|For 70 years the Soviet Union sought the elimination of religion. Toward that end, the Communist regime confiscated church property, ridiculed religion, harassed believers, and propagated atheism in the schools. Orthodox priests and believers were tortured, sent to prison, labor camps, or mental hospitals, or
were executed. Thousands of churches and monasteries were either destroyed or converted to secular use and seminaries were closed.
Practicing Orthodox Christians were restricted from prominent careers and membership in communist organizations. Anti-religious propaganda was openly sponsored and encouraged by the government, and Komsomol, the government youth organization, encouraged its members to vandalize Orthodox Churches and harass worshippers.
In 1991, following the break-up of the Soviet Union, the Russian Orthodox Church was again free to function and experienced a resurgence in activity. However, it was faced with thousands of desecrated or destroyed churches and a critical shortage of priests. Patriarch Alexei II, Patriarch of Moscow and of All-Russia, appealed to the American Episcopal Church for help in restoring and revitalizing the life and ministry of the Russian Orthodox Church. During a visit in 1993 with The Most Rev. Frank T. Griswold, Presiding Bishop of the Episcopal Church, Patriarch Alexei stated “I give great importance to personal contact . . .” Presiding Bishop Griswold replied that the Episcopal Church was ready to share some of its practical experience and repeated his deep appreciation for the Russian church’s “rich experience of prayer and spirituality . . . gifts we very much need in the United States.” Continuing he said: “We are not interested in the slightest bit in any kind of proselytism because we support and respect the ministries of our churches.”
In response to Patriarch Alexei II's plea, the Foundation for Professional International Exchange (FIPE) designed the Parish Partnership Program to bring people together to build personal relationships and create mutual understanding and support between American Episcopalians and Russian Orthodox.
Under the leadership of a small group of committed laypersons and clergy, MVERN was born in 1996, and FIPE's president, the Rev. Jackson Wilson, linked this fledging partnership with St. Nicholas Russian Orthodox Church in Sablino, Russia. Thirteen churches (11 Episcopal and 2 Orthodox churches) in the greater Dayton/Cincinnati area of the Episcopal Diocese of Southern Ohio, now comprise this unique ecumenical project.
St. Nicholas Russian Orthodox Church is located in the village of Sablino, thirty miles south of St. Petersburg. Fr. Nikolai Aksenov, its energetic rector, leads a remarkable ministry that encompasses the entire region including a successful
Community and Youth Center, and until recently, an orphanage, a school for developmentally disabled children, hospitals, schools, and a huge women's prison. MVERN has contributed twice to the enlargement of St. Nicholas Church, donated humanitarian supplies and funds in support of this outreach ministry.
MVERN has also contributed twice to enlargement of the Community Center
and has provided funding for natural gas heating and for water
Since 1996 MVERN has sponsored 10 visits by Russians to Ohio
6 youth exchanges for 29 Russian youth
4 adult exchanges for 15 Russian clergy and adults
Since 1997 MVERN has run 19 trip to Russia
9 youth trips for 188 American youth
10 adults trip for 219 American adults
Help MVERN support Fr. Nikolai's
ministries by donating now!
Website updated 10 February