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Christmas in Thailand and Cambodia

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On the night of 6 to 7 January 2013 Orthodox Christians in Thailand celebrated Christmas. This year holiday services were performed at the St. Nicholas Chapel in Bangkok, All Saints Church in Pattaya (Chonburi province), Holy Trinity Church on Phuket, Holy Ascension Church on Samui, as well as at the church of Saint Great Martyr George in Phnom Penh and St. Panteleimon in Sihanoukville of the Kingdom of Cambodia.

In the Holy Dormition Monastery brethren held a reader’s service due to lack of a priest, who will visit the monastery January 9.

Pattaya and Phuket were especially crowded where numerous tourists and vacationers joined the residing parishioners of All Saints and Trinity Churches.

In Pattaya the evening festive service began at 6 January from 10:00 pm. Vigil and Divine Liturgy were served by the Representative of the Russian Orthodox Church in Thailand archimandrite Oleg (Cherepanin). On the occasion of Christmas, many pilgrims confessed and received Holy Communion. Throughout the feast day the church was filled with worshipers.

Christmas services at All Saints Church in Pattaya
In the photo: Christmas services at All Saints Church in Pattaya.

In the afternoon, All Saints’ Sunday school held a Christmas pictures competition and festive play. Archimandrite Oleg, who attended the children’s party, congratulated the children for Christmas and thanked them for the program.

The same evening, the Russian Orthodox Church in Thailand held ​​a festive evening service. Members of the Catholic community in Pattaya came to give congratulations on the Orthodox Nativity of Christ. In response, archimandrite Oleg gave the guests an icon of St. Nicholas, a saint of the undivided Church of Christ and patron saint of the Orthodox believers in Thailand.

Representatives of the Catholic community in Pattaya congratulate Orthodox Christmas
In the photo: Representatives of the Catholic community in Pattaya congratulate Orthodox Christmas.

French broadcaster «Sable Rouge» filmed the Orthodox community celebrating Christmas in Pattaya.

On Phuket vigil was served ​​by priest Alexey Golovin. Holy Trinity Church was festively decorated inside and illuminated by electric garlands outside by parishioners.

Christmas Liturgy at Holy Trinity Church in Phuket
In the photo: Christmas service at the Holy Trinity Church in Phuket.

The Church in Phuket is the largest Orthodox church in Thailand. More than 200 people came this year during the Christmas service in Phuket. As noted by archimandrite Oleg (Cherepanin), Representative of the Russian Orthodox Church in Thailand, summing up the celebration of Christmas in Thailand: «It is gratifying that a year ago, the temple opened, consecrated in February 2012 by archbishop Mark of Egorievsk, head of the Moscow Patriarchate foreign institutions of the Russian Orthodox Church, and has taken a worthy and important place in the life of the Russian community of the island. The obvious merit goes to the recently appointed priest from Tomsk Fr. Alexey Golovin».

Orthodox believers of Bangkok also had Holiday service on Christmas. At St. Nicholas Church the evening service (Vigil and Divine Liturgy) was performed by priest Daniel Wanna. In the evening of Christmas Day after festive Vespers there was a Christmas tree for the children of parishioners. The parish council of St. Nicholas Chapel in Bangkok offered ​​a traditional holiday dinner.

Fr. Daniel Wanna offers the cross at the end of the holiday service in Bangkok
In the photo: Fr. Daniel Wanna offers the cross at the end of the holiday service in Bangkok.

At Holy Ascension parish on Samui there was a festive service, despite the fact that the temple has not yet been finished. Arranged by the Orthodox Missionary Department (Moscow) and the Kolomenskaya Seminary, a student Roman Pashin, specially arrived for the holidays from Moscow to assist in the organization of services in Samui. Archimandrite Oleg (Cherepanin) blessed an evening reader’s service. Mr. Pashin also prepared those present for the Confession and Holy Communion at the Divine Liturgy, which would be available on January 8th on Samui, served by priest Alexei Golovin, on the second day of Christmas.

Space for the Christmas service on Samui is located right beneath the walls of the temple under construction
In the photo: Space for the Christmas service on Samui is located right beneath the walls of the temple under construction.

It is expected that for the feast of the Holy Dormition in 2013 the construction of a temple on Koh Samui will be completed, which will allow, upon consecration of the temple, the full liturgical life.

Due to the special care of the Hierarchy for the development of Orthodoxy in the South-East Asia for the first time this year, it became possible to send to Cambodia not only lay missionaries, but a clergyman.

In the Orthodox chapel of the Holy Great Martyr George, located at the Bulgarian Embassy, always kindly provided for the needs of the Russian community, Sunday services began, which coincided this year with Christmas Eve. Priest Roman Bychkov served All-Night Vigil on Saturday evening and Sunday Divine Liturgy. Fr. Roman was ordained for ministry in Thailand in December 2012. He was helped by Xenia Bychkova, and Ilya Molev, lecturer at the School of the Orthodox Missionary Department (Moscow), arriving especially for holidays from Moscow to assist in the organization of services in Cambodia. On Christmas eve night Fr. Roman Bychkov served festive Vigil.

During the services, according to the canons of the Church as the chapel belongs to the Bulgarian Orthodox Church, following the commemoration of the Patriarch of Russian Orthodox Church Kirill, Fr. Roman remembered His Eminence Kirill, Metropolitan of Varna and Veliki, the governor-chairman of the Holy Synod of the Bulgarian Orthodox Church. Fr. Roman Bychkov also gave a Christmas gift and heartfelt congratulations to the charge d’affaires of Bulgaria Mr. Svilen Popov on behalf of the Representative of Russian Orthodox Church in Thailand archimandrate Oleg (Cherepanin). In view of the special conditions of the religious situation in the Kingdom of Cambodia, at the vigil of the Orthodox Church of Phnom Penh also prayed Ethiopian citizens living in Cambodia.

Priest Roman Bychkov served Christmas Divine Liturgy ​​the morning of January 7 at the parish of the Holy Great Martyr and Healer Panteleimon in Sihanoukville. Afterwards baby Samuel received the Holy Sacrament of Baptism.

Priest Roman Bychkov served a festive Divine Liturgy in the parish of the Great Martyr and Healer Panteleimon in Sihanoukville (Cambodia)
In the photo: Priest Roman Bychkov served a festive Divine Liturgy in the parish of the Great Martyr and Healer Panteleimon in Sihanoukville (Cambodia).

Preparing parishioners to worship, confess and receive Holy Communion was Ilya Molev, a lecturer at the School of the Orthodox Missionary at Synodal Missionary Department (Moscow). Church staff and members of the parish council visited the Russians jailed in Sihanoukville, consoling them for Christmas.

The Representative of the Russian Orthodox Church in Thailand archimandrite Oleg (Cherepanin) praised the organization and conduct of the Christmas holidays in the parishes of the Orthodox Church in Thailand this year. He expressed his sincere gratitude to the Foundation Committee of the Orthodox Church in Thailand and the parish councils, as well as all those who labored for the holidays. Archimandrite Oleg asked clergy serving in Thailand to plan the organization of festive Christmas services in the next year in the People’s Democratic Republic of Laos.

Source: Orthodox Christian Church in Thailand (Moscow Patriarchate)

Written by Stephen

January 22, 2013 at 5:55 pm

Prayer Book and Psalter in Thai and Laotian

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Pages from the Russian-Laotian prayer book.

Russian-Laotian Orthodox prayer book published.

A parallel Russian-Laotian Orthodox prayer book has been published. The publication under the Representation of the Russian Orthodox Church (Moscow Patriarchate) in Thailand, is part of the pastoral responsibility to the Lao People’s Democratic Republic. Financial support for the publication was provided by the Foundation of the Orthodox Church in Thailand. The volume was edited by archimandrite Oleg (Cherepanin), Representative of the Russian Orthodox Church in Thailand. Peter (Pone) Somepheth and Anthony (Tongkham) Phiaxayavong, currently seminarians at St. Petersburg Theological Seminary, translated the text from Thai. Dr. Vladimir Buntilov was in charge of formatting and design. Five hundred copies will be sent to the Orthodox believers in Laos, as well as several copies going to religious educational institutions in Russia and missionary organizations.

A published edition of the Psalter for liturgical use in the Thai language.

The Representation of the Russian Orthodox Church (Moscow Patriarchate) in Thailand with the financial support of the Orthodox Church in Thailand published the liturgical Psalter in Thai. The division of the sacred text is according to the Kathismas. This first edition of the Psalter in the Thai language according to the Septuagint version with the appropriate numbering and verses. The publication of the liturgical Psalter in Thai was done in view of the increasing number of Orthodox Thais and the need for their more active involvement in church services. Five hundred copies will be distributed among the Orthodox churches in Thailand. Several copies will be sent to religious educational institutions of Russia and missionary organizations.

Source: Orthodox Christian Church in Thailand (Moscow Patriarchate)

Hat Tip: Byzantine, TX

Written by Stephen

November 13, 2012 at 5:48 pm

Monastery and News Article From Thailand

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Was visiting the website for the Thai Orthodox Church today, and came across this article, first published in the Bangkok Post, August 15, 2010, by Maxmilian Wechsler. A very interesting view into the work of the Church there. The full text of the article is below, and the original, with more pictures, can be found here.

Also, a male monastery is being built in rural Thailand, and novices and monks are being sought. More details can be found here (scroll down), and anyone interested is asked to contact Fr. Oleg (pictured at right), the head of the mission in Thailand.

Pattaya has long been known as Thailand’s sin city by the beach–teeming with prostitutes, massage parlours, brothels, foreign mafia, pubs and bars–not a place one goes to seek spiritual enlightenment.

But in the midst of a city famous for all the wrong reasons is an unusual sight _ the All Saints Orthodox Church (Moscow Patriarchate), a building with three golden domes and beautifully painted frescos inside.

The burly Russian who runs this outpost of Orthodox Christianity says that while he’s not impressed by his surroundings, his congregation is growing and his church is doing a good job of taking care of the faithful.

”It is very difficult for me to come and stay here. I don’t feel so good. All the sin has some bad energy and you can feel it. You can feel the atmosphere of the sin,” said Archimandrite Oleg, whose secular name is Oleg Mikhailovich Cherepanin.

”I can stay for one or two nights, but after that I become sick and want to go back to Bangkok. I rarely leave the church whether I am in Bangkok or in Pattaya.

”The present problem for me is that the sins in Pattaya are like a part of normal life. If a person commits a sin then he or she can go to church and confess, then they will understand that the sin is not a part of normal life, but it is like a sickness of the soul.

”But when sin begins to be a part of normal life and the person doesn’t feel it, then this is a problem and this is the one we have here in Pattaya.”

Archimandrite Oleg told Spectrum how his church started in Thailand.

”After many letters from Russian people living in Thailand were sent to the late His Holiness Patriarch Alexy II of Moscow, I was sent here in 1999 to see and learn about the spiritual situation of the people who went abroad, especially to this region and to Thailand,” he said.

