9 Jun 2019

Media boost for St Andrew's, Moscow

Last month, we reported on the performance of Jesus Christ Superstar, which came to St Andrew's, Moscow for a one-night only performance. Since then, the restoration appeal has received a major boost with a Times media article, and further fundraising successes!

The article below featured in the Times last month has been re-produced by kind permission of its author and distinguished international correspondent, Michael Binyon:

“Tucked away in a small street a stone’s throw from the Kremlin is a large, solid and unmistakably Anglican church that looks as though it has been transplanted from Victorian England to the heart of Moscow.

Confiscated and desecrated during the Soviet era, St Andrew’s is once again a thriving church. The Archbishop of Canterbury preached to a packed congregation during his first visit to Russia in November 2017. The Rev Canon Malcolm Rogers, a Russian-speaking English vicar, has been appointed resident chaplain and the vicarage is bustling.

Yet official communist atheism and years of neglect have taken their toll. The church needs a huge sum for restoration. In an extraordinary goodwill gesture at a time of political tension between Britain and Russia, Moscow’s city council has offered $2.5 million to return the building to former glory — provided that its friends and worshippers can raise a minimum of $350,000.

St Andrew’s, named after the patron saint of Russia as well as Scotland, was a thriving Anglican church until the Russian revolution in 1917. There was a large British community in Moscow in the 19th century, when manufacturers, industrialists, engineers and other specialists brought over their businesses and their families.

A chapel had already been established in Voznesensky (“Ascension”) Lane in 1825, and in 1884 the community — responsible for most of the plumbing and lavatories in Moscow, as well as the Tsum department store, schools and hospitals — opened a grand church to plant the Anglican faith in the heart of Orthodox Russia.

The church was seized by the Bolsheviks. Its tower was turned into a machinegun post to put down any signs of rebellion during the civil war. The empty church was used for communal housing and later became part of the Finnish embassy. In 1957 it got a new lease of life. With acoustics deemed to be the best in the city after the Conservatory, it became the perfect place for a recording studio. The state Melodiya record label moved in, shored up the roof trusses and made some of the most famous recordings of Soviet artists and composers, including Shostakovich and Rostropovich. They called the studio the “Kirche” (the German word for “church”).

St Andrew’s was also where Russian pop, long denounced as western decadence, began, when the first rock music was put on vinyl in the Brezhnev era. One of the early groups was led by Stas Namin, a budding young rocker who happened to be the grandson of Anastas Mikoyan, one of Stalin’s few ministers to survive the purges. “Almost all our songs for the first 20 years were recorded in that Kirche,” he said.

The fall of communism raised hopes that religion might be allowed back into the building and from 1991 occasional religious services were permitted. Three years later the Queen made her groundbreaking state visit to Russia, and as a goodwill gesture St Andrew’s was returned to the Anglican Church association. Although the altar moved in, the studio did not move out, and for several years the clergy and congregation had to vacate the church during weekdays to allow the microphones and musicians back.

Three years ago the final legal instruments were in place. Anglicans were given a 49-year lease with registered title rights. For the restoration, the church has called on Anglicans around the world for support. It can count among its friends half a dozen Protestant and evangelical denominations in Moscow, many with enthusiastic African members, who choose St Andrew’s over the Russian Orthodox and a few Roman Catholic churches now open in Moscow.

Old loyalties have also helped. Namin — like Mick Jagger, still going strong — gave a charity performance, in English, of Jesus Christ Superstar in the church, donating the proceeds to St Andrew’s. A Moscow architect has been appointed to modify the interior of the listed building for worship today. The grand organ has been dismantled and is being restored.

With the Most Rev Justin Welby as its patron, the church is also looking for support from Britain. Peter Pantlin, the chairman of St Andrew’s friends, is hoping that anyone with a link to Russia or who cares about the revival of faith in the country will contribute.

Already the church is a centre for ecumenical and social work in the Russian capital, providing space for the Step Up post-orphanage education charity, and hosting meetings of Alcoholics Anonymous and charities for the homeless.

And, of course, music — which probably saved the church from ruin in Soviet times — will continue to be heard in the building all year long. Local choirs and classical musicians are eager to take advantage of a site made famous by some of Russia’s greatest composers."

This article first appeared in the Times on 11 May 2019.

Appeal update:

-Jesus Christ Superstar raised $8,500.

There have been additional encouragements:

-A river cruise organised by the British Business Club has raised approximately $18,000;

-BP (Russia) have given £15,000, and other charities (including the Goldsmiths, and Hintze foundation) have given £4,000;  

-Around £600 has been raised from people sending in money to the Diocese or a Justgiving campaign as a result of the Times Article; and

-The Bishop’s 2018 Advent appeal for new kitchen facilities at St Andrew’s has so far raised over £12,500.

Malcolm Rogers comments:

“We are truly grateful for every contribution received from right across the Diocese.  And we are thankful to UK charities, most of whom are unable to give money to projects overseas.”

In total we estimate that we have raised in the last two months about $60k of the $350k required.” 

Bishop Robert has commented:

“We in the Diocese are hugely grateful to Michael Binyon for his Times article, which has given us excellent support in raising the profile of St Andrew’s Moscow, and the appeal fund for its restoration.  Every contribution people can give will help us reach the funding target.   

We're also particularly grateful to Peter Pantlin who has been actively promoting St Andrew’s and the restoration in the UK, with amazing energy and enthusiasm.

I welcome, too, the readiness of the Moscow City authorities to help us.  I look forward to reviewing progress on my visit to Moscow this November, and to the opportunity to meet again with our friends in the Patriarchate of All Russias, following on from the Archbishop of Canterbury’s visit to Moscow in 2017.”   

For more details on the St Andrew’s, Moscow appeal, and how you can donate visit: