L a d u s h k i n – After 13 years of construction, the first worship service took place in Kaliningrad/Russia’s „Church of the Saints Cyril and Methodius“ on 29 November. Its height of 56 metres makes it the second-highest church in the city, 17 metres lower than the “Christ-the-Saviour-Cathedral” on Victory Square in the city centre.
The opening service at Prospekt Mira 132 was led by Serafim, the Russian-Orthodox Archbishop of Kaliningrad and Baltiysk. Reports claim the church has space for 600 standing visitors, but the room appears significantly smaller than the main hall of the neighbouring Lutheran “Resurrection Church”. Because of chairs, the Lutheran edifice supposedly has space for only 400 visitors. One could nevertheless claim that the new church is narrower and taller than its evangelical neighbour. Roughly 200 persons were usually in attendance at the opening service; Orthodox services without pews are marked by a constant coming-and-going.
This new Orthodox place of worship actually sports three different names: A second church in the basement is to be named for the “Holy Martyr Mariana”. It is dedicated to the memory of a Kaliningrad family killed in October 2015 by the terrorist explosion of a Russian airliner over the Sinai desert. That cruel act had led to the death of 224 persons. A temporary wooden chapel on the same property has been called the “Church of the Great Martyr Catherine”.
Directly across the street, 70 metres (240 feet) further south at Prospekt Mira 101, one finds “Resurrection Church” completed in 1999. On the occasion of First Advent, 29 November, this house of worship and its gate were locked and empty. The display board near the gate featured a single word: “Quarantine”. After eight months without regular visitors, the church’s entrance has turned green – grass has sprouted between the pavement stones. The Kaliningrad deanery (Propstei) of the “Evangelical-Lutheran Church in Russia”, headed by Dean Igor Ronge, is the sole regional branch of a Russian religious community still forbidding the holding of worship services.
One can give the provocative proximity of 70 metres a positive spin: Once the Lutheran gates reopen, visitors will be able to compare two church traditions within very close range. Something similar occurs in the historic evangelical cathedral (“Dom”) on an island in the middle of Kaliningrad. The cathedral has both an evangelical and an Orthodox chapel. One also has for ex. the “Domberg” in Germany’s Erfurt, which has an evangelical and a Catholic church beside each other.
No one is eager to comment, but the choice of real estate in this instance is one measure more directed against the hypothetical danger of Germanisation. In Gussev (Gumbinnen), in the east of this Russian enclave, one has taken similar measures, yet there one has built a mighty Orthodox church roughly a kilometre removed from the historic, small-but-attractive “Salzburger Kirche”. Many similar examples can be found throughout all of Russia. I had claimed once seven months ago: “The stronger the (Western) pressure, the higher the steeple.” Theoretically, I find the Russian willingness to resist cultural pressure understandable. Yet in this concrete instance, Resurrection Church will not be posing any threat.
CCD reprinted with permission.