”What I saw was not only Russians, but also Bulgarians, Greeks, Romanians as well as Orthodox people from other western countries who are also Orthodox but didn’t have any spiritual care, so I reported to His Holiness and he blessed me to try to organise an Orthodox parish in Bangkok, and that was the beginning of Orthodoxy in Thailand. The St Nicholas parish was opened in Bangkok and I was appointed as its rector.

”However, at that time, I could do nothing but pray. People came and prayed with me, and, step by step, it became a parish with other nationals joining and Thai people became interested as well.

”We are not called the Russian Orthodox Church we are the Orthodox Church in Thailand, which is for everyone. We have in our parish Russians, Ukrainians, Romanians Bulgarians, people from France and other countries, including Africa. Every Orthodox person is welcome.

”We decided to be under the Moscow Patriarchate. The Orthodox Church in Thailand is under His Holiness Patriarch Kirill of Moscow and all Russia, who was enthroned in February 2009. The Patriarch visited Bangkok when he was Chairman of the Department for External Church Relations of the Moscow Patriarchate in 2001.

”The Orthodox Church is the biggest religion in Russia with about 85% of the population followers. However, this doesn’t mean that 85% go to church. When I say Russia, I mean all republics of the former Soviet Union. You know, the boundaries of a church are bigger than the borders of the Russian states because all Orthodox believers in former Soviet republics were under the Moscow Patriarchate.”

For many years Pattaya has been a popular holiday destination for Russians, and many have retired there. Many have also landed themselves in trouble with the law, and Archimandrite Oleg is always ready to lend a hand to those who need it.

”We have problems of people detained at the Immigration Detention Centre in Bangkok. Some of them have been there for several months. I know one woman who has been there for about three years. Thailand won’t pay for their repatriation,” he said. ”Those people came here to make money because they are poor. We collect money for them, so they can be repatriated back home.

”I explain to everyone detained there that it is not possible for the parish to help everyone. I tell them to send the money back when they reach home because we have to help others. So far, we have already helped about 90 persons, mainly women who are prostitutes, each with about $400.

”They came from Russia, Uzbekistan, Belarus and other republics. They all promised and guaranteed to pay us back, but only one person did so during the past 11 years. I don’t like to talk about this. When helping them, I try to close my eyes. I am also a human.”

Despite some of the bad publicity, Russian tourists and residents of Pattaya attract, they are not the major criminals that some think they are, according to locally-based Russian Leonid Borisov.

”Recently I attended the opening of the Transnational Crime Centre in Pattaya where several hundred photos of wanted foreign criminals were displayed,” he said. ”People and the media in Thailand talk a lot about the Russian mafia, but I was amazed because I couldn’t find even a single Russian person on the wanted list,” added Mr Borisov who worked for seven years as an interpreter in Vientiane, Laos, before moving to Pattaya and first working as a tour leader and now as a journalist on a Pattaya-based website.

The All Saints Orthodox Church in Pattaya has become a haven for not only European follows but also local converts.

Jirawat Kesa, 33, is a Thai working for a Russian tour company in Pattaya. He can speak Russian, but not read or write the language.

”My girlfriend is from Ukraine. I was a Buddhist but converted to be Orthodox because my girlfriend is also one. She and her mother told me that if we want to live together then I should be an Orthodox.

”I must say that this religion makes me feel good, and I have no problem with it. I go to the church here regularly.”

Archimandrite Oleg says his church is slowly gaining a following in Thailand.

”Now there are around 20 to 30 Thai followers in Thailand. We could have more if we baptised them, but we can’t do that if they don’t understand what orthodoxy is and how different it is, for example, from Protestants,” he said. ”Many of our Thai members are married to Russians, both women and men. They prefer to be orthodox because it is easier for their family life.”

After entering the church, most people are overwhelmed by the magnificent paintings covering the walls and ceilings, which were mostly painted by Thai artists from pictures taken at churches in Russia.

The services at the church are also memorable. A choir consisting of four Russian women regularly sings there, and Archimandrite Oleg’s prayers make many feel like they are in a church in Russia.

”My activities are not only to make the divine service. People will come to a priest with various problems, like when they have no money; when they are sick; when they are in the immigration and other prisons or when they have problems with the police and so on. They will write a letter asking for help, and this doesn’t apply only to Russians, but to all Orthodox believers of other nationalities as well.”

There is one church in Bangkok and others under construction in Phuket, Ratchaburi and Koh Samui. A Thai priest, the Reverend Danai (Daniel) Wanna, stays in Pattaya most of the time.

”We will construct churches in places like Ratchaburi and Koh Samui because according to Russian tradition, it is very important to have monasteries outside the city. We believe that monks who pray for us must be in a quiet place with not much civilisation. We are now constructing a church in Phuket which will be the biggest of the four in Thailand.

”We have to complete the churches in Phuket and Ratchaburi and have a new one planned on Koh Samui. We also plan to open two more in Chiang Mai and Nong Khai and to build a new big church in Bangkok.”

Many may think that Pattaya, with its reputation for sleaze, is an unusual location for a church.

”We decided to build a church in Pattaya because many Russians visit and reside there permanently. The church was opened in December 2009.

”I don’t want to say anything bad about the Thai people who are working in the bars. The guilt that is going on in Pattaya lies mostly with foreigners. They come here with money.”

Since arriving in Thailand 11 years ago Archimandrite Oleg has grown to love his adopted country.

”If we live in Thailand, we have to respect the country, its people and their culture.

