Reigning Mother of God Church in Charlotte, NC is one of the youngest in ROCOR. It was founded in 2005 at the initiative of a group of parishioners from the generation of émigrés from the USSR. Beginning in 2009, there have been services in a little church building tucked away amidst greenery that illuminates the Southern landscape with gleams of sunlight from its Orthodox crosses. The setting in the church, courtyard, and parish house speaks of the unsophisticated simplicity and warmth of the owners.
The parish is not large. However, on Sundays, the small church is most often full to overflowing. There are usually a dozen families of regular parishioners from Russia, Ukraine, Lithuania, Kazakhstan, Estonia, and Latvia… there are several new American converts to Orthodoxy, and locals from this part of North Carolina also occasionally stop by to see the holiday lights.
The history of the Russian Orthodox Church Outside of Russia is represented here by the Logunov and Makarow families. The rector, Fr. Alexander, is a living witness to the history of ROCOR: he is a godson of the ever-memorable Hieromonk Seraphim (Rose) and the son of Nikolai Logunov, the church warden of Holy Virgin Cathedral in San Francisco in the mid-1960s. The parish deacon, Ivan Makarow, was a long-time altar server in St. Seraphim Church in Sea Cliff, NY.
The overwhelming majority of parishioners joined the Church not long ago and have only secondhand knowledge of the Russian Church Abroad. This is how the idea came about and matured of introducing the parish to important aspects of our Church’s history, reflecting on its customs, and looking back on history to understand possible ways in which it could develop.
On Saturday the 3rd and Sunday the 4th of September, parishioners met with Protodeacon Andrei Psarev, Professor of Russian Church History and Church Law and a leading expert on the history of the Russian Church Abroad. The conversation took place in a question-and-answer format: a trialogue in which, besides Fr. Andrei, parish rector Archpriest Alexander and parishioners themselves took part.
Fr. Andrei gave a broad-brushstrokes overview of the 100-year history of the ROCOR, spoke about some of its most prominent figures, and traced the historical roots and peculiarities of its existence.
The conversation then moved on to a discussion of issues of concern to parishioners:
- How can one manage a parish effectively and still maintain an atmosphere of piety, prayer, and brotherly love?
- What is the reason for our Church historically being one of the least affluent in North America?
- What works of patristic literature are especially relevant to read today?
- What is behind the atmosphere of indifference, lukewarmness, and desire for a compromise that is not always justified, and how should we approach these issues?
During the discussion, Frs. Alexander and Andrei shared their vision of these and other issues with the audience there and as a report on the parish website.
The congregation, for their part, expressed an interest in continuing this kind of active and lively discussion of pressing issues faced by the people of God in the future.