The Volgograd Coffee Shop
By Harold Workman
What is Grace UMC’s involvement in Russia? Learn about it (www.peopleofgrace.org/russian-initative)
Our Russian pastors visited Grace UMC from April 26 to April 30. They were able to spend time with our church staff and congregation to explain what is going on in Russia with the United Methodist Church and how they present the Christian gospel. We were able to show them Alden of Waterford (a Retirement/Senior Care Facility) and the Loaves and Fishes pantry.
At a Skype meeting in June, we learned that Vladimir has quit his factory job so that he can be a full time pastor. People were leaving his church because he wasn’t always available for them. This will undoubtedly be a significant financial burden to his family.
It is extremely difficult for the Methodist churches in Volgograd, Russia to have any outreach program because the state prohibits any type of religious outreach beyond the church. Hope and Transfiguration UMC churches have decided to open a secular coffee shop as a means of having some contact with non-believers. They have decided to build it in the basement of Valeri’s home. The upper floor of his home houses the Transfiguration church, and the basement will be the coffee house with a direct access to the street – not through the church. Christians and non-believers will be able to meet in a non-church setting for socializing. The key concept of this outreach program is that instead of inviting non-believers to church (which is illegal); they can be invited to a secular coffee shop. Other churches may use this space for their social activities, too. And other groups that might use the coffee house setting are pensioners and children’s groups. Work is currently underway. The floor is finished, and they are working on finishing the ceiling and walls. We are going to try to participate via Skype for the ribbon cutting on September 16. This is obviously an international event! There is currently no dedicated financing for this project; payment comes from the pastors’ own pockets. We will continue prayers for their project and hope that in some way we will be able to offer financial help for this great project of the church in Volgograd.