”I have adapted to Thailand very well. I love Thailand and the Thai people. I have one request for the Thai government, to give me the possibility to die in Thailand. When I die, please put me in Thai soil,” he said.

”I don’t ask permission for Thai citizenship, but only ask for the possibility to have my body buried in Thailand, if it is possible.

”I must complain about the Russians because many of them live in Thailand for many years, but they know nothing about this country, its culture and other things. In order to get closer ties between our two countries, we plan to organise Thai language courses for the Russians and Russian courses for the Thais, free of charge.

”And when we talk about the language, it also means culture, because people must know each other better.

”Why free? Because the Thai people who are working as guides etc, are not so rich, and if we ask for some money, they will not join us.”

What does Archimandrite Oleg regard as his biggest achievement in Thailand? ”It was the people who completely changed, and for the better,” he replied.

Written by Stephen

January 8, 2011 at 11:31 pm

Interview: Russian Orthodoxy in Asia Today

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By Yuri Maximov
Translation by Katherine Ilachinski

From 18 to 23 December 2009 there were celebrations dedicated to the tenth anniversary of the Orthodox Church in Thailand, which was headed by Archbishop Hilarion (Alfeyev) of Volokolamsk. Rectors of many parishes of the Moscow Patriarchate in Asia came for this holiday: from Mongolia, China, Singapore and Indonesia. They were all very glad to have this opportunity to congregate together, share experiences, discuss pressing issues, because their parishes are living in similar conditions, and have essentially the same problems and challenges. Such a meeting has been so useful that there were suggestions that Asian parishes would sometime in the future form, as a minimum a separate deanery, to be able to coordinate joint efforts to solve all problems facing them.

Addressing the gathering, Archbishop Hilarion, said: “Your service is of particular significance for our Church. This is truly a missionary and selfless ministry, which takes place in difficult conditions – not only climatic, but also psychological and spiritual. You live in conditions as closely resembling those in which the apostles lived and served. This imposes a special responsibility on you, but at the same time requires special internal strength. Not every priest is able to endure those conditions in which you find yourself?

I managed to talk with the participants of the meeting. Each of the priests serving in these Asian parishes, I asked the same four questions. The responses provide a fairly good impression of the situation of the Russian Orthodox Church in Asia, particularly the Orthodox life and pastoral ministry in this region, as well as the prospects of the mission.

Please tell us about your parish.

Archimandrite Oleg (Cherepanin), representative of the Russian Orthodox Church in Thailand: the Orthodox community in Thailand for ten years. Our first parish – in the name of Saint Nicholas – was opened in Bangkok in December 1999. But since there are still a number of places where an appreciable amount of Orthodox Christians are living and these places are far from the capital, over time, the question arose about the opening of other parishes. After Bangkok, where the first temple was built, there came the parish in the city of Pattaya. This second temple – in the name of All Saints – just now consecrated by His Eminence Archbishop Hilarion. Also there is the Holy Trinity parish on the island of Phuket, where the construction of the temple has only just begun, and the Ascension Parish on the island of Samui, where so far they only purchased land for the future church. In addition, there is still a place acquired to build the first Orthodox cemetery because the deceased are cremated in Thailand, but for Orthodox Christians living here on an ongoing basis, of course, it is important to be able to be buried in a Christian way. Here will be built a small Church of the Dormition and, God willing, maybe, there will be a monastery and educational center. As you can see, there are many parishes, and it became already difficult to handle them by myself, so for me, and for our entire community has been a great joy the ordination of a second priest – Father Daniel Vanna, that took place in the summer. He was from Thailand and was the first local resident who converted to Orthodoxy after the founding of the parish. Now there are already several dozens of Orthodox from Thailand, but the bulk of the congregation are still Russian-speaking parishioners. Our congregation has Romanians, Greeks, Serbs, and Bulgarians. There is an Englishman, a Frenchman. We try to ensure that no one feels like a stranger. Therefore prayers in the temple are in Church Slavonic, and Romanian, and Greek, and English, and more and more frequently – in Thai.

Archpriest Dionisy Pozdnyaev, rector of the parish of the Apostles SS. Peter and Paul in Hong Kong (China): In our parish we have the following background. From 1933 to 1970 in Hong Kong has already been the parish of the Russian Church Abroad, who was led until his death, by Father Dimitry Ouspensky. After his death the parishioners of the old church of the apostles Peter and Paul dispersed in different directions. Since at that time the parish was not a missionary parish, there was no Chinese left, which I consider a great disadvantage and an omission. Our community was established in 2003, and then began regular services, and last year the community has acquired canonical status of a parish. There are few dozen of parishioners, about half are Russian-speaking, and fifteen per cent – Chinese, the others — American, French, and German converts to Orthodoxy. In the service we use mainly Church Slavonic and English, sometimes we add Chinese.

Priest Alexis Trubach, rector of Holy Trinity parish in Ulan Bator (Mongolia): Our parish was founded in the XIX century, with Russia’s consulate. In 1872 the church was consecrated, and unfortunately, was closed in 1921, after the horrible killing of the last abbot by white Baron Ungern von Sternberg. Since 1927 the temple was used for various household needs. Since 1996, priests started coming in Ulan Bator, and in 1998 the parish was given the land and two-storey building of the former Russia’s trade mission in Mongolia for their use, which was before vacant. This, incidentally, is not so far from the old temple, and it survived, there is now an internet cafe, but if you go inside, it is easy to recognize the features of the old temple. Initially, we converted part of the upper floors given to us in building into the church, where I started the ministry, but later we managed to build a separate large Orthodox church, the consecration of which took place in 2009. And this is the first time in the history of Mongolia, as even the pre-revolutionary church was connected with the building of the consulate, and the last abbot, Father Theodore Permyakov, wrote that the whole community wanted and collected funds for the construction of a separate church. We can say we carried out the aspirations of so many Orthodox Christians, who lived in Mongolia. We have now about 60 people attending Sunday worship and during the Nativity and Pascha we have about 300. The parish mainly consists of Russian, but there are Orthodox Mongols, and Serbs, Bulgarians, and Americans. Of course, in the future basis for the parish should be local residents – the Mongols and the Russian, who were born here. We try to create a community, which could be attended by all. Therefore, among the main activities are missionary. We have translated a large part of the service into the Mongolian language, and some services are conducted in it; sermon is delivered in two languages. 25 Mongols have already converted to the Orthodoxy, many of whom actively attend church and participate in parish life. The choir consists entirely of local residents. Also, we are publishing: print newspapers, brochures, we are translating, and also conducting a Sunday school for children and adults.

Priest Alexander Dondenko, cleric from parish of Dormition of Mother of God in Singapore: The parish in Singapore was established two years ago with blessing of the Holy Patriarch Alexis by Right Reverend Sergius (Chashin), at present bishop of Solnechnogorsk. At present the parish prays in the house church, which is situated in the hall of private house. On Sunday we have around 60 to 80 people. At present the main part of our parishioners are Russian speaking but we also have Japanese, Georgian, American, Ukrainians, White Russians — it is a very colorful parish. We are glad, that there are more and more people, the parish is slowly growing. We have a Sunday school, we take care of sick people, because so many children, who are suffering from cancer, are coming to Singapore, and a number of them are in very difficult condition. We are slowly moving to our dream of construction of the church and also are working towards other goals.

Hieromonk Ioasaph (Tandibilang), the head of the parish of St. Thomas in Jakarta (Indonesia): Now in Indonesia, I am serving three parishes – in Jakarta, Surabaya and on island of Bali, but the latter is only beginning to exist, and the first two are quite serious. Almost all of our parishioners are Indonesian, there are few Russian. The fact is that we have no separate church, and we pray in the home church. Indonesia is not very welcoming to this approach, to attend religious gatherings in the home is considered a sign of sectarianism, so many Russians are afraid to attend the house church, but when we are able to build a temple, I believe that they would attend it, like here in Bangkok. When I returned from Belgorod seminary to Indonesia, I assumed that I would serve for the Russian, but we soon learned that it is very important, if the parish have Indonesians. Because many of the Russian did not live there permanently, and when they return home, the church is deprived of the parishioners. It is therefore important that the bulk of the parishioners consisted of locals, because they will be permanent. History teaches us this also. Earlier in Jakarta there already was the church of Russian Orthodox Church Abroad, but not for long, because when the adverse political conditions begun, the Russian parishioners dispersed to other countries and the parish closed. Thank God, now every Sunday many Indonesians come to service.

What are the particulars of spiritual life of Orthodox Christians in Asia, and especially the pastoral ministry in a foreign and foreign-language environment?

Archimandrite Oleg (Cherepanin) (Thailand): As you know, in Thailand from 85 to 95% (according to different estimates) of the population – are Buddhists, from 3 to 5% – Muslims. There are only about 0, 6% of Christians of all denominations in the country of the total number of those living here. This certainly leaves its imprint on the life of our congregation, and pastoral activities. First of all arises, the question of religious identity; note, not national, but certainly religious. We are the Orthodox Church. In communities across the country are not only Russians but also Ukrainians, Serbs, Romanians, Bulgarians, Greeks, French, Thais. Orthodox Church is above nationalities. In theory, it is understood by all, but by practice, unfortunately, shows the opposite. The division among Christians in general is a tragedy, a violation of the divine commandment about unity. Separation in the Orthodox environment can hardly be called otherwise than a crime against Orthodoxy. Good that our parishioners understand it. It is not by accident that Orthodox communities in Thailand, while in the canonical jurisdiction of the Holy Patriarch of Moscow and All Russia, are united in the Orthodox Church in Thailand, where every Orthodox Christian residing in the territory of the kingdom, feels at home. The service is conducted in Slavonic, Romanian, and Thai — in any required language. Today it is generally recognized: the beginning and development of Orthodoxy in Thailand – is a merit of the Russian Orthodox Church.

Archpriest Dionisy Pozdnyaev (Hong Kong): A special feature is a large, unlike in Europe, closeness to the Christians of other denominations, because we are finding ourselves in pagan environment. For the Chinese are incomprehensible dogmatic disputes between Catholics, Protestants and Orthodox, because they are far from knowledge of the very foundations of Christianity. Disputes between Catholics and Protestants have always hindered evangelizing in China. This can be attributed in a lesser degree to the Orthodoxy because Orthodox evangelization was not so intense. Any of our conflicts and disputes has a very negative impact on the attitude to Christianity as such, including Orthodoxy. Therefore, the preaching of Orthodoxy in Asian countries needs to be built on the positive apologetics, not so much on exposure, but rather on the absence in other faiths, but availability in Orthodoxy. Often the Chinese are converting from Catholicism and Protestantism to Orthodoxy because they did not find sufficient depth in those denominations, but they still see their past stay in them as a first step towards Christ. And this must be taken into account. With regard to the specific characteristics of Hong Kong … The city is very focused on business. People are busy, they have very little time, the rhythm of life is quite hard, and because to be a Christian according to Orthodox canonical laws it requires more sacrifice from people – this refers, above all to regular attendance at religious services. For local population Christians the additional difficulty is the lack of worship in their native language, so our parish needs a priest – a native speaker. In Hong Kong there is (Guangdonghua) Cantonese dialect of Chinese, and there must be a translation of worship to it. Such work is being done, but we are lacking people who would have enough time, skills and knowledge to do this work.

