Three weeks ago Scilla and I went to St Petersburg for a long weekend to visit Hope Church again. They have been going through quite a tough situation recently as David Henson who planted the church has had to return to the UK with Hannah, his wife, and their family because of illness. However he is on the way to recovery so we hope he will soon be back with us in St Petersburg and actually his wife Hannah was with us for the weekend.
On the Friday evening we had a great time having a meal with the leadership teams, husbands and wives, of five churches from St Petersburg and one from Tver. It was a great relational time together, after which we had a good question and answer session and discussion on appropriate forms of evangelism for a big city like St Petersburg where the current situation, for a lot of people, is to work very long hours with large travel times.
We did a conference on mission following up on the questions that were asked the night before and I gave a session on Jesus’s style of mission, talking about the way in which he adapted to different contexts, followed by talking about what it meant to be a missional church. It was an excellent time and a relaxed atmosphere.
We gathered 3 churches together on Sunday morning in a hotel right in the centre of St Petersburg which is home to Hope Church, a church we planted a few years ago. There was a great sense of celebration, fun and openness to the teaching from the word of God, as well as a brilliant worship time. It was tremendous to see that place full of these 3 churches, during which we welcomed All Nations Church, which was in St Petersburg before us, into the Newfrontiers family.
As well as meeting different pastors in the course of my time there I also met with Tim Heath who was part of our original church planting team in St Petersburg along with his wife Rachael and his two daughters. They’ve now moved to Tallinn, in Estonia, to plant a church there, which is very different from St Petersburg. Although a lot of people speak Russian, they are learning Estonian and I was really impressed with the way they are going about doing gathering events in Tallinn. It was Tim’s first visit back in St Petersburg since leaving to plant the church.
Scilla and I had an evening off on the Monday, where we got to spend a bit of time walking around the beautiful city of St Petersburg. I’m biased from having lived there for 3 months previously but I think it’s one of the most beautiful cities in Europe. We went to a folk evening which took place in one of the Palaces of the old tsars, which has now been restored into a tremendous theatre, and had a very enjoyable evening together.
On our last day together we met once again with the pastors and wives and shared and prayed together. Overall we found that the church was in good heart and even though there are huge issues to face, it is continuing to grow and we are so thankful for that.