VALLEY FORGE, PA (ABNS 9/13/12)—“It is truly a wonder of God that a church for English-speaking Christians would be formed in the capital of the Soviet Union in 1962 in the midst of the Cold War and in the same year as the Cuban missile crisis,” marveled Reid Trulson, American Baptist International Ministries (IM) executive director. “Yet for 50 years, IM has worked with other denominations to provide a needed ministry through the Moscow Protestant Chaplaincy.”
Today, MPC, located in the heart of Moscow, Russia, is an international Christian community. “It serves as a harbor, a port of call, for Christians living in Moscow where they can worship together and serve the community of Moscow through its social ministries,” commented the Rev. Matthew A. Laferty, the current MPC pastor, a United Methodist who hails from Crestline, OH, USA.
“MPC has provided a place of support and worship for countless international and Russian people throughout the years, including expats, refugees, students and diplomats who can come to know Christ and serve those in need in Moscow,” Laferty continued. “Our partnership with IM and ABCUSA has encouraged deeper ministry around issues of racism and race-motivated violence in Russia.” MPC has nearly 300 congregants.
MPC was founded in 1962 by the National Council of Churches USA (NCC) in accordance with the Roosevelt-Litvinov agreement and still exists under that framework today. American Baptist International Ministries (IM) is a founding member, along with The United Methodist Church, the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America, the Reformed Church in America, and the Presbyterian Church (USA). Seven American Baptists have served the chaplaincy under IM appointment. They are Rodger D. Harrison (1967-1969), Alphonz and Irene Lamprecht (1980-1983), H. Wayne and Arlene Pipkin (1993-1995) and Charles and Marie Mercer (2000, 2005-2006).
The potential for such Christian ministry in a then-communist country emerged when President Franklin Delano Roosevelt (FDR) determined that formal relations with the Soviet Union would serve American strategic interests. The US Department of State confirms that FDR sent two personal intermediaries to the Soviet officials with an unsigned letter. “The letter intimated that the U.S. Government would be willing to negotiate the terms for recognizing the Soviet Union, and requested that (the Soviets) dispatch an emissary to Washington. In response, Commissar for Foreign Affairs (Maxim) Litvinov journeyed to Washington in November 1933 in order to begin talks.”
The resulting Roosevelt-Litvinov agreements included the guarantee of “certain religious and legal rights for U.S. citizens living in the Soviet Union.” That agreement made possible the formation of the Moscow Protestant Chaplaincy (MPC) nearly 30 years later.
Local leaders describe MPC today as “a dynamic and diverse ecumenical Christian community committed to nurturing faith in Jesus Christ, confronting injustice and welcoming all people.” Each week MPC provides 750 hot meals to pensioners through its soup kitchen. It also provides food bags for 50 refugee families and 20 biracial families, free medical care and prescription drugs to 40 immigrants, and free language lessons and computer instruction. The MPC parish center is a safe haven to dozens of people each week who need refuge, shelter, and a hot cup of tea. This month, MPC is launching a new program—the Children’s Hunger Assistance Program—which aims to alleviate hunger among single Russian mothers and families. MPC ministries include nearly 10 weekly or bi-weekly Bible studies in Moscow.
In the Soviet era, MPC was required to hold its worship services within the US Embassy, and Soviet citizens were prohibited from taking part. Now it meets for worship at St. Andrews (Anglican) Church in Moscow. For more information on MPC go to http://www.mpcrussia.org/index.html
“IM congratulates MPC on achieving this 50-year milestone. We are honored to be part of this important ministry since its beginning and look forward to a continued strong and vital partnership for years to come,” continued Trulson.
Contributions to support the ministries of the Moscow Protestant Chaplaincy can be sent to International Ministries, P.O. Box 851, Valley Forge, PA 19406.
American Baptist International Ministries (IM) was organized in 1814 as the first Baptist international mission agency in America. It began its pioneer mission work in Burma and today works in Asia, Africa, Europe, the Middle East and the Americas serving more than 1,800 long-term and short-term missionaries. Its central mission is to help people come to Christ, grow in their relationship with God, and change their worlds through the power of the Spirit. It works with respected partners in over 70 countries in ministries that meet human need.
American Baptist Churches USA is one of the most diverse Christian denominations today, with 5,500 local congregations comprised of 1.3 million members, across the United States and Puerto Rico, all engaged in God’s mission around the world.