Priest Alexy Trubach (Mongolia): Of course, the main problem is how the newly converted Christians can be Orthodox, while remaining members of the society in which they grew up and still are part of. The peculiarity of Mongolia – a very strong family and kinship ties, and here it is very important to have recognition of relatives. Therefore the main challenge for us — is not so much the conversion of individuals, but entire families. And now we have two families – one already baptized, the other going thru— catechization and is about to be worthy of baptism. Need education work not only among those who already want to convert, but also among their relatives, although sometimes it is difficult to do. This imposes specific nature on pastoral activities, as well as the need to learn the local language and local culture. A priest who serves in such a country has to communicate a lot with local people, and not only with the Orthodox. Engage in social work, contact with the media, and do much more in order to create good information field around the parish. This helps the converts not to feel alienated in the surrounding society.

Priest Alexander Dondenko (Singapore): Of course, the surrounding area could either make us closer to God, or take us away from God. We must pay tribute: in Singapore there is some freedom of choice, no one climbs into your head and does not impose his choice – it is prohibited by law. Therefore, directly they do not influence the people, but the movement of society itself to the material ideals, does not contribute to bring people closer to God. It is a hard fact that in this busy city everyone has to work, and people find it very difficult to physically attend church often. Of course, the Lord sends comfort and gives grace for even rare visits, people feel it, and the community is gradually growing stronger.

Share your impressions about acquaintance with the Orthodox community in Thailand.

Archpriest Dionisy Pozdnyaev (Hong Kong): On the whole a very positive impression. Of course, there is now a very difficult period of work, when one is laying the foundation and creating an environment for future missionary service. Father Oleg was here a long time the only priest, and the enormous strength he had to give to the work with compatriots, administrative and economic matters, the establishment of churches and settlement. Much has been done, and this in the future will become a stepping stone to missionary work. It is essential that a Thai priest is present, it is important that students from Thailand and Laos are now studying in religious schools in Russia, but this is only the beginning. Translations are especially needed. Here something is translated into the Thai language, but more needs to be – the liturgical and catechetical texts, which should be available to people in the Thai language. And there remains only to wish success, in which I, frankly believe, because so far much has been done here, even surpassing human strength.

Priest Alexis Trubach (Mongolia): Of course, a very good impression. Indeed, here one feels a mystical connection, which exists in the Universal Orthodox Church. One wonders how often ideas and their execution coincide and, in many ways I felt a similarity of our Mongolian community with Thai Orthodox community. Of course, the Thai community is more successful in the preaching of Orthodoxy, and there already exists a priest from the local community, and we are only preparing two local boys to enter the seminary – God willing, this will happen next year. Moreover, the interesting coincidence of names: here the first Thai priest in baptism was given the name of Daniel, and we have an Altar server, which we hope to send to the seminary, so that he will became the first Mongolian priest, was also baptized with the name of Daniel. Apparently, this is no accident, for God has no accidents. And we’ll follow in the footsteps of Thai parish, and hopefully, will bring this Orthodox Mongol to ordination and further service in the parish.

Priest Alexander Dondenko (Singapore): I became acquainted with the Orthodox parish in Thailand two years ago and was very glad to see how colorful and diverse the congregation is here, and how its members co-exist harmoniously, not only Russian but also French, and Thai. It is very difficult – the very moment of conversion of Thais to the Orthodox faith. It is God’s mystery, how the Lord turns their hearts to Him. So it is a very difficult missionary work, which is being done here by Father Oleg, and now with Father Daniel, with God’s help. It is so joyful to see such a witness, a flag of the Church of God on Thai soil.

Hieromonk Ioasaph (Tandibilang) (Indonesia): I am very happy being here, because in the Orthodox community in Bangkok, I feel like in Russia. Much is the same as in Russia. Of course, where the Russian live, they do not have to change anything, but keep the good Orthodox way of life, because Thai people will look at them and take an example. I like that in Bangkok a lot of Russian attend services, so I hope later on, if we will have in Jakarta our own temple, we will have also more Russian parishioners, like here.

What is the future of Orthodoxy in Asia?

Archimandrite Oleg (Cherepanin) (Thailand): We have to work regardless of the prospects. The future is in God’s hands. We can only pray God to grow the fruits, which we now are planting. We have no other means to win the hearts of people adhering to different faiths, but the love, the love that manifested itself in the fullness of God, devoting himself to the Passion for the salvation of mankind. And for God nothing is impossible.

Archpriest Dionisy Pozdnyaev (Hong Kong): I think there is every chance that the Orthodox Church will develop, but it is necessary to exert sufficient effort on the part of the Orthodox Church.

Priest Alexis Trubach (Mongolia): I think, of course, there are prospects, and large prospects. As in Mongolia, and Thailand there are many opportunities not used, but with time they should be used. The main issues that stand on that road are the same as were in the XIX century – the problem of funding the mission and the problem of getting staff missionaries from Russia. These problems are open and required solutions. As for the conversion of Asians to Orthodoxy … we have before our eyes a magnificent example of Indonesia. Here, in Bangkok, I met with Father Ioasaph, who created a magnificent parish in a rather complicated non-Christian environment, he has already more than fifty members, and he is going to continue to develop it. And I think our meeting in Bangkok was important precisely for this opportunity to learn the missionary experience of each other. Indonesian congregations are encouraging optimism in the future development of Orthodoxy in Asia. Their experience is valuable to all of us. I think maybe we’re not going to convert people as fast, as Protestants, but this process, which is already in progress will continue.

