House of Prayer for All Nations. Interview with Bishop Pavel Zhelnovakov on the eve of the Grand Opening of the House of Prayer

Interviews

On January 25 through 27, 2013, Philadelphia Church of Izhevsk celebrates an official opening and dedication of the House of Prayer. This is a large, modern building, located in an industrial district of Izhevsk, where many workers of several large plants live, now may become one of the attractions of the city. On the eve of this event, we talked with the senior pastor of the church, Bishop Pavel Zhelnovakov.

- Pavel, the building was under construction for a long time, judging by its extterior it doesn't look very typical. What is it like?

- This event is very special for us as a church. Many times I tried to imagine what it would be like, when the construction is over. I feel joy deep inside and even trembling. It is almost as we expect something very important for all of us. We began to build the House of Prayer in 1998. The church, which then numbered about 500 people, decided to erect a building, where they could hold services. The construction was funded like any other church building – through the donations of parishioners. All these years we have been looking forward to this event. And the time has come. On January 25th there will be an official opening and dedication of the temple. Sure, it was projected, not only as a response to the religious quest of the human heart, but also as a religious and social center for the city of Izhevsk and the entire Udmurt Republic. The church compex includes a large, extremely bright assembly-hall that seats 1,100 people, with excellent acoustics, facilities of the bible school, a cafeteria, a conference room and a lot more. In essence, it is the largest Protestant church building in Russia, and it has been built to serve people. This is the house where mercy lives! At the opening ceremony we expect a large number of guests, including representatives of the national and municipal governments, construction companies. There will be a festive concert program by artists from Izhevsk and other cities. We think it will be interesting for those who have never been at the Evangelical Church service.

- Why did you choose the name «Philadelphia»?

- In Greek language this word means «brotherly love». Our church bears this name not only because we feel mutual respect and love to each other, but also that these feelings are shared shared with others outside the church. Our congregation chose this name in honor of the church, which existed during the Apostles times in Philadelphia – a city located nowadays in Turkish territory. It is mentioned in the Bible, in the book of Revelation. Through the Apostle God speaks about this church, without any reproach and accusation, but seeing her faithfulness and He promises to keep her. Our church strives to look like that ancient church in the eyes of the Lord.

- What do you forsee for this church building in the next five to ten years? How does the perspective appear to you today?

- Life without a temple scarce and vain. A temple, according to the Bible, is intended to be a place of prayer for all nations. I hope that all parishioners will be able to understand this command of Christ and gain this «international» concept of Christian faith. Also we believe that for many people this temple will be a place where they find a living faith, peace for their hearts, restoration for their families and spiritual enlightenment.

- You are native of Ukraine, why did you decide many years ago to move to our cold Udmurtia?


- For me it was a matter of my faith, love for the people in Udmurtia and respect for their passionate search for spiritual truth, represented in history and religious beliefs of the people. My homeland is where my heart is. It is here, where God allowed me to be, and it is not cold for me...

- Pavel, at the time when you came to God it was hard to be a Christian, and even dangerous, and yet in spite of all that a lot of people continued to keep their faith. What do you think of our generation of Christians? Do you think that nowadays for some people Christianity is just a fashion or a desire to somehow stand out from the crowd?

- Yes and no. For some people who call themselves «believers», Christianity is, at best, just a matter of culture, but not of faith. However, I believe that only when our faith is jeopardized we can see the depth and beauty of faith of many Christians.

- Pavel, as I understand, social ministry is one of the main church's activities. The church does a lot of work in the area of family values promotion, care for orphans and help to drug addicts. Please tell us about some of the projects that are being implemented today?


- We continue to do our best to return true spirituality and values to the life of our city and republic, based on the teachings of the Bible. Family especially matters. It is no secret that in the West this vital institution of the society is under constant attack. These negative trends can come and already are coming to our country. It is important now to protect traditional family values. That's why we do a TV program «Focus on the Family» on one of the TV channels of Izhevsk. We continue to work closely with the charitable center «Hope» and provide all possible assistance to seriously ill people. All our projects are aimed to serve people.

- What is the priority task for Philadelphia Church of Izhevsk?


- Once Jesus said striking words: «What good will it be for a man, if he gains the whole world, yet forfeits his soul?» That is why the most important thing for us is a human soul, and its return to God and eternal values. Because of this there is real hope for the restoration of all lost and damaged lives. A temple, according to the Bible, is intended to be a place of prayer for all nations. I hope that all parishioners will be able to understand this command of Christ and gain this «international» concept of Christian faith. Also we believe that for many people this temple will be a place where they find a living faith, peace for their hearts, restoration for their families and spiritual enlightenment.

Elena Merzlyakova

Philadelphia Church of Izhevsk (www.filadelfia.ru)

The Russian Church of Christians of Evangelical Faith