orthodox priest-an older married man, she pointed out. As a 23-year-old single woman, she must overcome that prevailing image. "I know God is with me and wants me to succeed," she said, adding that she draws strength from the prayers of people in both Russia and the United States during times of discouragement.

Equipping young leaders

Young people for ministry must be equipped for ministry, Volkova told General Conference. "For those young people who do ministry in Russia, they talk about the need to raise pastors' educational levels and professional skills," she explained.

Volkova has known she wanted to be a pastor since she was 14 years old. When the time came for her to receive formal training, she went to the Russia United Methodist Theological Seminary in Moscow.

The seminary, started in 1995 using rooms in the conference office, is now in its own building and provides for residential and distance-learning students. It was established through the joint effort of the United Methodist boards of Global Ministries, Discipleship and Higher Education and Ministry.

Significant funding for the seminary was raised through the efforts of Bishop Marion Edwards and the Rev. Don Messer, co-chairs of the fund-raising committee that received more than $3 million in donations from annual conferences and local churches. The work of the seminary has equipped pastors who are now serving across 11 time zones throughout Russia.

Financial gifts to Advance #12174A, Russia United Methodist Theological Seminary, will equip more committed pastors like Volkova. Checks can be mailed to GCFA, P.O. Box 9068, New York, NY 10087. Write the Advance number and name on the memo line of the check. Online gifts can be made at www.givetomission.org.

*Scott is communications director for the United Methodist Committee on Relief.

News media contact: Kathy Noble or Tim Tanton, e-mail: newsdesk@umcom.org.

Phone calls can be made to the General Conference Newsroom in Fort Worth, Texas, at (817) 698-4405(817) 698-4405 until May 3. Afterward, call United Methodist News Service in Nashville, Tenn., at (615) 742-5470(615) 742-5470.

Related Articles

General Conference headlines

Young people call United Methodists to action now

Six young people to address General Conference

Court closes United Methodist church in Russia

Commentary: Young people's ministries grow in Russia

Resources

General Conference 2008

Russia United Methodist Theological Seminary

You'll need Skype CreditFree via Skype

Sign up for our newsletter!

SUBSCRIBE

Latest News

General Church
Delegates attend opening worship at the 2019 United Methodist General Conference in St. Louis in February. Given escalating conflict in the denomination over LGBTQ inclusion, two bishops are pushing a plan to create two or three self-governing church groups, with The United Methodist Church remaining as an umbrella organization. File photo by Kathleen Barry, UM News.

2 bishops offer plan for denomination’s future

To deal with schism-threatening conflict over homosexuality, Bishops Bard and Jones favor making The United Methodist Church an umbrella for self-governing church groups.
Annual Conferences
Clergy and lay members from the East Ohio Conference use their voting cards during the 2019 annual conference held at Lakeside Chautauqua. They use cards to cast votes for motions, resolutions and petitions but secret ballot for delegate elections. The conference elected a mix of delegates who support and oppose the Traditional Plan. Photo by Brett Hetherington, East Ohio Conference Communications.

US elections see shift in GC2020 delegates

U.S. annual conferences elected more delegates opposed to the Traditional Plan, but traditionalists say they still have the majority.
General Conference
Delegates Jorge Lockward and the Rev. Beth Ann Cook embrace during the closing moments of the 2019 United Methodist General Conference in St. Louis. The two had previously spoken on opposite sides in a debate over possible church exit plans. U.S. conferences are calculating how much a church must pay if it leaves under legislation General Conference approved. File photo by Mike DuBose, UM News.

Exiting congregations face hefty price tag

U.S. conferences are calculating how much a church must pay if it leaves under legislation approved by General Conference 2019. The big cost will be pensions.