Hieromonk Ioasaph (Tandibilang) (Indonesia): I find it difficult to talk about the whole of Asia, but I think that Orthodoxy — is a mercy for Indonesia. I see that in other Christian denominations there is not very much change in a person’s life for God’s sake. But when people become Orthodox, they are changing for the better, and it’s obvious to all. Therefore, it is difficult not to say that the Orthodox — are different people, because we all look not so much on who is saying what, but rather on who leads a different life. And people say: why adopt a religion, if it does not change a person’s life? And thank God that the Orthodox Church gives person the power to change, and this is God’s blessing for Indonesia.

Priest Alexander Dondenko (Singapore): I believe that there are enormous opportunities for development, but much depends on people – both on the pastor, and on the parishioners. As soon as we pray, as soon as we prepare our hearts to accept God’s grace, then God will grant it. Of course, despite our unworthiness, the Lord gives us much. We have to approach this task which was entrusted to us very responsibly, and Orthodox Christians must realize that they are missionaries. Not only is the priest a missionary, but every Orthodox Christian, and if he is aware of this and will live according to the commandments and become a vessel of God’s grace, this will become the best sermon for our foreign-language neighbors, who do not understand the language and do not know the services are judging our faith, by observing our lives. If they see from our actions that God exists, then it will help them to convert to Orthodoxy. Now the natives are converting one by one, but as soon as we can find the way to their hearts, then they can convert en masse, as we know from Japan’s example, where St. Nicholas worked. But, of course, for this a heroic deed is needed.

Source: Orthodoxy in China

Written by Stephen

January 23, 2010 at 2:34 pm

Thai Ten Year Anniversary and Church Consecration

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PATTAYA (Thailand), December 20 (RIA Novosti) – Archbishop Hilarion of Volokolamsk, who leads the Russian Orthodox Church’s external church relations department, consecrated on Sunday a new church in the resort town of Pattaya in Thailand.

The church, dedicated to All Saints, was recently built in Pattaya on donations from parishioners.

“The church that opened today in the town of Pattaya will be a center of Russian Orthodoxy in Thailand and will bring spiritual assistance to hundreds and thousands of people,” Hilarion said after a divine service he led together with Archimandrite Oleg, the senior priest of the St. Nicholas church in Bangkok.

Hilarion is on a visit to the Southeast Asian country on the occasion of the tenth anniversary since the Russian Orthodox Church established its community there.

“The tenth anniversary of Orthodoxy in Thailand is a remarkable event in the church’s life… Today Thailand has an active, full-fledged Orthodox community,” he said.

Now Thailand has two Orthodox churches. The St. Nicholas church in the capital Bangkok was built in 1999. A third church is being built on Phuket Island.

Up to 15,000 Russians own real property or rent apartments and houses in Pattaya, and some 5,000 permanently live in the town. A total of 300,000-500,000 Russian-speaking tourists visit Thailand annually.

More than 90% of Thai nationals are Buddhists. Close to 5% are Muslims, whereas Christians, mainly Catholics, account for less than 1% of the country’s population.

And regarding the Ten Year anniversary, from DECR:

A reception was given on 19 December 2009 on behalf of the Russian Orthodox Church to mark the 10th anniversary of Orthodoxy in Thailand. The celebrations were led Archbishop Hilarion of Volokolamsk, chairman of the Moscow Patriarchate department for external church relation as head of an official delegation of the Moscow Patriarchate.

Among the honorary guests were Gen. A. Chantoza, secretary of the Thai Parliament Defense Committee, Russian Ambassador in Thailand E. Afanasyev, Slovakian Ambassador in Thailand V. Putel, the Vatican’s Apostolic Nuncio Archbishop Salvatore Pinnaccio, as well as Moscow Patriarchate clergy who serve in the Asian-Pacific region.

Archbishop Hilarion congratulated those present on the remarkable event in the spiritual life of the Orthodox community in Thailand, expressing hope that the Russian Orthodox parishes will continue contributing to the development of friendly relations between the Kingdom of Thailand and the Russian Federation.

The DECR chairman presented church awards to those who worked hared to consolidate the presence of Orthodoxy in Thailand. With the blessing of His Holiness Patriarch Kirill of Moscow and All Russia, the Order of St. Daniel of Moscow was awarded to Ambassador Afanasyev, the Order of St. Innocent of Moscow to Mr. Lyukshin, counselor of the Russian Embassy in Thailand, and Mr. Voronin, first secretary of the Russian Embassy in Thailand, the Medal of St. Daniel of Moscow to Mr. Buntilov, assistant to the Russian Orthodox Church representative in Thailand.

The reception was embellished by the singing of the choir of the ROC Publishing Board, who recited famous hymns and folk songs.
For the Parish of St. Nicholas in Bangkok, Archbishop Hilarion gave to Archimandrite Oleg Cherepanin an icon of the Holy Resurrection.

The picture is of All Saints Church in Pattaya.
Pictures of the consecration can be found here, and of the anniversary reception here.
For a further article on Archbishop Hilarion’s arrival in Thailand, see here.
For an article and pictures of a Divine Liturgy served by Archbishop Hilarion at St. Nicholas’ Chapel, see here.
More information about the parishes in Thailand can be found here, in English, or here, in Russian. It appears that the church buildings in Phuket and Rachatburi Province are on their way to being completed.

Written by Stephen

January 8, 2010 at 1:55 pm

Russian Orthodox Clergy Meeting in Asia

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On December 18, the eve of the memory of St Nicholas the Wonder-worker, archbishop of Myra, the chairman of the Department for External Church Relations of Moscow Patriarchate, Archbishop Hilarion of Volokolamsk, who was on a pastoral visit to Thailand, met with the clergy of the Russian Orthodox Church, who serve in the Asia-Pacific region.

The meeting, held inside the St. Nicholas Church of Bangkok, was attended by clerics, who served parishes of the Moscow Patriarchate in China, Thailand, Mongolia, Indonesia, Singapore and other countries in the region. Among the participants were Abbot Oleg (Cherepanin) – representative of the Russian Orthodox Church in Thailand, Archpriest Dionisy Pozdnyaev – rector of the Church of the Holy Apostles Peter and Paul in Hong Kong, Fr Alexis Trubach – rector of Holy Trinity Church in Ulan Bator, Hieromonk Ioasaph (Tandibilang) -rector of the Church of the Holy Prince Vladimir, Equal-to-the-Apostles in Jakarta (Indonesia), Fr Alexander Dondenko – a clergyman of the Dormition parish in Singapore, and Fr Daniel Wanna – a clergyman of St. Nicholas’ parish in Bangkok.

Addressing the gathering, Archbishop Hilarion thanked them for their hard work for the benefit of the Church of Christ. “Your service is of particular significance for our Church, – emphasized the Archbishop. – This is truly a missionary and ascetic ministry, which takes place in difficult conditions – not only climatic, but also psychological and spiritual. You live under conditions resembling closely those in which the apostles lived and served. This imposes a special responsibility on you, but at the same time it requires special inner strength. Not every priest is able to endure the conditions in which you find yourself.

Priest bearing obedience far from the homeland, further noted DECR chairman, is called to a special spiritual vigilance and sobriety, must constantly work to improve himself: “Your service should not and can not depend on your inner or spiritual state. Whenever you are to serve according to your church’s schedule, you must come and serve whether you wish it or not, whether you are in low or high spirits. It requires a special inner core that will help you regardless of external circumstances and internal emotions to bear the great cross of pastoral ministry. You must always be alert, you can not afford to relax because every one of you is responsible for the souls entrusted to you by God himself, and at any moment you must be ready to help those who need help.

Asked about how the priest must maintain his spiritual zeal, Archbishop stressed the centrality of the Divine Liturgy in the priestly ministry: “The service of the liturgy is the spiritual source from which each of you must draw strength to serve the Church. During the Liturgy the bread and wine are transformed into the Body and Blood of Christ the Savior. But when we pray for this miracle to happen, then we turn to God the Father with the words: ‘Send Thy Holy Spirit upon us and upon these offered gifts’. And with our prayer the Holy Spirit descends not only on bread and wine, but on each one of us, transforming the ancient man into new healing our deceases, and giving us His Divine grace. ”

Another source of spiritual strength is, according to Archbishop Hilarion, the regular reading of Scriptures and patristic writings: “The Holy Fathers several centuries before us went the way that today we are trying to go. That is why their writings always remain valid. Church fathers share with us their spiritual experiences, tell us about the temptations and trials, through which they passed and through which we pass today. Books of the Fathers can be our spiritual guidance, particularly necessary for the priest who is far away from his brethren and is often deprived of opportunities to consult with more experienced clerics”.

During the meeting, the chairman of DECR answered numerous questions from the assembled clergy, telling them, among other things, the decisions of (Inter) Orthodox preparatory meeting held on 10 — 17 of December in Switzerland.

In turn, the clergy, serving in the Asia-Pacific region, told the Archbishop of the needs of the Orthodox faithful in the region and of efforts undertaken by missionaries to spiritually enlighten the Orthodox flock. In particular, Archpriest Dionisy Pozdnyaev shared about the ongoing work on the translation of books of modern Orthodox theologians into the Chinese language.

Source: Orthodoxy in China
The picture is of the Chapel of St. Nicholas the Wonderworker in Bangkok, gotten from the Thai church’s website here.

Written by Stephen

January 5, 2010 at 1:16 pm

Posted in Asia, Russia, Thailand

First Laotian Seminarian

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ThongkhamJune 21, 2009

With the blessing of His Eminence KIRILL, the Most Holy Patriarch of Moscow and All Russia, the servant of God Anthony (Thongkham) Phiaxayavong, citizen of Laos Republic, converted to Orthodoxy from Catholicism and performing work of obedience in St. Nicholas’ parish in Bangkok, was appointed to be sent to Sretenskaya Theological Seminary (Moscow, Russia) for education.

Upon receiving news on his educational assignment, Anthony (Thongkham) Phiaxayavong expressed his profound gratitude and appreciation to His Eminence, who always considers the needs of his remote parishioners in South-East Asia.

Since his convertion into Orthodoxy and while waiting for Church Hierarchy’s blessing upon his future, Anthony (Thongkham) Phiaxayavong studied at preparatory courses arranged at St. Nicholas Chapel in Bangkok, among with catechism and other religious subjects, the English language, Russian history and the Russian language as well.

Source: Orthodox Christian Church in Thailand
For more about Anthony (Thongkham) Phiaxayavong, see here. (Just scroll down to April 05, 2009.)

Written by Stephen

September 18, 2009 at 4:43 pm

Posted in Thailand